Those moments are just the tilting point when your subconscious mind is finally able to convince your conscious mind that procrastination and laziness are no longer an option. This is the point when a sense of unease and discomfort has built to a level where the only way forward is to take action.
In the best of scenarios you’ll be able to tackle it all and get it done.
Once all the dishes are washed and dried and put away, or when you are able to close that toy chest with nothing left outside that has no place to go, those are happy moments. There is a sense of achievement and calm and you can look around and see the result of your hard work: no more dishes that nag “wash me, wash me!”, no more toys to stumble over.
Sometimes there is a snag.
Let’s say you have decided that enough is enough and you now want to get some order for your clothes. If you have left it too long or the job is simply too big, you may end up with an unfinished task. And that is one of the worst scenarios you could find yourself in: not only have you slaved over this task for what feels like an eternity, but also you find yourself underachieving. Potentially your home now looks even worse for all those partially organised bits sitting in the midst of your room.
The thing about this see-saw of procrastination and frantic activity is that both outcomes – a finished job, or an unfinished one – have the power to fuel an emotional spiral: one that either goes up or down.
Imagine yourself having finished that dishwashing job. Not only does it feel good to finish a job properly, but also you know it was something that will make your life a little easier in the future. Good feelings engender more good feelings. At the very least you’ll feel better about yourself and your home. Besides, that success story may just spark another clearing out or organising project that you now feel better equipped to finish properly. This is called positive reinforcement.
Now lets looks at the unfinished clothes job. You are now faced by a room full of partially sorted clothes that have come from all over the place in your wardrobe, and no place to put them because the space you want to use for them is still occupied by stuff that you didn’t get to. The overall effect is one of more disorder. If that does not bring you down, nothing will. This will make you less likely to continue, let alone starting another project. Negative reinforcement.
The clear and present danger here is that you might just give up. It’s important to understand this negative reinforcement effect and remind yourself at this point that you HAVE done important work, you simply have not quite finished yet. Yes, it may take another drive to bring it home, but you have taken the first steps already, so continuing is better than giving up.
The best thing you can do at this point is to take a deep breath, plan to pick up the project at your earliest convenience (i.e. tomorrow) and bring it to an end. Ultimately, you’ll feel much better because then you’ll have finished a project. You can pat yourself on the shoulder for having persevered. Also, you’ll have ended up in a positive reinforcement spiral now.
Practice makes perfect. Not every project is a good one to start with, especially if you need to deal with something that has been lingering for long. Whenever you can, make your large projects into a number of smaller ones, pick one and separate into even smaller items. It may now feel as if you have a lot of separate things to get done, but if you end up being able to finish just one small project, that will reinforce your progress and you’re more likely to finish the next one, and the next one again.
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Hi, my name is Tilo Flache. My mission: help clients declutter mind and space.
This blog contains pointers for your journey towards a happier living experience.