Tag Archives | to-do lists

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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How a Few Minutes a Day Can Earn You Freedom for Life

Freedom for Life

Photo courtesy of Bohari Adventures

Last summer, I had steady stream of friends staying with me as house guests. One evening, one of my guests was gazing over my shoulder as I went through my nightly ritual of typing up my to-do list for the following day. After watching me for a minute or two, eventually he shook his head and said, “I couldn’t live like that.”

Er, live like what, exactly?

“With every aspect of my life planned out to the last detail, no room for fun or spontaneity. I would find that extremely boring.”

At that moment I realized just how misunderstood to-do lists are, as I’m one of the most spontaneous people you’ll ever meet. I’ve been known to move to another continent on a whim (twice, in fact), and I frequently drop everything to accept last-minute invitations to hang out with friends, or pop over to Munich for Oktoberfest just because I feel like it, or jump on any other crazy opportunities that come my way.

The only reason I’m able to do these things is because I’ve intentionally built a life structure that allows for that level of freedom, by making sure that all the essential tasks get done and shifted out of the way in the most efficient manner possible. If you’re always staying several steps ahead, which is what a high level of organization allows, then you can easily jet off for a few hours (or a day, or a week) whenever the mood strikes you, without stress or guilt.

I see people who repeatedly take all day to do things that could easily be done in a couple of hours, providing that they would set aside a few minutes the night before to create a plan and a list. When you don’t have a detailed plan, you can spend your whole day not knowing exactly what to do next, backtracking when you realize you forgot to do something, and generally wasting time that otherwise could have been spent on the things you really want to do.

Left to my own devices, I’m pretty much your standard, disorganized, right-brained creative. This is where to-do lists come in handy – allowing me to sculpt that life of freestyle creativity, by ensuring that I get the essential foundation work out of the way first. It’s reasonable to want a life defined by personal freedom, and it only takes a few minutes to put the structural supports in place to allow that freedom.

Do you have a personal organizational system that helps you get things out of the way so you can enjoy your life?

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