This is the sixth post in a series on procrastination remedies. In the previous post I talked about what to do when you feel overwhelmed because your system is broken. In this post we’re going to look at what we can do when we procrastinate because we think we are terrible at doing the task.
I have definitely been there with housework: frankly, I suck at keeping things out of piles. My natural inclination is to sweep the remains of the latest activity into a pile. Then I add another layer when I finish the next activity. Before you know it, there is a towering pile threatening to topple. I have spent a lot of time trying to figure out ways to overcome this tendency.
So sometimes “I suck at this” is an honest evaluation of your skill level. But (and this is a big one) you don’t have to stay at the suck-y skill level. It is possible to learn tactics and strategies for making improvements in your housekeeping. The biggest hurdle to overcome is deciding that you can learn, you can change. I know, I know, I can hear you whining, “I can’t do it!” But I’m here to tell you that you CAN. The first step is to stop all negative talk about your skills (or lack thereof). No labeling yourself “messy,” “disorganized,” “slob,” etc. No focusing on what is going wrong in your house unless you are actually analyzing it to make improvements.
Instead, we must focus on what is working and what we are good at. In my case, I suck at general tidiness and tend to make a lot of piles. I’ve struggled for years to whittle down the clutter in my home. I am not regular in my dusting and vacuuming habits. BUT, I do have an awesome laundry system that works. I save a fair amount at the grocery store because I have a menu planning/shopping system that works. And I am never embarrassed to give someone a ride in my car because it is tidy. Even if there is only one thing that you do reasonably well, you can focus on that.
Use the things you are good at to start creating a vision for yourself. Think about how it would look if you were not only awesome at (fill in the thing you’re good at), but if you were also awesome at (fill in the thing you’re not so good at). Are you great at vacuuming? Do you make nutritious meals for your family? Maybe you’ve always been great at keeping the bathroom counter cleaned. Maybe you always throw away holey socks. Whatever it is, this can become the starting block for creating new habits and systems. You need to be kind to yourself if you want to make progress.
Sometimes we are afraid of trying because we don’t want to fail (again). We worry that we won’t be able to keep it up. But you don’t have to do everything in a weekend or even a month. You can make changes one step at a time. You can slowly build up your routines. And if you have setbacks (which is kind of inevitable), don’t slide back into berating yourself. Simply start again (and again and again and again if necessary).
Sometimes we are afraid of trying because we think that we’re doing it wrong. It’s okay to ask for help! I am constantly reading books and blogs about organizing and cleaning. I try to learn from the best because they know things that I don’t! Maybe you need a friend to bring a fresh perspective. I once had a friend come over and help me think through how to rearrange a room for our homeschool. Recently I hired a teen to come over and help me plow through some of my piles and closets. It was so helpful to have someone else’s perspective.
Sometimes we procrastinate because we get stuck in perfectionism. We don’t want to do the job unless we can do it all perfectly. The problem is, we don’t start out being awesome at stuff (at least I don’t!). We have to start with being lousy at stuff and slowly build up our skills and experience. Think about babies learning to walk. They fall down a lot. They are unsteady and slow. Sometimes they go back to crawling. But if babies waited until they were perfect at walking before they did it, they never would. You won’t make progress in your home unless your willing to do it badly and suck at it for a while.
To overcome the perfectionistic tendency, you may have to take drastic steps, like set a deadline or announce your decision. Basically, this forces you to commit. It gives you some accountability. It makes you get started even when you are terrible at it. It’s okay to suck at this, as long as you start making progress and commit to growing and learning. You can do this!
Next post: fear of letting go