An ongoing quest into finding more time

How to identify and tackle the problem of running out of time.

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If you are anything like me you would find yourself wondering where the time went. I often lament on the same question every day an hour before my husband is expected to come home and I am nowhere near finishing up my chores.

Then, one fine day, I decided to take a bird’s eye view on my day to day activities; just to figure out WHY! Why can’t I just get done with all that I have to do?

It’s not like I do a lot; basic cleaning, taking care of / entertaining the baby and yes, my arch nemesis: The Laundry. I am not even close to the 1950’s model of the perfect wife or my Mother’s (very high) definition of a functioning adult.

So, I sat back and thought long and hard, and guess what I realized: I am a serial procrastinator.

There, I said it. I have a problem. My husband had identified my issue long before I even knew I had it and my sister very kindly labelled it (although she had another not so nice word for my habit). I would wake up and procrastinate on putting on a cup of coffee. I would procrastinate on turning in a report that would otherwise have taken me 10 minutes. In fact, I would start a more tedious chore JUST to procrastinate over one simple yet important task. And to top it all off, I would enjoy it.

Yes, I would enjoy putting things off. It would make my day more pleasant (and still does) to know I have something rather important that needs to be taken care of. Procrastination was not merely a force of habit but a way of life.

Unfortunately, things need to get done and more often than I would like, they need to get done by me. So, how did I tackle my problem? Naturally I turned to the internet for the solution.

It turns out I am not the only one who procrastinates (big surprise). Why anyone would put things off is a question that baffled the greatest thinkers of Greece. In fact, they even have a word for it: akrasia.

Akrasia is identified as the state of mind in which someone acts against their better judgment through weakness of will. Socrates, an early investigator of akrasia wondered why anyone would transgress from doing Task A when A is judged to be the best course of action.

In other words, why would I watch TV or do my nails when I should rather be doing the dishes. Because *drum roll* akrasia; in other words, weakness of will.

I procrastinate because I cannot bring myself to do what needs to be done. I would rather follow the whimsy of my heart than the sound logic of my mind. I procrastinate because I lack self-discipline.

There you have it. I conclude, as a self-proclaimed serial procrastinator, that procrastination is the result of lack of self-discipline.

Self-discipline is a learned habit and it is not easy. It requires patience, practice and diligence. Self-discipline requires commitment and a lot of will power.

I am still a novice at self-discipline. I am nowhere near becoming the master of my own self. And if given a chocolate on the first day of a diet I will most certainly devour it with little remorse. But I try to discipline myself for the sake of personal growth and here is how I do it:

1. Plan.

I have recently begun to write down a list. It is nothing of significance, it is just a normal to do list of items I would like to accomplish during the week or the coming day. I don’t normally get through all of them, but I do wake up remembering the top two or three most important tasks of the day and I get to them immediately.

2. Don’t wait until you ‘feel like it’

Growing up, my mantra used to be ‘I don’t feel like it’ and that was my sole reason to not do something. Even now, when there is a pile of laundry demanding my attention, my inner self echoes ‘I don’t feel like it’ and my sub-conscious comes up with excuses and reasons to put it off until the next day.

Self-discipline requires us to pull up our socks and do what needs to be done. At the risk of plagiarizing Nike I constantly keep telling myself to ‘Just DO it.’

3. Turn off the distractions

I am a believer in tough love. If you can’t seem to focus on the task at hand figure out what you are doing instead. In my case, I would find myself browsing my phone or two hours into re-runs of The Big Bang Theory. So, turn off the distractions. Put away your phone for an hour, avoid the TV remote as if your life depends on it. Rewards yourself with a browse once the task is complete but nothing more.

4. Try and form habits.

I am in the process of forming a new habit: keep the kitchen counter and sink clean and clutter free. Every night before going to bed, I wash all my dishes, clear the counter and give it a good wipe. For this to be a two minute task at night time, I clear the counter and sink at least two to three times a day. It is starting to become a habit now and procrastinating on it is becoming close to impossible. As it turns out, a habit requires less will power. In fact, I have trouble relaxing if my kitchen counter isn’t tidy or there is a dish in the sink.

The same principle can be applied to your inbox at work. If you want to keep it relatively tidy and not full to the brim, try answering emails either as soon as they come or in batched two to three times during the day. Once you get used to seeing your inbox clean, you will become addicted to it. It may even become therapeutic.

My main reason for constantly running out of time is procrastination which in turn is due to lack of self-discipline. I think I may have hit the pulse of why I lack in productivity. The steps outlined above definitely help me get the most out of my day but if they don’t work or one day I don’t commit to my plan, it’s OK. There is always tomorrow.

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