Do you have an important task that you need to face, yet find yourself putting it off time after time? Do you lay it out meaning to get to it, but then let it get buried under other urgent tasks? Is there something that you’ve been meaning to get to, yet the years go by and it is still undone?
What makes some tasks so hard to face? Tasks like filing income taxes, paying bills, facing a troublesome client, or dealing with bureaucracy can be very difficult for many people to confront. We have a variety of ways in which we avoid the tasks we dread.
Sometimes we let other urgent issues push the important one aside. Sometimes we suddenly find we “must” do a chore like scrubbing behind the toilets, rather than working on income taxes. Sometimes the important task is not urgent, so it is easy to let it slide to the back burner.
Generally the task that is put off is in some way worrisome or stressful. The outcome can be unknown – How much will I owe the IRS? How nasty will the difficult client be? If I face the bureaucracy will I be in more trouble than I am in now? Will I discover some hidden dreadful consequence if I face the task?
These fears are enough to prevent most of us from starting on the dreaded task. We postpone until the fear of missing a deadline becomes greater than the fear of doing the task, then wade in with dread.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. You can learn to face up to difficult situations, and take control of your life. You can get a handle on things so that you have a well ordered, stress-free life. You can conquer procrastination.
Here are three steps for taking control of your life.
1. Realize that today is the day.
Each day you have a chance to make a difference to your life and goals. Each day you can make either a positive contribution, or let the day slide by. On any given day it may not seem like a big deal if you don’t accomplish anything. But the days add up.
Your life will become the sum total of how each of your days is spent. If you sit back and watch TV, eat foods you shouldn’t, miss a workout, and don’t tend to your bills or taxes or whatever worries you, that day will go by as all days do, and the next day you will still have the same problems. But if you approach each day realizing that here is a chance to make a difference, that what you do today will impact the days to come, and if you act on that feeling, then what you do today will take you forward.
A day squandered can never be reclaimed. But a day well spent is an investment in the future.
2. Take action.
When something is stressful or frightening, the best thing to do is to take calculated action. If you face your fears and act boldly the fears will gradually cease to exist. Fear breeds on inactivity and avoidance. The longer you wait to take that first step, the more difficult it becomes.
Inertia is an extremely strong force. Until you start moving it is very difficult to move. If you can take any action at all toward your goal, it is easier to keep going from there. So, choose action.
Start easy. Write out a script of what you want to say to the difficult client. But don’t let yourself stop there. Pick up the phone. Dial the client. Say what you need to say. Continue until the task is done.
Take the first step toward doing your taxes. Gather your forms. Open TurboTax. Enter the first numbers. Make a goal for the day that is challenging but doable. Don’t stop until your reach your goal.
Deal with bureaucracy. Fill out the form, make the call, face up to the issue.
Pay your bills. Pick up one envelope, open it, deal with the contents.
By taking action, no matter how small, you are taking a step in the right direction. And once you are moving it is easier to take the next action.
Always choose action.
3. Put important tasks first.
There will always be the everyday tasks that need to be done. The dishes need to be washed, food has to be prepared, the car needs to be cleaned. You can easily fill a day with these necessary but mundane tasks.
Make sure that each day you work on an important task. Look at what needs doing, and whether it will matter in the long run. Ten years from now, will it really matter if I did the dishes today? Probably not. But will it matter if I never got to that task that I have been dreading? Yes.
Choose an important task and put that first on your list of To-Dos for the day. Make sure that the important tasks are given high priority. Don’t let them get hidden by mundane daily tasks.
Do the important task as early in the day as possible, while your willpower is still strong. Make an appointment with yourself as to when you will do the task – “At 10:30 I will make that important phone call”. When 10:30 rolls around, take action.
Apply these three steps to handle the difficult items in your life, and you will be amazed at how easily you can get things under control.
What will you do today that will make a real difference?