As an organizer for nine years, I worked for hundreds of clients who surprisingly suffered from the same problem. What is it? Procrastination and its resulting self-condemnation.
Let me tell you how to decide if your procrastination is extreme and give you tips to stop it, and feel free. For the purpose of this article, we will stick to paperwork and bills. You can expand the ideas to other areas later.
It didn’t take me long to realize at the bottom of most clients projects was the root problem of procrastination. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and the pile on each of our desk was not built overnight. The good news is there are ways to feel better, fix it, and stop beating yourself up!
First, let’s decide if your paperwork related procrastination is excessive. I think most of us suffer it in one degree or another and it is normal. The trouble is we do not allow ourselves to feel it is normal. This creates a cycle of self- fulfilling, negative reinforcement. It’s as if we continue to walk circles around the paper pile because we have already beaten ourselves up about it, so why bother? We fail to give ourselves the benefit of the doubt that we are okay we just need better habits. That is the ultimate freedom, to declare ourselves fine. We are probably okay the way we are, even if our mother or father is in our head telling us we need to do better.
So, how can we test if there truly is a paperwork procrastination problem that needs changing? First, look at the “to do” pile of papers in your work area. What is the oldest date? Have you missed an important deadline like a bill that has a hefty late fee? Is there anything in that pile that actually hurts another person by remaining undone? The good news is there are really easy remedies!
The great news is that most of that old pile has probably become irrelevant. Don’t create bad desk feelings by tackling it there. As much as you don’t want to, move it to your t.v. watching spot and commit to spending a half hour every evening going through it until it is gone. You will be amazed and pleased to see most of it can be trashed. This will leave a nice empty spot on your desk that will perpetuate your progress. Tell yourself “If I can do that tip, I can do the next”. Keep at these tips for one week and you will be well on your way to curing paperwork related mess and guilt.
Let’s talk about bills and mail, shall we? It may be that the way you place things can improve. I suggest dividing the mail pile into three categories. The first being financial, subdivided by immediate attention, one week attention and read/file. In doing this you can readily see what you need to do today, right away. When you do the today pile take a peek at the this week pile and you will more than likely knock that out as well. The read/file pile should never be put on your desk. Put it in your evening relaxing chair. By the end of each evening, it should be down to just “to file”. More than likely half of it is trash so be sure there is a trash can within tossing distance. Be careful not to save that which you can be found online. Don’t be a packrat, there is no reason to keep and clutter your files with things easily found on the internet.
With this system, you only have to check your financial related pile a few minutes each day. If you can commit to one half hour, once a week at your desk, the pile will never become old, stagnant material, which is the ammunition of guilt.
Moving the read/file category away from the sitting desk allotted time makes a big difference. I hope you consider not letting that part of paperwork ever get on your desk. I recommend a two sided bin or basket. Set it where you relax in the evening and commit to clearing it nightly, leaving only the “to file” pile for every Sunday night. Or whatever night, but the same evening each and every week, file what you must save. You will feel good about it and know you are on task. Do this and you will soon be patting yourself on the back instead of wanting to beat yourself about the head. After you have mastered these habits you can add further refinements that you are more than capable of creating for yourself.
Next let’s deal with personal, “other human being” related things to do. These may not be on your desk, just little guilt bullets flying around your mind. The best way, I have found, is to keep a pad on your desk, readily available all the time. When someone's birthday comes to mind write the date on the pad. Actually, write the date as a week ahead of the important day. This pad will include more than birthdays and in that way can be divided between yearly and one time events. After a year of this system, you can create a perpetual birthday, anniversary calendar that leaves off graduations and parties; anything that does not repeat annually.
If you know you need to write a thank you note, or birthday card put that on this pad. If it is in your head it is important. When you write the occasion on the pad also put “card” on your grocery list. Having the card in hand is half the battle. When you purchase the card put it in your evening read/file area. Write it out and address and stamp it that very night. The next day you will happily complete your nice duty by dropping it in the mail. Boom! Look at you on top of that situation! Congratulations, you organized, thoughtful person you!
I realize some millennials have lost the art of the thank you note, that doesn’t mean it’s okay. I am fifty-five and I love and expect a thank you note for efforts I have gone out of my way to show others. I have a niece who was going to forgo thank you notes for her wedding gifts! If people do nice things for you, they need to be thanked. I for one will not let you off the hook on that one! I know we are all busy, but we are all also responsible for being a blessing to others. Procrastination should never cause us to fail to show our appreciation for loved ones. That is guaranteed to make you feel bad about yourself. Vice versa, doing it will make you feel and actually be a nicer person.
While this post references the problem of undone paperwork the concepts can be applied to any procrastination arena. The only way out is to face it and tackle it. As an organizer I found people do not do homework, they cancel your next appointment instead. Don’t fool yourself by saying you will do it some other time. That is where the mental torment and self-condemnation starts. I know this because I suffer if I avoid tasks too! I am in no wise better than anyone, I am only different because I have gotten in the trenches with many others. The best tip I have is to commit to spending time on it and hold true to it. I suggest twenty minutes at a time. If you go longer, which you probably will, that’s great! If not that’s okay, just hold true to your next twenty-minute session. Start by committing to two twenty minute sessions each day. Once this habit is formed and the piles are gone you will convert the time to regular upkeep of your paperwork.
I have found the twenty-minute method works on any procrastination problem. Come on, you can live through twenty minutes of anything. “Just do it!” As Nike would say, there is much to that saying. There are many cliches that fit. Rome wasn’t built in a day. How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. Some of my mother's sayings hold true and some of them just cause unnecessary, unproductive guilt. Be careful how you are talking to yourself! I think I can, I think I can, I think I can! If you think you can you might, if you think you can’t you are right! I don’t know who authored most of those cliche' statements. I believe they are still around because there is something to them. Use these sayings to replace the dread and self-reproval that you may be suffering. Negative thoughts are your downfall. Do not continue to play those negative comments! They are as self-defeating as complimentary thoughts are self-perpetuating. When you start thinking how you dread it, or how you're a ditz for dreading it, replace it with one of these positive cliches! Expand on them, personalize them, grow them in your mind until you believe them.
I am cheerleading for you! Please let me know your progress and any tips I can add to this program. If you believe this could work please resteem it. You can upvote up to a week, I think: try it for a week and come back and let me know. I would love to hear it has worked! I have seen it work over and over and over. “Try it you’ll like it!” If it seems too simple to be true that is all the more reason to put the system to the test!Don't forget Valentines Day is near!
All images from https://pixabay.com even though they say "Shutter stock", not sure why that is.