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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

Break Big Jobs into Small Steps
If you're putting something off because it seems overwhelming, break it up into manageable steps and take them one at a time.

Encourage Yourself
Most often, "good enough" is all that's required. Doing something is better than not doing anything at all. If fear of failure has you paralyzed, be compassionate toward your imperfections by using positive self-talk. "Even if I fail, I'll survive. If I don't do a perfect job, that doesn't make me a bad person. No one is perfect. I'll do the best I can."

Ask for Help
Because procrastinators tend to be perfectionists, they feel they must do everything themselves. Don't fall into this trap. It is not a sign of failure or incompetence to ask for help; it's a sign of intelligence and good management.

Take a Break
When you run into an obstacle, it's tempting to get frustrated and abandon hope. Avoid this by taking some time out. Tell yourself it's just a temporary setback, and that you are not stupid, incompetent, or bound to fail. Set a specific time to come back later with a fresh eye.

Use Your Imagination
Before you begin working on something, visualize yourself going through the steps, making progress, and completing the task. This kind of mental imagery prepares you for the actual activity, and helps you make the transition from thinking about it to doing it.

Evaluate Your Progress Your Progress
About one month after you begin these exercises, ask yourself:

Am I accomplishing more?

Am I more effective?

Do I feel more in control?

Am I making progress towards the really important things in my life?

Am I happier?

For More Information
Burka, Jane and Lenora Yuen. Procrastination: Why You Do It, What to Do About It. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley, 1983.

Culp, Stephanie. Streamlining Your Life: A 5-Point Plan for Uncomplicated Living. Cincinnati: Writer's Digest Books, 1991.

Fanning, Tony and Robbie. Get It All Done and Still Be Human: A Personal Time-Management Workshop. Menlo Park, CA: Kali House, 1990.

Fiore, Neil. The Now Habit: A Strategic Program for Overcoming Procrastination and Enjoying Guilt-Free Play. Los Angeles: Jeremy Tarcher, 1989.

Keyes, Ralph. Timelock: How Life Got So Hectic and What You Can Do About It. New York: HarperCollins, 1991.

Hunt, Diana and Pam Hait. The Tao of Time. New York: Fireside, 1990.

Josephs, Ray. How to Gain an Extra Hour Every Day: New Time Strategies That Work. New York: Penguin, 1992.

Winston, Stephanie. Getting Organized: The Easy Way to Put Your Life in Order. New York: Warner Books, 1978.

Excerpted with permission from the Quarterly Newsletter, Mind/Body Health Newsletter. For subscription information call 1-(800)-222-4745 or visit the Institute for the Study of Human Knowledge website.

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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 Conditions, The Healing Brain,......more
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