By UB Therapist Rebecca Wolf, LCSW, PCGC
I consider myself to be many things, primarily, a mom, wife, and psychotherapist. In my practice, I find myself often discussing client’s frustrations with their procrastination of various desires. I can’t count how many times a client has said, “I really want to switch jobs, but I just can’t seem to update my resume.” Believe me, I get it. In attempting to balance my day to day chaos, it is often quite easy to push certain things off and put them on the back burner. It’s tough to follow through on tasks. I myself, have been intending to write a blog article for quite some time now. Yet, week after week, month after month, it just hadn’t happened – until now. Here are some thoughts on how to follow through on the ever expanding to-do list of tasks that we all just keep putting off for next week or month, or dare I say, next year…
Be realistic about priorities
Sometimes we put things off simply due to avoidance. Other times, we put things off because they just aren’t important enough for right now. When you find yourself avoiding a task that’s been on your list for a long time, ask yourself, “How important is this task right now?” Depending on where the task falls on your list of priorities, sometimes it is okay to put it off for another day, and other times, recognizing the importance of this task today is a simple reminder that it just can’t wait any longer.
Consider the drawbacks of not tackling your task
I had a client recently tell me how he was putting off scheduling a trip to visit his in-laws. He knew he needed to nail down his travel plans but the thought of knowing this trip was coming was incredibly anxiety provoking for him. We talked about this in depth for quite some time. In the end, what motivated him to book his flight was recognizing that the longer he waited, the more expensive the trip would be. Sometimes the best way to tackle a task is to explore the impact of the consequences if you continue to avoid it.
Recognize the benefits of accomplishing your task
Just last week, a client of mine was telling me how she wanted to work out regularly again but she couldn’t get started. I asked her simply, “What will be so much better for you once you start working out again?” She almost instinctively responded that she could finally lose her leftover baby weight and she would feel healthier. Her words were true, but her tone was not convincing. I pressed her for more benefits. She eventually told me that every day she works out she will have an hour all to herself – no children or husband or coworkers, totally alone. This was it for her. This was the true benefit. Sometimes the best motivation to tackle a long-standing task is to dig deep and explore all of the potential benefits of finally doing it, even the ones that aren’t so obvious in the first place.
I find that sometimes, I can believe a task is a priority, and I can be really clear on the consequences of holding off as well as the benefits of accomplishing it, and yet still, I lack the ability to just get it done. I mentioned earlier that I had intended to write a blog post for quite some time now. In the end, what motivated me to actually do it today of all days, was that I told a client that I was going to. I said it out loud, to another person, that I respect. Telling another person that I plan to do this makes me accountable. Sometimes accountability can be the most motivating factor in accomplishing a task we have been putting off.
If all of the above motivating strategies just aren’t doing it for you, then practice what I like to call, “productive procrastination.” What this means is, do something, or lots of other things, to make you feel productive and accomplished during the time it takes until you are ready to tackle the intended task. I had a client once tell me that she couldn’t bring herself to tell her parents that her and her boyfriend had broken up, but she had instead cleaned out her closet and donated a hefty amount of items to charity. She wasn’t quite ready for the task at hand, but in the meantime, she did something else that was good for her and good for her community. If the intended task isn’t enough of a priority for now, you can procrastinate productively until you are ready to accomplish the said task.
I hope these thoughts and tips are helpful to you in accomplishing your goals, whatever they may be, today, or someday soon.