5 Tips to Help You Stop Procrastinating – Guest Post

{Today’s post was written by Hollie Butler, a loyal DailyPath reader.}

Photo courtesy of Robbie Howell
We’ve all been there, of that you can certainly take comfort. Who hasn’t had a project, chore, or simple task that sits undone on their To Do list for days, weeks, or even months?

I consider myself a master procrastinator, and I’ve bought far more books on this topic than I’d like to admit to, but in the end I’ve discovered that fooling the mind works better than changing it. Complex mental exercises aimed at changing your tasks into “want to” instead of “have to” simply don’t work. As we all know, there are things in life we don’t want to do, and we have to do them anyway. Pretending otherwise just wastes your time and distracts you further.

A better strategy is to just use a little trickery to get yourself going. Here are my five favorite tips:

1. Put on music, an audio book, the radio, or the television. When it comes to household chores or tasks that require minimal focus, the mind is the enemy. It will quickly list for you all the reasons you hate drudge work, and all the more useful things you could be doing (see #4). Putting something on in the background can shush that voice down and settle us into our work.

2. Ask a friend to sit with you. They don’t even have to be doing the work with you. I have a good friend who will come over and park herself in a chair while I organize a room or finish a project. After a couple hours the place is sparkling, and I feel tired but happy, with a renewed sense of connection.

3. Set a timer.  If the task feels desperately undoable, start with just ten minutes. Before you begin, think for just a moment on what the first necessary action is, and then either keep that in your mind, or, if you’re too frazzled, write it down. Then set the timer for ten minutes, and get to it. Relax, breathe, and don’t think ahead. When finished, calmly ask yourself what the next one is, and then do that, and continue in this way until the timer has dinged. Pat yourself on the back. Whatever amount you got done, even if it was small, think how much energy you’ve spent avoiding this! And now you just put ten minutes toward getting the job done! Do that a few more times and you might surprise yourself.

4. Keep nearby a list of things to come back to. It’s astounding how often we dive into a project only to be derailed over and over in the first few minutes by thoughts of things that are more important that we should be doing instead. If this is you, keep a piece of paper and a pen nearby, and whenever one of those thoughts pops up (“Oh! We need dog food!”), just write it down, and then go back to what you were doing. You’ll be amazed at how well this can help you regain your focus.

5. Create a simple reward. It won’t make you happy about your task, but it will give you something to look forward to when it’s over. I often reward myself with a half hour of uninterrupted reading. Pick anything you love but don’t make time for.

Hollie Butler is a former massage therapist who is now writing her first novel in Seattle. When she isn’t playing the ukelele, she likes to experiment with vegan cooking for her husband and two kids. Find out more about Hollie at saltwater.holliebutler.com.

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