Doing what you’re supposed to, when you’re supposed to sounds pretty straightforward, doesn’t it? However, the majority of Americans today struggle with the simple tasks of staying focused, keeping on task and finishing projects on time.
As soon as you start putting things off, running your life by the seat of your pants, and getting sidetracked by less important priorities, you can quickly become overwhelmed and forced to dive into the deep end of procrastination. To keep from drowning in the waves of falling behind, playing catch up and missing deadlines, you have to grab onto the life preserver known as planning ahead to cruise toward a life with less stress, reduced distractions and more organization.
Become a List Maker
It’s easy to put off things you don’t enjoy and let time get away from you as you’re pulled in different directions at work, home and school. The simple act of writing things down can be a great tool for clearing your mind, organizing your thoughts and keeping you moving forward toward accomplishing your goals. Prioritizing the items on your list also can help you pinpoint what tasks need to be completed first and which ones can wait until later in the day or week. By having a continually evolving list, you minimize the risk of having things slip through the cracks and falling into the vicious cycle of procrastination.
“I’m more forgetful if I’m stressed out,” shares Meredith McCullough, massage therapist at Elements Massage Timonium. “When I write things down, it not only lessens my stress, but it makes me feel good when I’m able to check things off my list. I’m a single mom with a 7-year-old son so planning and thinking ahead is important for me.”
Break It Down
As workforces continue to shrink and responsibilities at work and at home continue to grow, you can quickly find yourself with too much on your plate and no direction on where to start. When a big project seems too daunting at first sight, break down each of the main tasks into smaller, actionable items that are quicker and easier to achieve. By concentrating on fulfilling each small task that will ultimately lead to successfully completing the larger project, you can better manage your time and focus your energies on accomplishing something. This approach also helps reduce the temptation to delay starting large personal or professional undertakings.
In a society where there is an overwhelming tendency to over-schedule and over-commit, you can very quickly become overwhelmed and stressed out about how you are going to finish everything on your to-do list. To minimize the urge of procrastinating when your calendar becomes too much to handle, take a step back, slim down your commitments and simplify what has to be done. Also, make it a point to include personal downtime in your regular routine to give your mind a chance to take a break, revive and rejuvenate.
“People today are much busier and more stressed than they have ever been before,” says McCullough. “It isn’t healthy to have your mind rolling all of the time. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, frustrated or stressed about a problem, get up, walk around or take a break for five to 10 minutes. It’s important to plan for ‘you’ time to nurture and be good to yourself.”
With text message, e-mail and social media alerts ring-ding-dinging from your phone and television, video games, hobbies and friends and family members constantly fighting for your attention, it can be a miracle to get anything done during the day. To minimize procrastination and the stress that it can cause, you have to manage the many daily distractions in your life so you can concentrate on what really matters to you. Turn off your electronics during meetings and project work times. Take a break from updating your every move on your social media sites. And reserve special time for hobbies, family and friends. Make every minute count by planning ahead of your distractions so you can give the task at hand your full undivided attention.
Master the Art of Creating a Master Plan
The key to creating a master plan that works in both the short term and long term is to include as many details as possible for each element in your plan and to communicate your schedule to everyone in the family. When everyone in a household is on the same page and knows what to expect in the upcoming days and weeks, you can more effectively manage busy schedules. To keep your master schedule from causing undo stress, though, it is important to build some flexibility into the grand scheme of things so you can adjust and accommodate for inevitable changes and spontaneous opportunities that can pop up in life.
“Life happens, so you have to be flexible and be able to roll with the punches,” says McCullough. “People who live for and are tied by their planners can become rigid, which is stressful in its own way. If you’re too rigid, you’re going to be just as stressed as if you don’t plan well. There really needs to be a healthy medium.”
If you wait until the last minute to plan or if you become married to your planner, you can forget things, miss the joy of living in the moment and ultimately create more stress in your life than you need. Plan ahead to minimize stress and procrastination, but plan well so that you can enjoy the fruits of your labor and focus on celebrating your life accomplishments.