Procrastinating feels worse than doing the thing, whatever it is.
The longer you put it off, the longer those feelings of nauseated dread and anxiety build up.
The longer you put it off, the less of a chance there is of positive results.
The longer you put it off, the more likely you are to also put off other things.
The worst part is, if you wait long enough, you’ll have felt all those anxious feelings for nothing, because a deadline will have passed and your efforts will have been for naught.
Procrastination actually serves a purpose, or, rather, various purposes. One of them is to subconsciously punish yourself and dig into a shame spiral. Another is to be an emotional tradeoff, wherein your guilty feelings work as some kind of trade for activities in which you’d rather be indulging. It’s also possible that procrastination is a protection mechanism that you can use to insulate yourself from responsibilities you don’t really want. Sort of like breaking a dish in hopes of not being asked to wash the dishes anymore.
Whatever is causing it, it feels annoying, yes?
I hate annoying myself. Whenever I realize I’m being a bad roommate to myself, or my own bad coworker, I want to stop and do something I like better. I have enough problems in this dumb old world without adding to them through my own predictable behavior.
One of the methods I’ve come up with when I realize I’ve been procrastinating is to do one thing. If I have a backlog, I don’t have to face all of it, I just have to do one.
If I have a bunch of email, I don’t have to respond to all of it, or even read all of it. I just have to handle one.
If I have a pile of laundry to put away, I don’t have to put all of it away, or even fold it. I just have to grab one item and do that one. (Usually the biggest item, like a beach towel or a bulky sweater).
If I have some gross stuff to clean out from the fridge, I don’t have to get on my knees and clear out the whole thing. I can just grab the container that looks the most suspicious and do that one.
If I have some phone calls to make, I don’t have to set aside an hour and get through them all. I can just do one.
That also applies to listening to voicemail, which I despise, but which has become much easier since my smartphone started showing me botched Robo-lish transcriptions. I don’t have to listen to them all, I just have to do one.
If I have errands to run, I don’t have to go all over town exhausting myself. I just have to pick one.
If I have research to do, I don’t have to spend all afternoon on a deep dive. I can pick a topic and just do that one.
Backlogs come from letting minor irritations build up over time. Minor irritations then become significant annoyances. Significant annoyances then become major problems. Major problems then become catastrophic failures. Think of someone who never flosses and only uses a toothbrush every now and then, who then gets an abscess that redefines the words ‘excruciating’ and ‘expensive.’ The skipped oil change that turns into a burned-out engine and a totaled car, which of course happens on the freeway during rush hour. It is SO MUCH EASIER just to do the little things as they come up!
Nobody needs that kind of drain on their emotional or mental bandwidth. Everyone has better ways to spend their time, money, and energy.
A secret hint about doing just one thing out of a backlog is that you can use one backlog to motivate you to work on a different one. Ever had that feeling where you really didn’t want to do the dishes/do laundry/sort the mail/organize the digital folders on your desktop until it was time to do your taxes/make a doctor appointment/pack for your upcoming move? Maybe you’re not working on the thing you would most logically be working on, according to your own standards, but at least you’re doing something.
Doing one item off a list and then skipping to a different list can be an easy way of making progress on all of them.
Do one thing. Do one every day. Keep doing one thing. That’s how you eventually finish off a backlog, no matter how big. Better than that, it’s how you eventually avoid ever having a backlog again.
I've been working with chronic disorganization, squalor, and hoarding for over 20 years. I'm also a marathon runner who was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and thyroid disease 17 years ago.
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