What Next? Start Small

Ever since we got back from honeymoon I've been the queen of procrastination. There's actually quite a bit of clean-up admin left over. There's the thank-you notes and the wedding album to put together (most couples I know who got married in the past few years still haven't done it) and the honeymoon pictures to sort through. We went on safari and I kid you not, took over 700 photos, I think, of mostly giraffes. Why so many giraffes?

I know, you're weeping for me, right?

I'm not complaining about all this nice stuff I have on my to-do list. Rather, I'm thinking about motivation a lot these days in terms of how to get things done, while prioritizing the important things and also keeping myself from getting knotted up about everything on the list.

And I think (just maybe) that planning a wedding taught me some important lessons. Because actually, even though I say I'm the queen of procrastination, I've already written 20 thank you notes and we've unpacked and put away all our gifts, broken down the boxes and I've even checked the file size of the wedding photos (so my parents could send me the right size memory stick). Which is one of those fiddly things that in the past I just never would have done quickly.

So what have I learned?

You've got to prioritize. And then you've got to start small: do just do one thing. Which will eventually lead to others.

I suppose, also, that I'm making some progrees on shedding the perfectionist tendencies, because I'm learning that posting twice a week is better than not at all. And writing even one thank-you note per day will get you there faster than you thought.

Also, focusing on one task (or a small number) at a time really does work. Last week I was going a little bit crazy. My mind was racing about trying to solve/get organized/deal with everything else in my life that I haven't had much time to focus on in the past eight months.

My brain was like a runaway train, unsatisfied with the state of my wardrobe (must clean out those ratty winter clothes) and my inability to get up earlier in the mornings on a consistent basis (again). I was also mad at myself for sticking to cooking and eating my rota of 'easy dinners' that recently got me through the busy times. Why hadn't I broken out the new cookbook my brother and his girlfriend gave me for Christmas and learned some amazing new dish to serve the Hub?

Then I stopped the insanity. And thought about what were the most important things right now. Writing the thank-you notes, filing my US taxes and getting back into the rhythm of blogging. (I won't take credit for the three-most-important-project method – I read it in Leo Babauta's book: The Power of Less. But I find it works – three projects is a good number to juggle.)

Also, I've again started using a technique that my Dad once told me about. Whenever there's something that you don't want to do, just do it for 30 minutes. It really works, usually 30 minutes of just about anything is tolerable (if it's not, reduce it to 10 or 20 – I find 25 actually sometimes works better than 30 as it seems like so much less), and once I'm actually doing something I get into it, and don't mind it so much. Or, if I don't, I just take a break after the 30 minutes is up and then start again.

It's interesting, this compulsion to get everything done at once, and right away! Perhaps it's time to start meditating again. My initial thought on that: but there's no time! I wonder what I'm afraid of – maybe that I'll have to slow down and forget about my to-do list for a while. Maybe the best thing I can do for myself post-wedding is to start examining my obsession with 'getting things done'.

Well, maybe, but after I finish the thank-you notes.

How do you deal with procrastination? Or the never-ending to-do list?

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  1. I used to buy box sets of TV shows I loved specifically for huge procrastination-worthy tasks (well, in my book almost everything is procrastination worthy, unfortunately). The deal was that I could watch an episode, and then I had to do X unpleasant task for equally as long. Then another episode. And another chunk of the job... Whatever gets you going, right?

  2. @beth - That's brilliant! The only problem would be using that strategy at work. "Look boss, watching Mad Men on my computer is actually HELPING me finish this project. Lay off, OK?"


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