How to Stop Procrastinating and Get Shit Done

How to Stop Procrastinating

It is early in the morning, and I have a very long to-do list that hasn’t been getting done. I can feel myself avoiding life, and slowly being swallowed by my depression. And while to some degree I can’t help the depression as it is an ongoing issue between me and my brain chemistry, I certainly don’t want to help it along.

As I sip my coffee and ignore the list sitting on the left edge of my desk I wonder why I am avoiding life? I know if I just got started it would all be done by now. It’s what I tell my daughter when she whines about homework or chores, “if you had started already it would be done by now.”

Sage advice, but clearly not helpful otherwise I wouldn’t be avoiding cleaning the bathroom.

Why not? Why am I procrastinating?

According to Psychology Today, chronic procrastination affects at least 20% of the population and represents a problem of self-regulation.

I’m overweight and I know I have an issue with self-regulation (hello carbs), but until now I didn’t realize that procrastination was another version of my shitty ability to say no.

Procrastination isn’t one size fits all. Nothing in life is.  According to Joseph Ferrari Ph.D., associate professor of psychology at De Paul University, and Timothy Pychyl Ph.D., associate professor of psychology at Carleton University in Ottawa Canada, there are three main types of procrastinators:

Three Main Types of Procrastinators

  1. Arousal types, or thrill-seekers, who wait to the last minute for the euphoric rush.
  2. Avoiders, who may be avoiding fear of failure or even fear of success, but in either case are very concerned with what others think of them; they would rather have others think they lack effort than ability.
  3. Decisional procrastinators, who cannot make a decision. Not making a decision absolves procrastinators of responsibility for the outcome of events.

I was the first type in college completing my projects last minute and getting great grades felt good. And gave me time to have a life and complete school work. But I’m no longer being graded, and as a self-employed person, I’m setting my own deadlines.

I don’t have a problem making decisions, so I’m going to guess I am somewhere in the second type. I am avoiding work. Feelings. Stress. All of the bad things.

Why work when I can relax instead?

Can Visualization Help?

One helpful technique I read about while researching procrastination was visualization. If we can clearly see our goals then we are more likely to reach them. “A study looking at brain patterns in weightlifters found that the patterns activated when a weightlifter lifted hundreds of pounds were similarly activated when they only imagined lifting.” Meaning that imagining the positive outcome has the same mental affects as actually experiencing the outcome. 

And yes, when I sit here and imagine eating fresh home cooked bread with dinner tonight I am motivated to get up and start baking. But then again baking bread is something I really enjoy.

When applied to something I strongly dislike doing the visualization doesn’t work as well. I can visualize a clean bathroom, and feel the positive effects of enjoying a clean bathroom as I soak in the tub with a glass of wine and a good book. But that does not make me want to clean it. Not enough to actually get up and do it anyway.

Clearly visualizing is important, but not enough by itself.

Turns out I am biased toward the present rather than thinking about the future.

In behavioral economics, they call it time inconsistency. For example, if you say, “next month I’ll start…” budgeting. Or working out, or eating healthy, you are putting off the pain and discomfort of self-regulation in favor of doing whatever you want right now.

Psychologists Neil Lewis of the University of Michigan and Daphna Oyserman of the University of Southern California tackled present self vs future self in a recent study published in Psychological Science. “In order for the future to energize and motivate current action, it must feel imminent.”

In the study, they asked participants about important events like a wedding and then asked them to judge how soon that event was occurring.  When asked how many days away the event was people responded with between 13 and 33 days sooner than if they were asked about how many months away the event was.

Other participants were asked about saving money either for retirement or when a child’s education at 18 years old. When given the length in days, rather than years, people were four times more likely to start saving sooner.

Let’s try some practical application.

Think briefly about getting your goal. For weight loss you might choose how you feel, the attention you’ll get, clothes you’ll get to buy.  The energy you’ll have. Want that life? Awesome.

Now, think about the effects of not taking action. You’ll be 5 years older, you’ll still be overweight, unhappy. Your clothes will be old and ratty because you don’t shop because you don’t like how you look. Or look farther out and think of missing out on your children’s lives because you didn’t change your habits now.

With finances imagine being debt free. Or only having a mortgage. Oh, the glory. How much money will that free up in your life? Think of saving for that vacation. Not a weekend with your mother in law (even if she is awesome) but a real vacation. A week, or two, away from life without worrying. And think of how fast you saved, or even better how fast you can save for another trip because you don’t have to have debt as a priority.

