I have a confession to make.  Throughout this pandemic, I’ve done very little by way of self-improvement.  I feel a combination of envy and disdain when I hear about people decluttering their closets, or starting a new exercise regimen.  There are many things I’ve wanted/needed to accomplish and being at home more has presented me with a ton of opportunities.  So, what’s been stopping me? 

My name is Nancy and I’m a procrastinator. 

If you’re a procrastinator, are you okay with that?    Are you managing the stress of a looming deadline or a realistic threat of consequence?  

Let’s start with the not-so-hypothetical task of pulling together your financial records in order to file a tax return.  And maybe you’ve neglected to file for a couple of years because you know you’ll owe money not only for taxes but for late fees and penalties.  And so you lie to yourself.  You vow to get a handle on this starting Monday. 

Are you overwhelmed about where to begin?  Try breaking down the task into baby steps.  Start by locating your monthly bank statements (or requesting copies from your bank).  

Is it that you simply don’t feel like doing it?  I mean, who wants to sit on the floor with a mountain of paperwork?  But what if you rewarded yourself with something fun after you’ve finished the task, like a movie, or a hike, or an ice cream cone?

Do you think it’s not all that urgent?  I suggest taking a look at the bigger picture.  Sometimes a sensitive tooth can wind up becoming an expensive root canal.  And sometimes a letter from the IRS can result in an audit.

Are you afraid to fail?  Try giving yourself permission to look at it differently.  Use other words, like “it will be a learning experience,” or “If I get a handle on this now, it won’t rear its ugly head again next year.”

What if you are a non-procrastinator who’s forced by circumstances to deal with the procrastinator’s choices (or non-choices)?  I sometimes hear about this in my divorce mediation practice, and when it comes up, I often ask one or all of the four questions listed above.  If I’m called upon to offer a helpful tip, I might ask a client whether their partner’s  procrastination directly affects them.  If it doesn’t, I’ll gently suggest they let it go.  We can’t fix other people unless they want to be fixed.  On the other hand, if my client’s community property assets are also about to be seized by the IRS, it might be time for the partner to have a serious conversation with the procrastinator.  I’ll suggest that they do their best to be kind and compassionate.  I’ll also suggest that they stifle the urge to do it themselves just so it will get done.  That’s called enabling, people.  Not always the best solution.  

I’m looking for tips on how you deal with procrastination, to be the subject of a future blog.