“Make cookies for church” had been on the calendar for more than a week. It wasn’t a surprise. But baking day arrived with the discovery that there were no chocolate chips in the pantry. And it didn’t help that I had waited until late evening to get started on the project.
It was tempting to blame my busy schedule and focus on how tired I was. It’s all too easy to give myself a free pass on my attitude when I think about everything I do. But then I remembered something I had read earlier in the week, about how the most successful people take full responsibility.
Making excuses rather than cookies was getting me nowhere. It turns out that how we think about what we have to do is often more important than what we have to do.
I’ve baked so many cookies over the last thirty years that I could do it with my eyes shut. But I talked myself into procrastinating on baking a measly three dozen cookies.
It wasn’t that the job was so big. It was how I was thinking about it.
This cookie-baking session reminded me of some tips to stop procrastination. Let me share them with you, while the lesson (and the cookies) are fresh:
Don’t wait until time to perform a task to check whether you have what you need to do it. Realizing you’re short on supplies or information at the last minute costs time and causes stress. Knowing that you’re prepared eases the pain of getting started. Put “check for ingredients” on your to-do list!
Realize that using a calendar and taking action are two different things. It’s one thing to put “bake cookies” on our smartphone calendar and it’s quite another thing to actually bake the cookies. It’s easy to fool ourselves into thinking we’re productive because our calendar is organized.
Dreading a task takes longer and costs more emotional energy than just doing it. We make mental mountains out of our ant-hill tasks. Getting them done usually isn’t as bad as we built them up to be.
There are enough unexpected events in life and business without us pretending to be surprised by regular, recurring events like blog posts and taxes. Somehow we think we’re off the hook if it sneaks up on us. It’s a subtle form of evading responsibility. Let’s tell ourselves the truth: we knew it was coming.
The excuse “I don’t have time” usually isn’t quite true. We make time for what we want to do. We have time to browse Pinterest and watch YouTube videos but we don’t have time to do our laundry? Instead of baking cookies earlier in the day I had perused the newspaper and gone shopping. When it came time to face the task it was easy to console myself with the old “I didn’t have time” trick. No, I had time. I made a choice on how to spend my time.
Sometimes we struggle with getting started on a task, but we all love how it feels when the task is done. It helps to remember that when we’re tempted to procrastinate.
Even if you have been dealing with procrastination on some projects, don’t label yourself a procrastinator. We get more of what we focus on, so think of yourself as someone who is moving towards better productivity.
Whether it’s baking cookies or making your bed, do the work rather than dread the work. The time will pass either way, and you might as well get closer to your goals rather than wish you had. You don’t have to have it all together perfectly to stop procrastinating, just make some progress. And make those cookies.
What helps you get started when you’ve been procrastinating? Please leave a comment…