Now consider the opposite. 5 years from now. How much extra will you have spent on interest? You’ll be tired. And even more tired of paying off your debt. Maybe you are locked into the job you hate because it pays enough to cover life and bills and debt. No real vacations. No real treats because in the back of your mind you’ll know you still have to pay off your debts. Consider the exhaustion and health effects of prolonged stress from your debt. Maybe you’ll even be 20 pounds heavier.

If I sit here and imagine not cleaning the bathroom for another week and see the germs spreading over every surface, and smelling the grossness that will accumulate in another week. Let’s not stop there. Almost all visualizing advice says to incorporate as many feelings and senses as you can, so let’s be honest and accept my anger and irritation for having a gross space I have to spend an hour scrubbing instead of 20 minutes. I will probably be cranky and make the other people I live with cranky because I’m venting my anger on everyone even though I know I shouldn’t.

I can easily see how procrastinating cleaning this mess can ruin a whole day by starting it off on the wrong foot and letting the negativity snowball from there.

Avoiding those negative feelings and that awful hour of cleaning makes me want to ensure I get to cleaning the bathroom today. Now.

After cleaning, I’m going to spend some time thinking about my priorities and what impact not achieving my goals will have.

Plans for the New Year: 2018 Goal Setting

Hello. I haven’t introduced myself properly. My name is Jessica. I’m self-employed. I work with my husband making custom leather jewelry we sell as Porter & Hazel. When I started this blog I wanted to be anonymous. I was (am?) ashamed of my debt. While working our long holiday hours I decided on a plan of action for 2018 and to do it justice I needed to be me. And not a pen name. So here I am, warts and all.

After all, debt is the new black right?

For me, the holidays aren’t a happy go lucky, spread cheer everywhere, kind of season. At Porter & Hazel, we get A LOT of orders between Black Friday and Christmas. And we work super long hours to try to get everyone their orders before the holiday.

Watching money come in is always fun. Especially with our goal of paying off our debt. But that doesn’t make the work easier. For us, the holidays are sixty plus hour weeks and we collapse at the end.

It is now almost two weeks into January and I am finally starting to breathe. I’m getting over exhaustion and I can finally destress and start to figure out what my life will be in 2018.

The Science of New Years Goals

According to the New York Times, “By Jan. 8, some 25 percent of resolutions have fallen by the wayside. And by the time the year ends, fewer than 10 percent have been fully kept.” This does not give any of us great chances of reaching our goals.

Early in life, I was told that to succeed I would need a lot of willpower. And when willpower isn’t enough, someone decided you needed to have “grit” as well. Grit is the difference between people who can set and keep goals, and the rest of us. The research on grit is less than enthusiastic about its importance. The article goes on to say that “people who are better at using self-control have more success when it comes to resisting temptations but at a cost to their health. They suffered from increased stress responses and premature aging of their immune cells”.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, you can even overthink yourself into failure. Research done by  NYU Professor of Psychology Gabriele Oettingen indicates too much visualizing success can be a problem. “The more positively people fantasize and daydream about their future success, the less well they do in terms of having actual success,”. The act of visualizing isn’t the problem. We start to impact our success by focusing on ourselves as already having reached goals instead of overcoming the obstacles it will take to get there.  The feelings gained from visualization don’t last as long but maybe that doesn’t matter. When facing a large task short bursts of imagined happiness can be enough to deter us from working hard.

Awesome right?

Thankfully, there is some good news. David Destino, a psychology professor at Northeastern University, has done studies that show positive emotions such as pride, gratitude, and compassion help renew us and strengthen our willpower. Choosing actions that create positive emotions has more impact than we realize. Emotions such as pride, gratitude, & compassion improve our perseverance, “and have been tied to a greater willingness to exercise and eat healthily, and lower levels of consumerism, impulsivity, and tobacco and alcohol use.”

Goals for 2018

What you need to know reading my 2018 goals is that for me the past few years have been total shit. Full of stress and stress and then some more stress. I have finally hit the point where it is too much and I have to change and I have picked Five areas to work on.

After my research on new years resolutions, I want to focus on positive emotions. Having a sense of community and creating projects that help other people is a good place to start.

1. Build Eighty-Six Debt

First, I’m going to focus on building Eighty-Six Debt. This blog will help me keep on track with my financial goals, and give me a platform to connect and interact with others. In the past, I have given up all my blog projects after about 2 months. To prevent blogging burn out I’ve signed up for FinCon 2018 in Florida. I now have a commitment that I hope will help me force myself to stick with it and build this blog. I’m conscious of not over scheduling and I want to prioritize quality over quantity. I am going to start the year writing two posts a week and will reevaluate in 6 months.

