Over 50 women came to the Sippican Women’s Club on Friday, September 14 to hear a talk about how to overcome procrastination.
“It’s a common problem,” said Maryann Murphy, a professional organizer and time management expert. “The root of it is an obstacle that keeps us from doing the task … and if it becomes a habit, you should get help.”
Murphy is also a hoarding expert and assists the town of Falmouth with hoarding issues when the town deems a residence a fire hazard.
The attendees voiced some of the ways they procrastinate including either not starting a project or starting it and not finishing it. Sorting photographs, filing away paperwork, cleaning, finishing a knitting project and returning phone calls were at the top of the list of the most common chores put aside for later.
“Some people learned early in childhood to procrastinate and it became a habit,” said Murphy. “When a parent asks a child to clean his room and the child asks if he can do it later and finally the parents clean the room for the child, it sends the message that if you put off doing something, someone else will do it for you.”
Murphy listed the different types of procrastinators, including a perfectionist who thinks everything has to be perfect and therefore never finishes a task because it isn’t perfect. Other types include the worrier who avoids making an airline reservation because of the ‘what ifs’ of lower airfare, illness or not really wanting to take the trip.
The defier puts off tasks because she feels she is being pressured to do something she doesn’t want to do. The crisis-maker believes she works well under pressure and will only do a task at the last minute.
The over-doer says yes to everyone who asks them to do something and then feels overwhelmed by all the commitments, which they really didn’t want to do in the first place.
According to Murphy, some of the dangers of procrastination include piles of paperwork, boxes, clothing, newspapers and other items posing a tripping hazard in addition to the lowered self-esteem that goes along with avoiding doing a task.
Suggested strategies for overcoming procrastination included using a timer set for either five minutes or 25 minutes for focusing on and completing a task. Breaking a task down into small chunks and doing one chunk at a time was also suggested. Murphy suggested a ‘to do’ list with no more than five items on it.
“Tackle the toughest task first and do it in the morning when you are fresh and have energy,” said Murphy. “Hire someone to do the task for you or trade off with a friend.”
Another suggestion was to take tasks that regularly show up on your ‘to do’ list over and put them in a file folder. Once a month, review the file and if the task is still important to you, put it back on the daily list. If the task involves unpacking boxes, Murphy suggests opening only one box a day or week, thereby breaking down a monumental task into small pieces.
Using a daily planner and writing in a time and place where you will tackle a task is another way to get organized.
“If you are an over-doer and someone is asking you to volunteer for something and you are busy, you can look at your planner and tell them you already have a commitment, even though it is a meeting with yourself,” said Murphy. “Whatever you are putting off, it does not get easier to tackle it later.”
Murphy gave each woman a ‘to do’ paper pad and urged them to start doing today what they’ve been putting off until tomorrow.
By Joan Hartnett-Barry