When you’re in recovery, especially early recovery, you have a lot of things on your to-do list. While it’s understandable that you might feel a bit overwhelmed, at least at first, you have every reason to expect that you’ll come to some manageable way of working your way through everything you want and need to do. There are, however, the inevitable gaps and slow-downs that you will encounter, particularly in your own tendency to procrastinate. Here are seven tips to help you get past them.
Recognize Your Emotions – But Don’t Judge Yourself
First of all, it’s important that you recognize your emotions for what they are. If you feel anxious or dubious, acknowledge these feelings. Instead of falling into the trap of judging yourself for feeling this way, possibly even beating yourself up about having such thoughts, get on with the business at hand. Dive into some portion of one item that you know you need to do. There’s nothing like taking action to banish procrastination. Action has momentum all its own. The more you take the initiative, the better you’ll feel about having started. And you’ve got something to show for it as well.
Do Less — to Start With
If you’re looking at a mountain of to-dos on your list and feeling more than a little defeated before you even begin, one tip from recovery experts is to manage your list by doing less — to start with. It isn’t necessary that you tackle the biggest and most difficult items on your list at the same time, or even sequentially. It may make more sense and prove more motivating if you begin with a small item. You can always gravitate toward tougher or more complicated ones later.
Start With Something
The key is to start doing something in order to get past the pit of procrastination you may have fallen into. Climbing out may seem a little rough, but once you’re taking action, you’ve got forward motion going for you. What that something is doesn’t matter in the long run. It only matters that you begin taking action.
Break It Up
Using a food and eating analogy, you can look at a scrumptious meal and really want to cram it all into your mouth at once, but that’s not only impractical, it will also lead to negative consequences. Similarly, trying to do too much at once on your to-do list will lead to frustration, haphazard results and an overall feeling of failure at not being able to accomplish your goals. Instead, break up bigger or more complex and complicated items into smaller, more manageable pieces. Like morsels of food instead of overstuffed mouthfuls, smaller, bite-size pieces of a task will likely lead to more satisfying outcomes.
Give Yourself a Reminder
Sometimes we all need a little reminder that what effort we expend now in our recovery efforts will pay off in the long run. Keep a sticky note of why you want to do this and what you expect as an outcome as a means of reminding you how important this goal is to you. This may bolster flagging enthusiasm during the rough parts of the task, project or issue you’re attempting to work out. It’s also a form of positive self-talk that’s so crucial in recovery.
Make It Harder to Goof Off
If you’re constantly looking for a break and use that time to engage in activities that put you further away from your goals, that’s another form of procrastination. It’s one that many in recovery are very familiar with. We lollygag over computer games or posting updates to social media instead of tending to the task at hand. Instead of going to a meeting, we decide we’d rather chat with friends or take the day off. Here’s a handy tip to help you overcome this tendency to goof off — make it harder to do so. Maybe that means using only one computer to play games — and it’s stored at a friend’s house or needs a special password that’s hard to remember. Anything that deters procrastination is a good thing. Researchers at Stockholm University studying interventions for procrastination called these “microcosts.”
Pay Out Self-Rewards
Everyone likes a reward for work that’s well-done. When you achieve some portion of success toward a goal — and it can be the first step, midway or three-quarters of the way through as well as the total completion — give yourself a reward for your effort. Maybe go out to lunch or coffee with a friend, buy a favorite author’s new book and indulge in a chapter or two of peaceful reading, or take some time to spend on a hobby or pastime you enjoy. You’ll return to your to-do list with a renewed sense of commitment and you’ll be more relaxed and less stressed-out when you dive in again.
Keep in mind that procrastination left unchecked can result in negative psychological and physical effects, among them higher risk for depression, anxiety and reduced well-being. Researchers found that those with hypertension and heart disease were more likely to be avoidant or blame themselves for getting the disease instead of engaging in healthier coping mechanisms such as exercising with a friend or finding meaning in life.
Source: Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, Internet-based cognitive behavior therapy for procrastination: A randomized controlled trial, Aug. 2015