Even if you don’t consider yourself a procrastinator, there’s something about tax season that brings that trait out in nearly everyone.
So how do you make something, like taxes, more manageable? How can you stay on top of those to do’s that don’t really feel very rewarding or that don’t give us a whole lot of intrinsic value or motivation? I've been thinking a lot about this lately – and no, not only because of tax season! But here are some of my thoughts:
- Plan Ahead: If we wait until the last minute and then it’s a harried scramble to get things done by a deadline, it’ll never feel good. We probably won’t do our best work, we’ll feel the stress and anxiety about getting it done on time, and usually when we’re rushed we tend to make more mistakes. Start with a list or pull together the things you’re going to need ahead of time. Get out your calendar and review any deadlines so you can set some time aside to work on your project a few days, a week, or a month ahead of time.
- Break It Down: Sometimes the sheer magnitude of a task can be daunting and overwhelming. Why wouldn't we avoid items on our check list that say: Clean the whole house; Garden; Write a book! These goals are enormous and don’t really tell us a whole lot about what needs to be done. Giant, ambiguous goals (like New Year’s Resolutions), rarely get accomplished because they’re broad stroke goals and lack specificity. Try breaking down your big goals into achievable steps. ‘Gardening’ becomes: weeding the lawn, buying and planting bulbs, mulching, mowing the lawn, and pruning. Each task has a clear objective.
- One Thing At A Time: Any time we take on too much and the task simultaneously challenges our physical and intellectual abilities, we risk burning out. Think of striking a match. With a hard, fast flick of the wrist, the flame starts up quickly and then dies out quickly. We have to think of ways to slow down the burn. If you tend to take big bites out of your life, try slowing things down and taking on smaller tasks that lead you to your goals. If you tend to jump into big picture goals, try taking some time to think through all the steps that will lead you to your ultimate goals. And if you tend to juggle multiple things at once, try to prioritize your tasks and do one thing at a time.
- Stay On Top Of Things: I know – easier said than done. But think about what it’s like to clean your house when you’ve neglected things for a bit. The task is that much harder and takes that much longer. When you tidy up at the end of each day or complete a chore on a daily basis, you avoid the back breaking cleaning session.
- Just Do It: So some of you may be thinking, just do it already! At some point, this attitude makes a lot of sense. Each of us have to do things we don’t like to do, so sometimes we just have to jump in and get things done. Think about what motivates you and commit to what has to get done.
- Reward Yourself: And regardless of whether you just do it, plan for it, or ease into things, when you accomplish your goals (especially when they're a bit more painful), reward yourself! Maybe it’s some time in the sun with a good book, a bubble bath, or a little splurge on something you've been wanting. Consider what rewards or treats will motivate you.