Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News

Walter Albritton

October 23, 2005


How to stop putting off things you should have done yesterday


          If you are prone to procrastinate, there are ways to overcome this dreadful habit. The secret is mind over matter. You can reprogram your brain and teach yourself to stop putting things off. Here is how:

          1. Admit you have this problem. Healing seldom happens until we are willing to acknowledge our need.

          2. Believe that you can learn to procrastinate less. A little improvement is better than none. Determine to change gradually. The habit of procrastination did not develop overnight, so you are not likely to change in the twinkling of an eye. 

          3. Review the areas of your life where you often drag your feet. Choose one area to work on and concentrate on that. An example might be the mail that comes to your home.

4. Take an honest look at the way you handle mail and think of a few ways to improve. One way is to handle a bill or a letter only once or no more than twice. Write a check for the bill, get it ready to mail, and file the bill.

The procrastinator’s way of handling mail is to pile it up somewhere, look at it again in a few days, and days later wonder where the pile is. A week later you remember a letter you needed to answer and now you cannot file the letter. Then you spend an hour searching for the letter when you could have answered it in 15 minutes on the day the mail was delivered.

5. Stop for a minute and think. Think about how putting things off messes up your life. The payment for the bill you could have paid is two days late by the time you get around to handling it. The guilt you feel for dragging your feet is compounded by the late fee you now owe. Add to that the disgust you feel about yourself for misplacing stuff rather than having a specific place to put it.

Here is where the mind over matter comes in. Admit that by procrastinating you are shooting yourself in the foot. Nobody else is screwing up your life; you are doing it to yourself. If you think about that long enough, you may be motivated to do yourself a favor.

Decide to stop complicating your world. Be kind to yourself. Take yourself by the nap of the neck and decide to stop dawdling yourself into constant frustration. Gradually work your way toward normalcy. Concentrate on the mail perhaps, or any one area of your life, and force yourself to change. Nobody can do it for you. You have to choose to do it for your own well being.

6. Change your attitude about yourself. If you have earned a reputation for procrastinating, work hard to demonstrate that you are not as bad about putting things off as you used to be. Tell people who laugh at you for procrastinating that you are improving. Believe it and prove it. You can change your reputation in time. Make it one of your goals.

7. When you become more decisive and punctual about doing things, your reward is having less to worry about. You will be amazed at how much better you feel about yourself. You will experience sheer joy in knowing that letters are answered, bills are paid, phone calls returned, and papers have been filed away. You can smile and pat yourself on the back. Just be careful not to break your arm.

By acting quickly instead of delaying what you need to do, you can prevent procrastination from drowning you in a sea of papers. Papers unattended become bigger and bigger piles until they seem to stand around like monsters all over the house. Then the piles beckon us to come waste more time sorting through the papers but never throwing anything away.

The good news is that, if you can muster the will power to get started, you can break the habit of putting off today what you can do tomorrow. And the joy of such a victory is exhilarating.

I have enjoyed our visit today but you will need to excuse me now.  I must help the trash man load up a half ton of papers I am discarding. Maybe after throwing out these wicked piles of papers I have been saving for 50 years, I can find some of that joy I was telling you about.

Then I have to hurry to town with a check to keep the power company from turning off my electricity. If I am lucky I will have time also to get my water turned back on. It has been off for two days. I don’t understand why the power and water people demand that these utilities bills be paid on time. They simply do not realize how much I have to worry about or they would show me a little mercy.  + + + +