Ee 055 A 5 Step Program

EE 055: A 5-Step Program for Procrastinators. Enrollment is Free and Starts in 5-4-3-2-1…

Procrastination is the default setting of the modern American.

We tend to undervalue the destruction procrastination leaves in its wake.  The total cost is incalculable when it comes to our health.

We can joke about the trials and tribulations of our procrastination habit.  But there’s really nothing funny about it when it comes to our health and well being.  Truth be told, procrastination is pretty much the most crippling behavior there is.  It derails lives, one instance at a time.

If you find you have a tendency to put off what you know you need to do in the name of “waiting for better timing”, or “until everything is just right”, you are not alone.  I am here to proclaim, far and wide, that I too am a procrastinator.

“Hi, I’m Samantha.  And I am a procrastinator.”

Group:  “Hi Samantha.”

Though I’d more accurately consider myself a recovering procrastinator, I’d venture to guess we are cut from the same procrastination cloth.

“It takes one to know one.” The “one” to whom I’m referring is the procrastinator

I find the vast majority of people I meet are procrastinating their health away.  They’re waiting for the right time.  Or waiting to have more money. Or quite possibly they’re like so many of us…they’re too darn busy making sure everyone else is taken care of, that they are not taking care of themself.

Spouse, kids, boss, coworkers, neighbors, aging parents, business, chores, yard work… everyone and everything gets their spot on the “To Do” list.

Everyone…except for the most important person… the one in the mirror.

NEWSFLASH!!!  This is not okay.  And I will not stand for it any longer!!  ***Said emphatically with a fist to the Heavens.

“Nobody puts Baby on the back burner.”  (You are “Baby” in this scenario by the way.)

You would never let anybody do this to you…so why do you do it to yourself?

Really listen to me for a moment…I want you to hear this.  You are worth the same level of care you show others And you my friend, are the only “you” this world will ever know.  And if you keep procrastinating your health away, you may not get the chance to fulfil your reason for being alive.  There is more to your story than being at everyone else’s service.

Because point blank, it may be costing you more than you are prepared to “pay”.

Yes, the bills need paid.  You are a great provider.

Yes, the company is going through a lean time and has a big deadline to meet, so you step up the hours to fill the gap.  You are a great team player.

Yes, the kids need to be bathed and fed, or reminded of such necessities.  You are a great parent.

Yes, your BFF needs you when she’s going through a tough time at home.  You are a loving friend.

Yes, the PTO needs your help.  And the HOA.  And the animal shelter.  And the homeless shelter.  You are a volunteer extraordinaire.

What about you?  While you exhibit all this care for others, your personal joie de vivre (French for “exuberant enjoyment of life”) is all but extinguished.

You do so much for others…but very little (to nothing) for yourself. 

Any of this resonating?  I bring on the Tough Love because I care.

And, “it takes one to know one”.  I was a Master Procrastinator until a couple years ago.

I had a come to Jesus moment that made it crystal clear I had to get my procrastination habit under control.  I had to, because quite literally, my life depended on it.  I was working myself into the ground.  I had multiple businesses, was taking care of hundreds of clients in a given month and raising a family.  Trying to keep those plates spinning was costing me my joy and my well being.  I was marinating in stress and it was wreaking havoc on my body (and my mind).

I am convinced had I not entered my own 5-Step Program, I’d have ended up in a psych ward, on a cardiac floor, or worse…dead.

To the outside world, I appeared to have it all in check.

But on the inside…I was a freaking, hot mess.  And true to form my inner dialogue never let me forget it.  She was at me 24/7.  I finally found the mute button.

There is one commonality across the spectrum of procrastinators…STRESS. More specifically, we procrastinate to relieve stress.  It’s like a momentary reprieve.  And even if it’s only for a moment, we get our fix and feel a little bit of relief.

If you are serious about putting a stop to your procrastination habit, here’s my 5-Step Program for you to take immediate action.  Not tomorrow action.  Not next Monday action…right now action!

Step #1: Focus on the BIG stuff

The more you focus on the important things in life the easier it is to nip procrastination in the bud.  And the flipside to that coin is to stop sweating the small stuff.  (HINT:  most of what we stress about is the small stuff.)  Keep the BIG stuff right in front of you, so you can revisit your priorities at any moment you need a shot of your “Why”!

