Each month this year, I’ve decided to focus on just one area of my life intensely rather than pull my mind in a million different directions with a whole list of goals and expectations having to do with everything from how many books I’ll read to how much exercise I plan to do. For January, I focused on finances with my spending freeze. In February, I focused on trying to fit in 10,000 steps a day to work on my activity level.
Now, for March, my big focus is:
Rather ironically, I’ve been intending to work on my procrastination problem for years now. Way back in high school, I realized the depth of my problem when I pulled a true all-nighter to finish a huge writing project I’d kept putting off for one of my classes, and I ended up finishing it at 6:50 a.m. in the morning–just in time for me to get ready for school and head out.
That was a big wake-up call.
But it wasn’t enough, apparently–just a couple years later in college, I was taking a British Authors class and had put off the 8-page paper until the day it was due. The essay had to be submitted by midnight, and I woke up that morning with some kind of flu/fever/congestion nastiness. So, completely hyped up on Mucinex and Advil, I typed up the essay in a frenzy, not even sure if I was making sense or if I was remotely fulfilling the parameters of the assignment.
Both of these scenarios could have turned out badly, and had I failed the assignments/classes (or, let’s be honest, gotten anything less than about a 93%), I really probably would have worked on mending my ways. But they didn’t—I received accolades for both projects, so my procrastination only seemed to get rewarded, triggering a vicious cycle.
The problem doesn’t just extend to homework though–the first year of applying to PT school with Matt, we put it off until I about had a complete stress meltdown when we were waiting on a critical verification that came literally hours before the Oct. 1st deadline. And now, about a month away from my due date, I am no closer to a “nursery” for the baby than I was when we first found out I was pregnant, I still haven’t selected a pediatrician, and I haven’t even started on any lesson plans for the long-term sub that will be stepping in for me when I’m on maternity leave.
Everyone please say a prayer now that our baby girl comes at least a week late (ideally 10 days late–that would just be really grand with my work schedule and everything).
Basically, I’ve realized enough is enough though, and now that my procrastination problem will seriously affect someone else who I’m supposed to be in charge of if I don’t get a handle on it, I figured I’d better get my butt into gear now before she makes her debut.
My first step in my non-procrastination goal for the month was to buy myself a planner, so I picked myself up a 2015 Moleskine planner from Amazon and have been planning out my weeks using three different colors of pens–red for anything work-related, blue for anything church-related, and black for everything else. Each morning, I think about what I need to get done that day and try to plan accordingly. Each night, I check off what I’ve accomplished and prepare myself mentally for the next day. If something doesn’t get done (which hasn’t happened yet but very well might), I will move it to the next most convenient time slot.
The second step is to devote some of my nighttime reading minutes to finally working my way through The Now Habit, a book on overcoming procrastination that I’ve put off reading for years. (Yeah….) I’ve discovered that constantly feeding my mind with inspirational words about whatever it is I’m working on is a definite key for my success in that area–I know some people can do stuff without researching it to death, but I’m not one of them.
Third, I’ve created a master list of “Nagging Tasks” that have been put off for months that keep weighing down my life the longer they don’t get done (think setting up dental appointments for us both and taking a load of furniture and other old possessions to charity). This idea was inspired by Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project, where she says, “[S]tudies show that one of the best ways to lift your mood is to engineer an easy success, such as tackling a long-delayed chore. I was astounded by the dramatic boost in my mental energy that came from taking care of these neglected tasks.” I’ve done this in the past, and I’ve found that it is enormously freeing to get these long-procrastinated tasks out of the way so my mind can be clear to focus on other priorities.
I know that one month won’t be enough to fix a problem that’s been steadily worsening for my whole lifetime, but I figure it’s a start. Simply focusing on that more than anything else so far this month has already harvested some positive changes for me.
Wish me luck. (And really—please send up a little prayer that our baby will just stay right where she is until at the very least her due date…)