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Take a moment to think about something that’s been hanging out on your to-do list for a long, long time.  It doesn’t take much time to come up with it, does it?  What might that thing be?  Cleaning out the front closet, dealing with finances, returning an unpleasant phone call?

In the split second that you think of that task, the thought probably feels something like a weight – a weight that pulls you down.  You may have a physical reaction to it: your shoulders might slump, your body might feel tired, your chin my drop with a heavy head.  And the bigger the task and the more it’s been put off, the heavier the feeling.  I know, it’s unpleasant.  It happens to me, too.

I have a solution for you – and you might not like it.  Do the task.  Sorry, but that’s what has to happen.

But here’s the good part: Once you’ve done the task, you will experience a tremendous (yes, really) infusion of positive energy.  I bet you’ve experienced this, too.  You make the unpleasant phone call, it takes all of three minutes, you get off the phone and say, “phew, wow, I wish I had done that a month ago.” And you walk away a little lighter in your being.

Some people are really good procrastinators.  I say this with a twinge of awe, similar to the awe I feel for people who wear black leather and are good at being bad. Good procrastinators have a high tolerance for those heavy feelings. When they put off something, they block it out of their minds almost completely, so that it doesn’t impinge on their procrastination technique of the moment.

But it’s the word almost that is key here. Even if we are good at procrastinating, good at putting it out of our minds, it’s not really gone, or not too far anyway.  All it takes is a simple reminder and those heavy feelings come up from just under the surface in an instant.  In other words, the not doing of something is zapping our energy.  It’s taking the wind out of our turbines and the sun out of our personal solar panels.

You may notice this especially with to-dos that you can see.  For example, the pile of papers you need to go through or the shelf in the hallway that’s gotten out of hand.  The visual reminder is ever present and when you walk by it, it zaps you.

But what that also means is when you do get to organizing that physical space, in your home or office, you will feel the extra bonus every time you are near it. You will rejoice in the clean space.  You will feast your eyes on the uncluttered counter top, the cleared off stairway, and the desk that is swept clean.

Now that you know the reward, it may be easier to motivate yourself to do whatever has been draining your energy.  I recommend starting with small realistic goals.  Here are some tips for keeping things simple and sustainable:

Choose one thing: If you challenge yourself to do one small thing each day, you’ll get enough of a boost in positive energy to power a small engine.

Set a timer for 15 minutes: You can do anything for 15 minutes.  Try it.  Go as fast as you can.

Break big things into small tasks: Need to clean the basement?  How about just trying one small section to start?  Choose a corner.  Or choose a category (bikes or books or old paint cans) and then choose another category the next time.

Homework

Here’s a list of areas that may feel like they need attention.  Choose one today and another one tomorrow.  Give yourself an assignment and a due date.

  • Phone calls/thank you or sympathy notes
  • Email inbox
  • Home repairs/organization
  • Doctor/dentist appointment
  • Exercise
  • Job search
  • Bills/taxes/paperwork

Remember, choose one task at a time, make it small, and enjoy the burst of happiness you get from tackling it! At the end of the day, reward yourself by looking back on your accomplishment and bask in the glow of good energy.

Kristin Thalheimer

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