What steps do I take to stop procrastinating and get my life together?

I am a mother of five kids and a wife and a full time working mom. I am trying to get so much done but when I think about everything I just ignore it.
Asked by Josie

Stressors in life can take a big toll on our lives. Especially when we have a lot on our plate and have different roles that we partake. Having a full-time job is a lot to manage. When you add being a parent, it just makes the load a bit more heavy to manage. Many times, the amount of support that we have from others can help reduce the stress. But if we don't have a lot of help, the level of responsibility can feel a lot heavier.

Procrastination is often the result of feeling overwhelmed due to many stressors present in our lives. Avoiding tasks or pushing them aside is oftentimes the result of wanting to escape so many tasks. The reason that people procrastinate varies from person to person. Some people just need a break as they feel exhausted and push things until the last minute. Other people worry a great deal about accomplishing a task effectively that it leads to completing it at a later time than anticipated. Thus, we can see how procrastination can happen to some people. 

Unfortunately, leaving things until the very end, causes more feelings of anxiety, guilt, and frustration. And it doesn't really get the work done in the most effective way. It can also take a toll on us as we may beat ourselves up or wonder why we couldn't get to the task sooner. We may feel emotionally and physically drained for leaving these tasks until the last minute. 

So why does procrastination keep happening to some of us? Avoidance is a coping mechanism that we do as a way to defend ourselves. For example, if we feel overwhelmed to the point where we cannot think about the tasks at hand that we need to complete, we may just push everything aside to take a mental break. Whether it is something that is conscious or not, it happens sometimes. Thus, it is important we try to identify it in the moment when it happens. 

In addition, sometimes fear of failure can get in the way of getting started on some tasks. For instance, imagine completing a project at work that took a lot of time. Let's say that you spent all of your day completing and paid extra attention to the details. When you submit the project to your boss, she is upset because of it was done "all wrong." We may feel invalidated or question or ability to work. And sometimes situations like this can cause us to feel unworthy or capable of completing future tasks. 

So how do we stop it or move forward? It can take some time. Breaking any habits that we have been doing for awhile can take some time. But even acknowledging it and identifying it in the moment can make all the difference. Once we catch ourselves engaging in habits that we don't want to partake in, we can take the necessary steps to avoid it from happening again.

So of course, time management, thought reframing, and breaking down big tasks can help a great deal. In terms of time management, you have a lot on your plate. But there is only one of you to go around. There may be some tasks that you need to complete yourself, but that doesn't mean that you have to complete them all. Sometimes that may mean having a conversation with your boss about delegating tasks or finding help if it feels like it is too much. And if support is lacking at work, is this the job that you want to continue if your needs are not going to be met. Just something to think about. And when you complete big tasks, remember to reward yourself. Self-care is also an important part of your emotional well-being.

Reframing how we think about situations can also take some time. If we are struggling with our self-esteem, believing in our ability to complete tasks effectively can be a bit of a process. Many times through self-help books or therapy, we can learn to better deal with these situations. Putting ourselves down or sitting with thoughts that make us feel bad about ourselves doesn't help us accomplish our goals. Instead, it pauses our ability to move forward and that can be problematic if we are on deadlines. If a thought about unworthiness comes up, it is important to try to reframe it in a way that motivates us rather than discourage us.

Breaking down bigger tasks can really help us feel less overwhelmed. For instance, the thought of cleaning up a very messy room can be quite overwhelming. We may not know where to start or how to organize anything. And this can discourage us from moving forward or wanting to even start. We can start by 1) organizing items, such as clothing, accessories, trinkets, and so forth. Once we have divided up tasks, we may want to 2) put them in containers. We may then want to 3) label them and 4) then put them away. Easier said than done. And depending on the messiness of the room, it may take a long time to get this completed. So even if it took a week to complete all the tasks, we can cross of every item off the list as we go through the process. 

So yes, it will take a lot of reframing and restructuring the way that we do things. It is important to recognize that if we feel like what we are doing now isn't working, then leaving it as it is will likely not result in change unfortunately. So adding structure and holding ourselves accountable to completing tasks another way can make all the difference. And how you choose to go about this journey is completely up to you. But if you feel stuck or want additional support, feel free to seek out counseling or therapy services to get more guidance on this topic. Best of luck to you with everything.