I really need to do something about this. A lot of it isn’t just mine, like papers, but since no one else will deal with it, it’s effectively my responsibility.
It feels like an insurmountable Mountain it’s hard for me to remember that it’s finite that I could do just a little bit at a time. It seems like it would take forever.
The truth is when I see that every morning it drags me down. I want to give myself the gift of cleaning that up, but it seems like so much.
I’m sure a lot of people would look at that mess and say it would stress them out to leave that there. They would dive right in to clean it up in order to avoid stress. Many such people find not getting right in it incomprehensible. “Why wouldn’t you…?”
But for many of us, the thought of tackling that mountain makes us quail. Procrastinating is our quixotic attempt to allay the real distress we feel at the thought of finishing what seems like an overwhelming task. It’s our pathetic coping mechanism, doomed to fail.
In The Now Habit Dr. Neil Fiore says that procrastinators focus on doing the whole thing and finishing, and so get overwhelmed. The antidote is to focus just on starting. We must ask ourselves not “How will I finish?” but instead ask “When is the next time can I start?”
In that way, with repeated starts, we mimic the small bites strategy of those blessed souls who are always advising us to break a job into chunks. The reason we can’t act on such manifestly good advice is that to do it, we have to think of the whole project, and we freak out. We literally cannot bear the thought of of taking on such a daunting task. We cannot even begin unless we first manage our stress and the terrible feeling of overwhelm.
So: when is the next time I can start?
What little thing can I do next? It doesn’t feel so stressful when I think of it that way.
Update: some progress. I had cleaners come in and that was a good little jumpstart. It was a big financial sacrifice but it seems to have helped.