Give Yourself a Gift This Year

There are only two weekends left before Christmas and nobody wants to be stuck racing around handling last-minute preparations and last-minute disappointments that all the good food, gifts and decorations are no longer available.  We all know this is the risk of not preparing early yet it happens all the time.

It is usually because of procrastination.

What is procrastination and why is it such an easy trap to fall into?  Procrastination is considered a habitual or intentional tendency to unnecessarily put certain things off.  It is an easy thing to do at times because it helps us avoid something we may not want to do, or it lets us do something we would rather be doing.

Procrastination tends to be a bigger problem for younger people, especially under age 30.  It is thought that people generally tend to be more conscientious on day-to-day issues as brain development proceeds and experience teaches.

Procrastination is an important issue to address as it has been associated with lower grades for students, low work production or quality issues, burnout with anxiety and depression, and problems related to stress such as irritability, sleep problems, headaches, and stomach problems.

To conquer procrastination, it is helpful to figure out what type of procrastinator you are.

Here is a link to a self-assessment for that from Rice University:

Procrastination can be due to a tendency to be a perfectionist, which can be a manifestation of anxiety.   Anxious people may also procrastinate because of indecisiveness or worry they are not good enough.  Going along with this, people may be anxious or uncomfortable to say no to things and therefore put too much on their plate and then get overwhelmed.   Sometimes it may be a rebellion, a way for a person to “defy” a system or other people.  Some people may use procrastination to make things perceived as boring more interesting or intense at the final deadline.  It may be related to a tendency to avoid anything that presents difficulty or a challenge.

Once you figure out what kind of procrastinator you are, there are various strategies that can be used for each specific pattern.

There are also general strategies to consider that we can all use (and we all should; it is estimated that 95% of us procrastinate to some degree).

The first step in the strategies is to make the commitment to change your habits or routines related to procrastination.   Without this step, managing procrastination will likely not happen as the strategies are simple, but do require consistency.

It is helpful to break large projects or tasks down into small steps.   It is much easier to start something that has a reachable and realistic goal.   An example would be to deep clean a room one section at a time versus thinking the whole things needs to be done now.

Practicing grace toward yourself is important.   Point out positive efforts and recognize victories you have through the day.   Avoid self-criticism and judgment.   Use imagery to see yourself being productive and getting things done.

Think of your future in small chunks of time.   For example, it is much easier to start a task thinking, “How will the future me in ten minutes feel if I do this versus screw around and waste the time”.   Follow it up with the thought, “I want my future in ten minutes to be me feeling good about what I did.”

Use the “one touch” rule as well.  When you think of a task that needs to be done, do it now if possible.   When it touches your mind, do it.  If that is not realistic because of time constraints or other obligations, use the one touch rule to put a reminder to do that task as soon as there is time.   Use whatever reminder strategy works best for you, whether that is electronic or paper.  You will, of course, also need to get in the habit of doing what the reminder tells you to do at that time.

Minimize distractions.  Make rules for when you can be on your phone or screen and when it is not allowed.

Radical acceptance is another effective tool.  Sometimes the best grace you can give yourself is to acknowledge how much you don’t want to do something or how bad you feel about it.  This can help with less judgment and criticism about the feelings you have.  This will reduce stress, and opens the door for you to use direct, mature coping skills.

If you suspect there is a psychiatric issue that is driving procrastination, it is best to reach out to a mental health professional.

In this holiday season, give yourself the gift of anti-procrastination.   A gift that makes you feel good about what you just did and frees your mind of burdens of what you need to do, is a gift that keeps giving!

I hope you enjoy the holidays and this beautiful gift you can give yourself!

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