How do we avoid procrastination as a caregiver ? “We begin to work only when the fear of doing nothing at all exceeds the fear of not doing it very well… And that can take time.” – British philosopher Alain de Botton
By Y.J. Yeap
Ah, procrastination – that sneaky, scheming, familiar thief of time! It saunters across the room, creeps up on you, and catches you when you’re least aware. Then it casts a veil over the task at hand and takes you on a joyride around the world of transient pleasures – anything to take your mind off the task that you are supposed to be doing. Time ticks by. Then the guilt sets in and hits you like a ton of bricks.
It is oft said that in caregiving, there is no rest for the weary. It is an altruistic duty that is usually underappreciated, unpredictable, and exhausting. Despite all the odds stacked against them, caregivers soldier on day after day to fight the battles for the ones who are quietly slipping away, and for the ones who are still holding on. Yet deep within the dim recesses of the caregiver’s soul, other battles rage within – battles against the inner demons of denial, self-defeatism, and escapism.
Consequently, caregivers usually procrastinate for special reasons that are a product of deeper and complicated psychological issues. Sometimes, caregivers procrastinate out of fear when they first notice signs of trouble because they do not want their worst nightmares to come true. Hence, they usually delay in getting a proper diagnosis from the doctor about the condition of their loved ones. Sometimes, caregivers procrastinate out of denial because of their refusal to face reality in dealing with difficult issues such as getting all the paperwork organized, especially for fiduciary documents such as the will. Sometimes, caregivers procrastinate because they are simply burnt out and buried beneath the avalanche of chores and responsibilities. Caregiving can be depressing and crippling at times.
However, fear not! For there are a few ways that you, as a caregiver, can try to get things going!
1. Find someone to talk to.
Find a person who exudes a constant ray of positive energy and who can motivate you to carry on. Talk to someone who has experienced or is currently experiencing something similar to what you’re going through. Communicate with people in a support group. Never bottle up your feelings.
2. Ask for help.
Don’t resist help from friends or family members. There is no use in carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders. Be open about your problem and don’t be shy in asking for help.
3. Identify the problem.
Are you in denial? Are you escaping from something? What are you afraid of? Find out what’s holding you back and nip that problem in its bud.
4. Be brave, be positive, and face reality squarely in the eye.
Pain, suffering, and death are a part and parcel of life. However, life is what you make of it. Yes, you might screw up along the way, but you have to recognize that nobody is perfect and pick yourself up. Caregiving is tough, but you have to go on because somebody needs you. If you don’t fight for them, who else will? Start by confronting your situation. After all, although starting is the hardest part, it beats not trying at all.
5. Remove your physical and emotional distractions.
If you need to focus, it’ll help to unplug the television or switch off the laptop. Hide that Kindle in a hard-to-reach-place. Distance yourself away from naysayers and Debbie-downers. Extricate yourself from all that negative energy.
6. Divide and conquer: make a list and cross errands off upon completion.
Break larger tasks into smaller ones with shorter deadlines to psychologically motivate and reward yourself to complete more tasks in a shorter time. Make it a point to cross individual tasks off the list as you complete them because it gives you a concrete proof of accomplishment. You may get a kick out of striking stuff off your list in the long run.
7. Use the “Two Minute Rule”.
Pioneered by David Allen from his book “Getting Things Done”, make it a habit to complete a task if it can be finished in two minutes. This makes it easier to surmount the inertia that you require to undertake a task. Most of the tasks you avoid doing for some reason are not hard to do at all!
8. Practice temptation bundling.
Developed by Katy Milkman from the Wharton School of Business, this technique requires you to combine your temptations (wants) with things that you should do (needs) but often forget or omit. On one side of a piece of paper, write down the things you like doing and your temptations (wants). On the other side, write down the things you need to do. Draw a connection between your “wants” with your “needs” and reward the “wants” only after you have completed your “needs”. For instance, if you are tempted to catch the latest episode of a serial, watch it after you’re done with feeding and washing for the day.
9. Put your pen to paper
While you are in the midst of doing something and a random thought pops up in your head, write this down on paper as a reminder to process this thought only after you have completed your task. Focus on your current duties first.