by Susan McCarthy
Feeling overwhelmed can often lead to procrastination. Managing your overwhelm can help you stop procrastinating and get things done.
Oftentimes we procrastinate when we don't identify our next step, what we can do right now. Instead we allow our thoughts to spin around the project as a whole and we can't see how we'll accomplish it. Suddenly, we find ourselves deep within the refrigerator, scrubbing spills and checking the expiration date on the ketchup or maybe even decluttering the garage (it needed to get done, but is now the best time?)
We feel great that we're accomplishing something, but then we're faced with the project we avoided. Not only hasn't it gone away, but now the due date looms closer.
Below are thoughts that can guide you from the tempting distraction of a Netflix binge or from focusing on unimportant busywork and back to what is important.
Get clear on what needs to get done and how to do it.
Procrastination doesn't always look like binge-watching Netflix, mindlessly scrolling through social media, or browsing online shopping sites. Sometimes, procrastination looks like useful tasks - decluttering a closet or cabinet, weeding the garden, scrubbing the grout in the shower.
We feel productive because we're accomplishing something that we likely wanted done. But, when we step back, we see that we've really allowed ourselves to be distracted from what is important.
Break the project down into small steps. If you're tempted to avoid a step, consider if it is too big and involved an action and tease out a tiny action that will allow you to move forward.
It's so easy to get caught up in the thought of doing something the right way that we're afraid to do anything that won't live up to our expectation. Give yourself permission to be messy, write an awkward first draft, put something in the wrong place, stand in the back of the exercise class and move a step or two behind everyone else.
That messy action will allow you to see that things don't come tumbling down just because it failed to meet your definition of perfect. Look at each action as a rough draft, you can always go back later and tweak things to bring them closer to your expectations.
One of the most insidious forms of procrastination is work. When you catch yourself doing something you hadn't planned to do, notice if you're busyness is really procrastination.
Set a time to work on your project. If you know that you're supposed to be working on a progress report between 10 and 11 a.m. but instead you're filing a backlog of paperwork, you'll notice that you're not focused on the proper task and catch your procrastination before it swallows your morning.
It's tempting to say, "Oh, well the refrigerator needed to be cleaned, those papers needed to get filed," and you'd be right. But is your procrastination-action really where you needed to focus your energy and attention?
A small step is better than not moving at all.
You don't want to waste time by not doing a good job on something, but when you aim for perfection, you can feel overwhelmed. And when you feel overwhelmed, the last thing you want to do is spend more time on a project that is filling you with so much doubt.
You get so caught up by that idea of not wasting time, of doing things the "right" way that you do nothing. Take a deep breath and look for the next action you can take. Focus on that small step as opposed to the project as a whole.
Don't allow in distractions. If you need to file papers, sit or stand in front of the file cabinet and don't pull out your phone to quickly check your emails or you'll be inviting in procrastination. Sit at your desk and stare at the computer screen, stand in the garage with the boxes you intended to go through. Avoid giving yourself another option just because you aren't diving into the task.
Allowed yourself to get bored by the idea that you're not going to do anything else and so you may as well set to work.
How to Stop Procrastination
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Hi, I’m Susan … Welcome!
I’m the chief (and only) organized squirrel at A Less Cluttered Life. I love learning and sharing information about organizing, productivity, and habits. I also like reading young adult novels, crocheting while watching The Simpsons or Disney movies, and spending time with my cat and husband in our riverside home in Massachusetts.