Any situation that brings up either or many of these words should really make you stop and think: we all are generally disposed to procrastinate, thinking that whatever we push off into the future isn’t all that important after all. And we manage to convince ourselves that this is so.
Unfortunately, pushing decisions ahead of ourselves does the exact opposite, it makes whatever we don’t do right now all the more important! There are many examples to prove this, the most common one being ‘paying bills’. If you are one of those people who receive letters you suspect contain bills and you cannot bring yourself to open them, you’re in for a big surprise. This is the modern day equivalent of sticking your head in the sand.
Not opening the bill does not exactly take care of it, right? It may feel like a relief from your financial obligations, but it really is just ignoring it. This worst of all choices has real world consequences: for one thing you are likely to miss the deadline to pay that bill, and this may potentially result in fines on top of your original amount. If you keep ignoring incoming letters you could even end up in court for not following up on obligations you have to your suppliers. Not a nice prospect, but strangely it is also a prospect that reinforces that fear of opening more letters containing bills if you are not able to fulfil them to start with. A vicious circle.
Quite apart from the practical outcome, each letter that remains unopened, each bill that is unpaid, will keep weighing on your mind. You may actively try to forget about them, but your subconscious will remain aware of them and hinder making decisions on other levels, too. If you are already blocking yourself from facing your bills, what else are you leaving for another day? Cleaning the kitchen… ‘it will become a mess again anyway’, putting stuff back into drawers… ‘I’ll have to take it out again next week anyway’, and so on.
A lot of those decision making strategies are tightly connected and a simple blockage in one area will have an effect on how you behave in other areas. It will also make you more likely to become completely paralysed on the subject of taking care of the bare necessities of living and maintaining a household.
Let’s face it: ignoring your responsibilities can only get you so far. Maybe it is time to shift your perception a little bit. It’s understandable that you hesitate to open yet another envelope with a bill, but it cannot be avoided at some point. So why not pull the plaster off the wound in one big motion and see what it is you need to do. At the very least you’ll know what’s ahead of you. That does not mean you’ll immediately know how to deal with it, but you have made sure there are no hidden surprises any more.
Knowing what is there is an important step in taking care of any obstacle, and even though that reality may be frightening, you are now in a position to clearly weigh your options without having to second-guess.
Of course, incoming bills are only part of the problem: so many other things come to mind that could benefit from dealing with right now rather than waiting yet another day. Anything that is no longer on your mind will be a step in the right direction. Many would advise you to right those things down on a list but that would only increase anxiety about the sheer amount of things that end up on the list and lead to more procrastination.
Here’s my advice to you procrastinators: keep an open mind to detect any situation where you push something off into the future and decide there and then to do that one thing right away. Sometimes taking action on one thing requires doing a series of things: just keep going until the item is dealt with. For example, if opening the letter gives you another bill you have several options: you could pay it right now, or you could place the bill in a location where it’s not forgotten AND make a decision when is a good time to pay the bill. If you put that date and time on your calendar, you have taken the necessary steps to remove the worry about that bill from your mind. Once it’s paid, note the payment date on the bill or attach the receipt to it and file it into a binder for your paid invoices. Done. No longer a worry.
I hope you can see the difference: putting the item on a to do list does not take care of it, it simply adds to your ‘list of things to worry about’. Taking action, however, is resolving the issue and moves that item off your ‘list of things to worry about’ in a productive manner. There is a point to be made for a to do list, but only if things are not specific like ‘get new slippers for the beach’ or ‘clean the staircase’. These items that are not time-sensitive and it doesn’t matter if you do them today or next week, but paying bills or making doctor’s appointments etc are an altogether different animal that does not allow as much flexibility.
Taking care of one thing at a time is less stressful than looking at a long list of chores you really do not want to do.
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Hi, my name is Tilo Flache. My current mission: help my clients declutter mind and space.
This blog contains pointers for your journey towards a happier living experience.