I recently had a discussion with a buddy of mine about how to avoid procrastination. The conversation allowed me to reflect on some habits I didn’t consciously think about, but had become a part of my every day life.
Before I tell you about those habits, I need to make something clear: there are a variety of reasons we put things off for later. I can’t possibly know yours and won’t pretend my solutions will cure you. However, this isn’t the first time I had been asked about the things I’ve been able to get done in a relatively short period of time. Another friend actually messaged me to ask if I sleep.
Yes, friends, I do sleep.
And you should sleep too. Once you wake up though, here is a process that might help you if you feel like you aren’t getting enough done.
Step 1: Acknowledge the Problem
This is by far the hardest and most important step. It isn’t always clear to see what’s missing in our lives. Sometimes we just get stuck with the feeling of missing something, without having any idea what it is.
I was certainly in that boat. Whether I thought I wasn’t enough or my situation wasn’t what it could be, the feeling hovered over me. A breaking point is reached soon after and this stimulus tends to trigger the realization that a change needs to happen. No matter how hard this period is at the time though, it is necessary and ultimately makes the rest possible.
We generally don’t want to–or know how to–admit we’re going about things the wrong way. Once we know a problem exists though, it becomes as easy as solving it.
Some examples of what you might be missing: work time, overtime, creative time, family and/or friends time, health/workout time, other recreational time, “me” time
Step 2: Look at Your Schedule
Now you know what it is you want more of in your life. So what are the reasons they aren’t already there? For most it’s because we get tied up in so many other things.
For me, I would be wiped out after a day of working and commuting. When I got home I would spend time with family/friends but there was so much else missing on a personal level it was hard to stay positive. From not having time for a creative outlet, to not having time for almost any of my favorite recreational activities, I just wasn’t living on my own terms and it showed.
To fix it you should first identify what you have too much of and what is causing you to stress.
Some examples of what consumes our lives (same as before!): work time, overtime, creative time, family and/or friends time, health/workout time, other recreational time, “me” time
Step 3: Trim the Fat
Seek balance. Don’t quit your job, but ask yourself how much the amount of time you’re putting into that job is contributing to or taking away from your happiness. Do this for each of the examples of your time allocation above. Which areas can you cut time away from to make way for alternatives that provide you a better balance?
My job and the city I was living in stressed me out. At the same time, I knew of friends in my industry at companies with better work-life balance and in cities I enjoyed more. The change I needed to make was available and clear in this case so I made it, taking a slight pay cut in the process. I can’t find the words to tell you how worth it that was.
For some, the time available to cut may be less clear than for others. However, if you aren’t satisfied with your current lot, change of some kind is the only way forward, no?
Step 4: Just Keep Trimming
Maintain the activities that make you happiest, continuously chip away the ones that don’t, and fill the extra space with the things you were missing. Let progressively finding ways to free up more and more available time become a lifestyle.
When I reduced time with others to have more “me” time I was able to focus more on working out and my health consistently. As a result I started to feel better and had more energy at work. This allowed me to focus and find a new job in a city I love. The new job provided me even more free time as I cut my commute by more than half, which in turn led to tons of time for the creative endeavors I’d put off for so long. All of this combined to provide happiness that improved my relationships in a big way.
So find a pair of scissors and a glue stick and get to work.
Step 5: Don’t Force It
While discussing this concept with another friend, I was asked “how much free time do you have per day?” Now the answer depends on the day, but it probably varies from around 3-8 hours. Let me be clear about those hours: I do not spend every bit of those hours being productive.
Nor should you have to. On occasion I will get lost in recreational hobbies. Others I’ll get in a bunch of physical or social activity. I love to write and be creative in general, so inevitably the inspiration hits and I get something done every single day. The reason though is because I’ve made that time available.
Now, don’t get me wrong, you should make deadlines and stick to them. Your deadlines should be both achievable and challenging to reach. However, you are far more likely to reach them when giving yourself as much extra time as possible. When your mind is clear and heart is aligned the rest falls in place, I promise.
Step 6: Mix It Up
Everything becomes routine in excess. Try new things.
For me, I don’t necessarily want to restrict myself to the definition of “writer.” I love the title, but I love so many other things too. Additionally, exploring those other things tends to allow my passion for writing to grow… including video games, as other posts have shown. 😉
Ok, for reals though, I just texted the following to a fourth friend. I’d like to give a big thanks to all those who I mentioned not-by-name in this post, for the always thought-provoking conversations.
But yea dude little by little we gotta just always be trying to make the time we spend in our lives more of what we love and less of what we don’t.
As you can tell, the above is verbatim… dude.
QOTD: Do you procrastinate? What’s influences in your life are limiting your time? Tell me about it below!
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