You know there are certain tasks you regularly avoid. What you might not know is why you really do this. There are factors affecting your reaction to and engagement in these tasks that may be hidden deeper than just “laziness” or “procrastination.” You probably don’t procrastinate everything in your life. Why some things and not others? Why do you gravitate more toward some tasks than others.
It often has something to do with how you view the particular task or sub-task. It might have to do with the array of choices you have, and not be as closely related to that specific task as you thought. It can be helpful to note your reaction to each avoided task and take a minute to ask yourself: What is it about this that makes me cringe or put it off?
Like for me, I tend to put off grocery shopping. But if I think about it, it is not because I really mind the shopping. It is because I don’t want to put them away when I get home. Why don’t I want to put them away? I figured out that it is at least partly because I tend to schedule for the outing part and not the putting away part. So, when I get home, I feel like I should be done and it is on my schedule to move on to other things. It is a similar phenomena for laundry. I don’t mind washing clothes. In fact, I feel quite satisfied as I sort them and put them in the washer. I even like hanging them on the line or sorting them out of the dryer into baskets. But putting away the clean items is forever haunting me because I feel like I’ve already completed “the task.” Putting them away is an inconvenience and I don’t give myself any credit for it. So, for both of these chores, I need to train myself to look at the whole set of tasks associated with it, to schedule for them AND give myself credit that they are necessary parts of the job.
Sometimes, a task is not regularly overwhelming, but something gets out of whack and the situation looks impossible. Best to ignore it and move on to something else, right? That rarely helps and often exacerbates the problem. When my kitchen sink got clogged so that it was draining at the rate of a gallon an hour, it was during major garden harvesting. I was keeping up with it some, timing my activities so that I could let the sink drain before the next batch of whatever, until I had to wash a bunch of canning jars. When they were done, I found myself walking in circles in the kitchen. I would go to do one thing, decide I couldn’t do it until I moved this or that, then went to move it only to discover that after about 6 stations I was back at the same place. And NOTHING had been done because each step required the previous one in the circle. I had to step back and really brainstorm. Finally, I came up with a solution that loosened up the grid lock and I made some progress that was maintainable.
Here is a little list that I have come up with as I have evaluated what creates subconscious barriers against tasks for me, followed by some ways that I have changed my thinking to make it more likely I will get things done:
- The tasks seems to need a certain amount of time to get them done, that I don’t feel that I have. I have to think harder about how the task could be broken up and how to handle interruptions. Balancing the bank register often falls into this category.
- There seems to be so much to do that I can get paralyzed by the scale and complexity of the job. I need to find the manageable pieces that can get me started on it and help me see progress. My weeding chart helps me do this with my acre. Having a very specific chart for tasks can help for any overwhelming set of jobs.
- The total chore seems like it should be done, so there is no time allotted for those tail end parts (like putting the groceries away!) Having an unscheduled day of tracking how much time it really takes to get things done can help a lot with this. Another simple way is to just add 25% more time to such jobs.
- When the chore is actually something I enjoy, I tend to put it off because I have convinced myself only unpleasant things count for work. Plus, because I like them, I tend to get caught up in them at the expense of other needed duties. I need to set alarms or have other people help nudge me to the next item of business. If I “allow” myself to do these fun chores more regularly, I won’t tend to get side tracked by them as easily, too. Instead, I can just look forward to them. Ironically, weeding also fits into this category for me. I could weed all day once I get out there. Working on our stock market investments is also something I like.
- The situation has no easy point to break into it, like what happened with the kitchen sink. Another example is when I need to clean my desk and file important papers. This usually requires thinking beyond the space that I was originally working in. I have to find one aspect of the gridlock and think about another way to handle it.
- Feeling like a job will be “undone” as soon as it is done is highly demotivating. Bathing children or dusting the house definitely fall in this category for me. I have to paint myself a mental picture of what it would really look like if I never attended to these things. This helps convince me that I am truly making progress, even if it is doesn’t look that way on the surface.
- Feeling like I don’t get any credit for doing a certain thing. Like watering the yard or keeping the house stocked with certain supplies or ironing. Anything where there is minimal evidence that work has been done. Sooner or later it would become obvious that it wasn’t done, but doing it does not enact obvious results. Just put it on the lists so that it can be crossed off. Anything that can be crossed off means something was done!
- Too many ideas circulating in my mind. This is different than being paralyzed from a specific, almost scary job or group of related tasks. This is when I have a lot of good ideas about how I could get things done, but my mind is distracted by each new thing that comes to mind so that I’m not making good progress on anything. The first important step is to write things down, because part of the swirl is the concern that I will forget. But, then, sometimes what I need is to unwind. That can be anything from playing my flute for 30 minutes to going for a run. These things help my mind to naturally sort things out and problem solve.