Tips for the Procrastinator

  “We take it easy, and we make it easy”

Many years ago, when I was having “another  life” in my job function, I was asked to interview a grandmotherly, African American female as a part of a child protective service investigation.  I encountered her in the middle of a field, where she was stooped over, picking vegetables in the scorching sun.  The day was so hot that I could barely stand the temperature inside of my air conditioned car.

I walked through the field in the baking sun to approach this lady.  She was covered in dark clothing and wore a sort of bandana on her head.  Over that was perched a straw, brimmed hat.  As I walked over to her, I wondered how she could possibly stand to work under these conditions.  So I asked her exactly that question.  She grinned a partly toothless smile, winked, and said, “Ohh, we take it easy and we make it easy!”

Over the years since that day,  I have pondered and marveled at the wisdom in that statement, given that she was still smiling during what seemed to me to be torturous working conditions.

I sometimes relate that story to clients, especially to those who have challenges with things like procrastination when facing unwelcome tasks or overwhelming projects.  Sometimes, you just have to do stuff you do not really want to do. And some people are just uncomfortable with long or complex tasks. 

So, why should we not make it as easy for ourselves as possible, to do stuff that is harder to do. 

Here are a few tips:

  • Break down the task into smaller segments, then basically schedule when to do them.  To do this, it is good to pick times that are either comfortable, or alternatively, when you know you are at your peak. This varies according to the person. 
    • For the night owl, it could work to stay up late to finish the taxes, for example.  A ” comfort” could be to put a fire in the fireplace, turn on some nice music, enjoy a glass of wine, and focus on completing that Schedule C of the tax return.
    • For the morning person, it could be better to first enjoy a run, then a hearty breakfast, and sit on the verandah with the task in front of you, accompanied by a hot cup of steaming coffee or tea.
  • Another way to take it easy and make it easy would be to decide if  it is possible to delegate the task to someone who is good at it, or to someone who needs the work.  Maybe segments of the task can be set out for others to accomplish.
  • Finally, we can be our own behavioral therapist!   We can program in a reward for ourselves once we accomplish a part or all of a task at hand.  For example, assuming a person enjoys something like, say walking in the woods, this could be used as a self-reward.  After a segment of the work is complete, I permit myself to take such a break.

So, many times when I face an unpleasant task, I remember that lady in the field, and I think of how to make myself more comfortable in doing it.