Stop procrastinating at Christmas

If you’re one of those people who habitually puts stuff off, humming loudly with your fingers in your ears instead of facing what you have to do, then chances are you’re probably in the midst of a Grade A Christmas freak-out right about now. Having promised yourself you’d be more organised this year and despite all the warnings – the Christmas lights, your constant hangover, All I Want For Christmas played on loop on the radio – suddenly there’s only a few days left and all you’ve managed to do is buy yourself a nice new outfit. Standard.

It can be easy to put things off. “I’ll wait until I know what everyone wants”/ “I haven’t got time before my office party”/ “I’m too drunk”. “I’ll do it tomorrow” turns into “I’ll do it next week” and the longer you leave it the more anxious and guilty you feel until the task seems MASSIVE and insurmountable. Just the idea of getting started can feel exhausting. You feel guilty, stressed, annoyed at yourself and FURIOUS at all those people wandering around spouting how they had everything sorted, wrapped and labelled in October. Oh, smug-off.

But panic not! Stop breathing into a paper bag and unwrap that tinsel from around your neck. Before you go barrelling to the shops, wide-eyed, sweaty and disheveled with no plan of action, calm down, pour yourself a brew and break down the problem (the guide below works for anything you’re putting off – not just Christmas presents).

1. Identify the specific problem you want to deal with

I need to buy everyone presents for Christmas

2. Brainstorm as many ideas as you can

Write a list of who you need to buy presents for and note down anything that comes to mind next to each

3. Pick the best idea

Choose a present for each person and note it down. Don’t be precious about it – at this point you need to get something even if it won’t be The Best Present Ever. Also, write down a back-up present in case you have any problems.

4. Break the solution down into achievable steps

When can you go shopping? Where you can buy each present from? Is the shop open? [Rocking up and finding a ‘closed’ sign might tip you over the edge.] Which shop should you go to first? [Make a route – there’s nothing more stressful than negotiating your way down a hellish high street only to realise the other shop you need is at the other end.] And, if you’re buying online work out whether it’ll arrive in time

5. Get started!

Book the date and time you’re going to start in your diary. You’re far less likely to cancel if it’s ‘official’. If you’re going out rather than buying online go in the morning so you don’t have the day to find an excuse to put it off.

Whether it’s Christmas shopping, a work project or a difficult phone call, putting things off might seem like the easy option, but actually you’ll just end up feeling worse and more stressed out. Use this strategy with whatever problem you’re facing. By just getting started by making a plan you’ll have a better idea of what you’re dealing with and your anxiety and guilt levels will drop. You’ll realise it’s more manageable than you were expecting and will feel more motivated to see it through. Things are (almost) never as bad as you think they’re going to be and even if they are you’ll be amazed at your ability to cope.

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