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ind Body Health
 


Rx: Halting Time Pressure

© David S. Sobel MD

The following is one in an ongoing series of columns entitled Mind Body Health by David S. Sobel MD. View all columns in series

Organize Your Space
Overwhelmed by clutter? Purge your surroundings of unnecessary paper. Get rid of things you "might need someday," "should read," or are keeping for sentimental reasons.

Arrange the things you save in a more orderly fashion to help you find them faster. Establish a workable filing system.

Let It Ring
Try to arrange your environment to minimize interruptions. Do you need to answer the telephone every time it rings? Make clear requests to co-workers, family members and friends to respect your time, and thank them when they do.

Be Flexible
No matter how organized you are or how well you've planned your day, sometimes things just don't go as expected. Be flexible. This enables you to respond to the moment, and take advantage of a spontaneous turn of events. Being flexible also allows you to use your intuitive sense for when to charge ahead, and when to back off. Don't let schedules, clocks, and pre-arranged plans overrun your inner sensibilities. Change worries and self-critical thoughts Ö "I'm never getting anything done; I'm wasting all of my time; there's never enough time"; to more constructive ones: "Right now I am doing as much as I can; I accomplish the most when I fully concentrate on what I am doing. In fact, I've accomplished a lot."

Procrastination
Unless it has an adverse effect on you or someone else, there's nothing intrinsically wrong with putting something off until later. In fact, sometimes you're better off doing some things later or not at all. But other times the "undone" takes on mountainous proportions, increases stress, frustration, and embarrassment, and stands in the way of success. Procrastination can undermine health when we put off quitting smoking, starting an exercise program or buying a fire extinguisher. Most unfortunate, procrastination can rob us of the guilt-free vacation or relaxation time we deserve. So why do we do it? One reason is that we set impossibly high standards. We have to decorate a room perfectly, write a flawless book, or thoroughly master a new software program. So we never begin. Sometimes the task is unpleasant or seems overwhelming. Procrastination is one method of coping though there are quite often more effective ones. Ultimately, when dealing with procrastination, the only thing that works is to take the bull by the horns.

Examine the Costs and Benefits
Think of some task that you have been putting off and make a quick list of the pros and cons of postponing it. Add up the advantages and disadvantages, and decide whether to do it now, postpone it, or never do it. Don't try to fool yourself.

Face what you're avoiding by procrastinating. For example, Finishing your education means you have to get a job. Or leaving your current job may mean dealing with fears of inadequacy. Try to be aware of any underlying issues so you can make a conscious choice to do it now or later.

Change Your Negative Thoughts
Observe your thought pattern as you approach (or avoid) a task. Listen for negative thoughts: "I don't feel like doing this. I'll never get that project done. I'm not capable of doing so complex a job. I always miss deadlines anyway. I don't have the energy to do this." Substitute more enabling ones: "I don't have to be in the mood to get started. Once I get started I'll probably feel more like doing it. I will only work on this for 10 minutes. If a do a little each day, I'll be able to finish the job. I don't need to feel fully capable; I'll learn more about the project as I do it. I will feel much better when it is done."

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About The Author
David S. Sobel, M.D., M.P.H., is a practicing physician in adult medicine and Medical Director of Patient Education and Health Promotion for Kaiser Permanente Northern California. He is physician lead for the national initiative in Self-Care and Shared Decision-Making for Kaiser Permanente. He is coauthor of Living a Healthy Life with Chronic......more
 
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Disclaimer: The information provided on HealthWorld Online is for educational purposes only and IS NOT intended as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek professional medical advice from your physician or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.