How many times have you found yourself putting off important tasks in your personal life or career? Isn’t it dreadful how procrastination results in increased stress, resentment and guilt? So why is it that this pattern of procrastination and unhappy feelings is repeated time and again in your life?
If it is due to feeling overwhelmed with stress, then perhaps you need more balance in your life. Too often we fail to plan for the fun things in our lives. We commit ourselves to working long hours, and assume we will fit our social activities, hobbies, exercise, and even sex into whatever time is left over. Unfortunately, the ‘have to’ items on our lists are so time consuming that we often run out of time to engage in personal pleasures. When that pattern continues for a long period of time, we lose our motivation to keep working, and procrastination sets in. If procrastination continues for too long, we can experience a downward spiral into depression.
Interrupt this cycle of ‘work-work-work’ and no recharging of your ‘play’ batteries by changing your view of relaxation. Relaxation is not a frivolous extra like dessert! View it for what it is: a necessary component in the healthy balance of life.
So how do you manage this balance?
#1: Reduce your to-do list.
Looking at too large a list of things needing to be accomplished is akin to looking at a full plate of food when you have the flu. It turns your stomach, you feel overwhelmed, and you want to turn away from it, desperately hoping it just goes away.
Take your to-do list and eliminate the items on the list that do not require your attention. Delegate to others some of the tasks. Can a colleague/spouse/child take care of any of the tasks?
#2: Identify your own balance.
Do not compare yourself to others. Some people may be able to work 12 hour days and somehow manage to get everything accomplished while appearing energized and content. Balance in your life may mean you work best at limiting work to a specific number of hours or days in order to achieve the equilibrium you are seeking.
#3. Evaluate lessons taught to you as a child.
We often lead our adult lives based on lessons learned from our parents when we were young. Some children are taught that recreation is wasteful, and that all activity should be purposeful. As adults, these individuals will have discomfort, guilt, and low feelings of self-worth if they pursue activities that allow them to ‘be’ instead of ‘do’. Examine these thoughts and think about whether these tapes that are playing in your head and directing your daily activities are working well for you today, or are influencing an unbalanced lifestyle.
#4. Select exercise time purposefully. When we become overwhelmed with a project, we tend to feel sluggish. With an increase in lethargy, our level of productivity decreases. When this occurs, set aside 15- 20 minutes to do some exercise, increase the blood flow, and bring up your energy level. You will find yourself more motivated and capable to tackle a large or undesirable project.
#5. Use the carrot and stick reward system.
Remember the story about the stubborn donkey walking forward in the hopes of getting a bite of the carrot, which was dangling from a pole just out of his reach? Set up similar rewards for yourself, but with a more enticing outcome. Plan ahead for small rewards that you can enjoy following the completion of each task. With large tasks, you may want to have small rewards at different intervals. Knowing that you will have earned a reward that you value will help keep you focused on the task at hand, with the sustained energy level required to get it done in a timely fashion.