So with my lists at hand I started erasing stuff from them, I didn’t always do everything as listed, but it was ok, I finally knew that I couldn’t always do “everything now”.
I’m feeling generous, and I’m going to share with you how I reinvented the wheel. It’s stuff you find almost everywhere, but I need to understand things on my own, and me knowing or reading this stuff somewhere else, maybe a couple of years ago, wouldnt’ have worked…
Therefore my advice is to try out for yourselves, and find what works for you “to do stuff”.
1) You can’t switch from unrepentant procrastinator to non-procrastinator in one day. If you don’t do everything today, that’s ok, just keep doing one thing at a time.
When I was writing my thesis I had a card on the wall, in front of my laptop, it said “How do you eat and elephant? One bite at a time”, which shifted in my personal motto “One little elephant at a time”, I’m borrowing you this mantra, ok?
2) If your memory is flawless, that’s good for you, but lists do help you to see how much stuff you’ve already done, and how much still needs to be done.
At first I needed to write down every single step: tidying up my room was way too much as a first step, so it was “make your bed”, “reorganize your desk”, “store away your clothes” (yeah… always the same stuff XD). It’s the classical “divide your goals into little steps”.
3) I know you don’t want to, I know you’d rather hit your knee on something painful instead of tidying up that dest, BUT think about the mess that’s going to go on that same desk if you don’t clean it now, and how lower your committment to it will be, it’s going to be harder and harder. Maybe it worths the while to put away those four books and three pens now, instead of ten books, four papers, three pens and two cds tomorrow, uh?
Or, if negative reinforce isn’t your stuff, try positive reinforce: think how good you’ll feel when everything will be done, how free you feel when chores don’t haunt on you. Do you remember how well you slept knowing all your homeworks where done?
4) Ok, you’ve been good, and you’ve tidied up that desk. But feeling good isn’t enough, ’cause it has been a real pain. Ok, you’ve won a reward! Yes! A snack? A walk outside? A chapter of that book you had to drop to tidy up? A check on the internet? Anything you want, as long as it doesn’t keep you away from the rest of the stuff you have to do 😉
5) This has been a personal favourite, and it’s the bit that goes into the 21 days challenge (but it’s a short one): I tried the “Pomodoro technique”, I’ve downloaded -it’s free, you just need to go to their website- “focus booster“, it’s a tool for your desktop (I don’t have the iPhone, nor I’m interested, and you don’t even need the tool for your desktop, you only need a kitchen timer). And it works! It gives you 25 minutes to do stuff, and then 5 minutes off. Repeat other 2 times. In the end you’ll have 30 minutes off, after all you’ve worked for one hour and a half, with no distractions at all!
You have no idea how much stuff you can do in 25 minutes! And from these short deadlines you can move to longer deadlines, like “write this by tomorrw” or “sew that by the end of the week”.
6) Free info: apparently cows make more milk if they listen to Mozart.Why not me too?? Writing my thesis I used two fantastic tools, that helped me to keep focused and calm.
Rainymood, a 30 minute audio file, in loop, with rain sounds, and an online radio with classical music. My favourite one was one without any speech whatsoever.
Alternatively there’s also Stereomood, that offers you a playlist to suit what you have to do, or how you’re feeling, if you don’t really like classical music! (But my thesis also dealt with Operas, theaters and so on, classical radio sounded appropriate)
7) At this point there are two main opinions: those who think you should start from the biggest things on your list (or those who scare you the most) and those who say you should get rid first of those small things to do. I think this is really up to you, to your preferences and to the kind of things you need to get done.
But there’s an universal truth: if you’re feeling anxious about something, start doing something, this way your head will be too busy doing to have time to worry. Afetr all who never forced him/herself to study to stop shaking in terror?
And may I add a note on that “start from what scares you the most”? This is so true, because most of the time, actually, almost always, what scares you in the end turns out to be something very small with just a big spooky shadow… but we’ve already learned to divide “big things” into small steps, didn’t we? 😉
8) Last but not least: other than doing something for 21 days to start a new habit, know this: it only takes one minute to get rid of an impulse.
I’ve learned this thanks to the wonderful singing manual I borrowed from my wonderful singing teacher. Basically it works like this: if you feel the urge to do something you know isn’t that good (eat more chocolate, spread yourself on the couch doing nothing, watch tv instead of tidying up) just wait one minute, after that if you still want to indulge on chocolate go on, but at least this way it will be a conscious choice, not a mere response to an impulse.
Next step is: being an organized person, preparing the clothes I need in the morning the evening before, putting something back in its place once I’ve used it and closing closets… argh, that’s so hard!