Here’s how…

  1. Identify what you consider the most important things in life.  Your BIG stuff.  I’d venture to guess being healthy fits somewhere in your top 5, if not your top 3.
  2. Write each item on a single post-it-note (limit yourself to 5 items).   Be succinct.  Make a dozen or so copies.  Hand write these for better brain programming…this is a cool feature of the human brain.  Use it to your advantage.
  3. Display your notes where they’ll get your attention throughout the day.  One on the bathroom mirror.  One on your dashboard.  One on your computer screen.  One on your…you get the idea.  Make them visible everywhere until you have broken the procrastination habit.
  4. If you don’t like the post-it-note approach, opt for an index card.  Repeat the steps above.  Keep the card in your dominant hand’s pant / jacket pocket.  When you slide in your hand, you can pull the card out to  give yourself a quick shot of your highest priorities.  Alternative is to keep the card in your wallet so everytime you open it you see it.
  5. I put my list on my phone and set an alarm to go off 3 times per day to remind me to look at it.
  6. In addition, I write my BIG stuff out by hand each week on my upcoming week’s paper calendar and read the list every morning, and every evening.  I don’t skip this.  Ever.

This simple exercise keeps me focused on my BIG picture and helps me continue to kick the procrastination habit one day at a time.

Step #2: Set deadlines and keep them, even when nobody else is watching

Set reasonable deadlines, but don’t be too generous with your allotment.  By setting a definite time frame for yourself, you can curb this procrastination habit you’ve developed.  Like any negative habit, procrastination can be replaced with a positive habit that fuels your priorities.  Ensure your deadlines are realistic to avoid the stress that unrealistic deadlines can cause.

Remember, the #1 reason we procrastinate is to temporarily relieve the constant barrage of stressors that come at us from life.  I used to give myself too much time to get things done.  This set me up to procrastinate until the very last moment possible and then I’d  justify my behavior with a flippant, “I work better under pressure.”

I was in college for 8 years (summers too)…I mastered this tactic!  I had a long list of justificationscategorized by situation AND in alphabetical order.  It served me well in college.  But when it no longer worked to my benefit, I had to change my ways.

#3: Get it done, not perfect
I hear some version of one of these statements every single day.

“I’m not sure where to start to change my diet.”  “I think I need to research a little longer.”  “I’m not exactly sure what to eat.”  “I haven’t worked out in years, I wouldn’t know where to start.”  …and on and on.

The underlying rule is to get it donenot perfect.

When it comes to adopting healthy behaviors, we overthink and under-do.  (Okay, “under-do” is not a word, but you get what I’m saying.)  We suffer from paralysis by analysis.

Just start and course-correct as you move along.  Part of any healthy endeavor is consistently refining things as you receive feedback on what works and what doesn’t.  What works for others may not work for you, and vice versa.  Being in action is what matters most.  Monitor what you’re doing so you know what needs to be continued and what needs to be changed.

I feel your pain wanting to get it all right.  Perfectionism and procrastination go hand-in-hand.  FYI:  I am a perfectionist in recovery too…but I’ll save that story for a future post (or several).

#4: Do something difficult on purpose

Overcoming difficulty leads to feelings of pride as well as relief.  These feelings are often accompanied by a sighful “that wasn’t too bad” or an exclaimed “that took way less effort than I thought it would!

If you’ve circled the sun a few dozen times like yours truly, you can attest to this personally.

Difficulty is an inevitable part of life.

Learning to walk is difficult, but you don’t see toddlers tossing up their cute little chubby hands saying “This is too hard…I’m going to put this off until I watch a few more YouTube tutorials.”  That would be ridiculous!!  (Hilarious, but ridiculous.)

If you have a habit of evading things that may cause you discomfort, then you need to begin doing those difficult things. No way around it.  Only through.  (I’m channeling my inner Yoda here…)

Get comfortable with being uncomfortable.

I’m serious.

Nobody has ever said they wish they’d played it safer in life.  Playing it safe, in this context, is a surefire prompt for procrastination.

Begin with the things that cause small discomfort. By doings little things that take you slightly out of your comfort zone, you are exercising your willpower muscles and developing mental toughness.  Two things you need to face difficulties when you meet them in your life.  And you’re going to meet them.  You cannot insulate yourself in bubble wrap, it just doesn’t work that way.

By building your willpower and mental resolve, you will be anxious no more and there will be no need to procrastinate difficult things.

#5:  Take 5

When you notice you are avoiding action invoke the power of the 5 Second Rule.  Not the rule for germ protection we proclaimed in childhood, but the one developed by Mel Robbins.

You simply count backwards in your mind from 5 when you realize you are procrastinating.  “5-4-3-2-1“…then take action on whatever it is that needs doing.  Honestly, sometimes within the amount of time I spent deflecting and avoiding, I could have just done whatever it was that I didn’t want to do in the first place, multiple times.  Adopting the 5 Second Rule has changed my life in many ways.  It can do the same for you.

Enrolling yourself in this 5-Step Program will alter your future.  No doubts about it.

Do it in 5-4-3-2-1…