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Short and Sweet Summary: If you procrastinate more than you think you should, you’re not alone. It’s a normal reaction to grief and loss. But there are ways to beat the odds and get more done when you follow these top tips for widows to stop procrastinating.
Whenever you think about procrastination, do you think about it as something that’s just part of your nature? Like, you’re a procrastinator and there’s nothing you can do about it?
Well, if you’re procrastinating more often these days, it can be a normal reaction to grief and loss. Trying to get everyday life things done just doesn’t seem feasible when you’re overwhelmed by your spouse’s death. Because, realistically, the very basic reason for procrastination is to avoid negative emotions. You procrastinate when you’re feeling overwhelmed, anxious, or simply unhappy with whatever it is you need to get done that you don’t want to do. In addition, procrastination is a form of self-protection when you’re facing a tough project (like cleaning out your spouse’s closet). By procrastinating, you avoid the frustration and disappointment of feeling the feelings associated with the daunting task.
If procrastination is something you struggle with, don’t worry – I’ve got you. I’ve been where you are with zero motivation to get anything done because you’re thinking, what’s the point? So, I’m going to share some ideas with you to get back on track because no matter how long you procrastinate or how well you rationalize your reasons, shit still has to get done. And now that you’re alone, it’s up to you to complete it.
Let’s get to it.
Here are my top 7 tips for widows to stop procrastinating.
IDENTIFY YOUR PERSONAL PROCRASTINATION TRIGGERS
Procrastination is a hard habit to break because certain triggers are unavoidable. For example, some widows find that procrastination pops up when they feel overwhelmed or stressed. And widowhood can be ONE BIG overwhelming stress fest, so it’s not surprising you struggle with getting things done.
For others, procrastination sets in when you’re bored or feeling off-kilter from a lack of control. And now that you’re widowed, you realize how little control you have over outside circumstances, so feeling off-kilter is the norm.
The key is to identify your personal procrastination triggers so you can outwit your own brain. Once you’re aware of what you’re trying desperately to avoid, it’s easier to shift your thinking. For example, if you’re tired of crying and don’t want to cry again when you sort through your deceased spouse’s belongings, crying could be a personal procrastination trigger for you. But it doesn’t have to mean you must avoid the task forever. You could shift your thinking from “Here we go again with the tears! I’ll never get this done!” to “It’s OK to cry as much as I need to (I’m only human after all) so I’ll cry for 5 minutes to get it out of my system and then I’ll get to work.”
It’s good to have a few ninja mind tricks up your sleeve when the procrastination triggers set in. When my brain likes to tell me that I couldn’t or shouldn’t do something because it’s too hard, scary, emotional or whatever, I say “STOP” to interrupt my current thought patterns and shift to a more productive outlook. It doesn’t work ALL the time, but it sure helps when I’m in a serious funk and motivation is nowhere to be found.
If you procrastinate because you “don’t know what to do” or “how to do it,” remind yourself that no one knows how to be a widow until she is one, so give yourself ample time to figure things out.
SET REALISTIC GOALS
You’re human, and humans procrastinate. It’s not realistic to think you’ll eliminate procrastination completely and start executing your to do list with the laser-like precision of an Android robot.
So set realistic goals that start off small and allow you to increase your time commitment to a certain task as you get more comfortable. If you’re trying to clean a closet, maybe start off with one shelf and slowly work your way up to the whole thing. Or if your goal is to organize your garage, start by separating a few things into bins before you try to assemble a whole shelving system.
If you set unreasonable goals, you’ll get nothing done. Who has the time or energy to whip a garage into shape in one afternoon, anyway? No one! Part of the reason for setting unrealistic goals in the first place is to give yourself a reason to give up like, “see, I knew this would never work!”
Don’t give yourself reasons to give up.
Do a little work at a time and please, for the love of everything good and holy, give yourself credit for what you do complete.
MAKE A LIST OF WHAT YOU NEED TO DO
Grief is stressful and it can hijack your best efforts. When you commit to getting something done, but then a grief wave hits, it can really set you back.
It’s helpful to keep a list of prioritized to-dos on hand so you can check things off when you are willing and able. But only focus on one or two items instead of the complete list, to help keep the overwhelm at bay. Your list will always be more manageable in smaller steps, so give yourself a break from trying to get everything done at once.
A to-do list doesn’t have to be a drag if you don’t adhere to a set of impossible, self-imposed timelines. I used to get so upset when I didn’t get things done in a timely fashion, but I had to ask myself whose timeline was I following? And it was always my own! I’m way harder on myself than anyone else is. If you’re the same way, stop setting yourself up for disappointment by trying to live up to impossible standards.
Make the list and check off what you can do when you can do it.
TAKE BREAKS TO REFOCUS
The procrastination monster rears its ugly head when faced with a daunting task, like sorting through your deceased spouse’s belongings. Taking breaks to refocus is key to help refresh your stamina and perspective.
This is especially true when you’re grieving.
It’s easy to get bogged down by day-to-day tasks and feel like you’re stuck in a never-ending to do list from hell after your spouse dies. But your productivity actually increases when you give yourself permission to pause.
Grief takes a lot out of you, so pay attention to your body’s signals that it’s time to step back and rest.
You have enough time to get done whatever you need to get done.
FIND AN ACCOUNTABILITY BUDDY
One way to stay accountable and avoid procrastination is to find an accountability buddy. This is someone who you check in with regularly, whether it’s once a week or every day, to let them know what you’re working on and how you’re progressing.
It’s helpful to choose someone who shares your goal or is working towards a similar goal, because they’re the perfect ally to offer encouragement and support.
Your accountability buddy could be a friend, a family member, or another widow. Just make sure your supporter is encouraging, and not judgmental, for obvious reasons.
REWARD YOURSELF FOR COMPLETING TASKS
One way to stay motivated is to reward yourself for completing tasks.
For example, if your goal is to finish sorting through your spouse’s belonging so you can donate to a deserving charity, you could reward yourself with something new for yourself. I’ve used earrings, shoes and even new beside lamps as an incentive to finish the many arduous, soul-sucking tasks I’ve had to complete.
Whatever it takes, do that. Find the incentive that will help get you motivated and reward yourself for a job well done!
PRACTIC POSITIVE SELF-TALK
You’ve suffered a tremendous loss, and it’s easy to focus on the negative when you’re grieving. When the dark doom-and-gloom clouds are following you around everywhere, it’s difficult to stay positive or get much done.
However, you can start by practicing positive self-talk to give yourself kudos for getting through each day and learning how to do new things. The operative word here is practice. You won’t move forward or get anything done if the words you use when you talk to yourself are negative. Hostile words motivate no one.
Every time you complete a new task, put a gold star on a board or ring a bell or shout hallelujah! Or record notes on your phone or stick positive post-it notes up around your house where you’ll see them.
No one else is going to be your best cheerleader except for you. The more you practice positive self-talk, the easier it becomes.
WIDOW WRAP UP
Grief can thwart your best efforts when you’re trying to get something done, but you’re stuck in misery and discomfort. It happens to the best of us. You’re definitely not alone if you’re a widow who procrastinates more than you think you should.
At its very basic level, procrastination helps you avoid feeling negative emotions. So it stands to reason that procrastination is a normal reaction to grief and loss. But there are ways to beat the odds and get more done when you follow these top tips for widows to stop procrastinating.
You’ve got this!