Other Blog Related Goals:

– Write 1-2 guest posts a month

– Start & grow a newsletter list

– Build a presence on Facebook & Pinterest

2. Start a new business.

This goal is inspired by my fellow personal finance bloggers. I completely agree with the belief that to get out of debt I need to clean up my spending and know where my money goes. Yet, the real secret to getting out of debt fast is in making more money. So I need a “side hustle” (a term I HATE).

Many bloggers talk about side hustles by suggesting low paying, low reward activities. I cringe when someone suggests filling out surveys, walking dogs & delivering papers. Technically, you’ll make money but the time cost is high and the pay is way to low to be a realistic suggestion. 

Next week I will be starting a Building a Side Business series, where I share the whole process from scratch. A lot of side hustle reports focus on income generated from a blog, which is great if you want to build a business with writing. However, I’ve had way more success without a blog than I’ve ever had with one. So I want to share the process of building an online business that doesn’t focus on writing. I have plans for both digital downloads, and physical products. I will use popular platforms like Etsy & Shopify. I’m  also considering a Kickstarter campaign. I’ve never used Kickstarter, but I’d like to see to see what kind of success an entrepreneur without a HUGE following can achieve.

Lists of 75 side hustle ideas a great starting point. But I want to go deeper on how to start and run a side business.

3. Paying down as much debt as possible.

This is a goal that is affected by the previous two. Building this blog and a new business will bring in extra money that will go towards debt. First credit card debt, then our car loan, and fully funding at least one of our retirement funds. After we meet those financial goals we will start attacking student loan debt like our lives depend on it.

Chris and I are seriously considering selling our home and moving into a smaller home that has a tenant to help keep our mortgage costs down. I’m sure that will throw a HUGE wrench in the flow of life, but financially it is going to really help us get out of debt faster.

4. Lose Weight.

I am overweight by more than I’m ready to admit here on this blog. I need to get healthy this year. I’ve broken out a few mini goals:  working out 4x a week and eating healthier. To be more specific with my food I will eat less bread & pasta, and increasing vegetable intake. All my food will be tracked using My Fitness Pal. If you care to join me on MFP I’m Kaleisi21. And I’m on Run Keeper as Kaleis

5. Learn French.

This is the least related to improving my day to day life, but it is the goal that brings me the most joy. Not only because I love the French language, but because it also makes me feel like I am moving closer to my goal of living in Québec. I started learning French in college and I have studied on and off since then. 2018 will be the beginning of my first serious attempt to become fluent in a second language.



Buy Nothing Day 2017

Today is Black Friday and there are so many deals out there. But the truth is I don’t need them. I am not shopping today. In fact, I am kind of coming around to the realization that while I don’t mind shopping I kind of hate spending money. I hate having to log into my budget software and see my balance drop lower and lower.

Maybe it’s holiday hangover (thank goodness not a real one) or the fact that you can’t blink your eyes today without seeing information about a “great” Black Friday deal but I’m feeling very bah humbug today. It’s officially Buy Nothing Day, ironic since I’m pretty sure most Americans unofficially celebrate Buy Everything Day today.

Since I’m buying nothing, I’m going to spend the day making something. Spending the day at home in my office working on building my new business will be less stressful, more rewarding, and ultimately add income to my life.

The Stress of Starting To Clean Up My Finances

Starting to clean up my finances

I have spent the day digging through my personal finances and holy fuck everything’s a mess. I need to keep reminding myself that this is all fixable – which honestly, at this moment, feels like a really big lie. I have way less money than I thought. But no shortage of bills. While the rational part of my brain keeps telling me everything is going to be fine, the anxiety feels like a 5-year-old on a sugar high running around the room screaming, “we’re doomed!” at the top of her lungs.

My husband and I run our own business, we are artists and do quite well. With half of November left, and Black Friday coming it is the second most profitable half a month in the calendar so I know, that by the end of November we are going to be fine and perfectly able to go into December without worrying if we can pay the bills.

This is a bottom of the barrel moment for me. I am comforted by the thought that many people who decide to really fix their finances have, and survive this feeling. I am not alone!

So let’s look at some of the good things that have come out of today.

1. I don’t want my daughter starting her life out with the complete lack of knowledge about how to handle her personal finances that I had.

My stunningly large lack of knowledge led to some super poor choices, one of which was bankruptcy because that was the primary way my family dealt with debt. My mother and stepfather have both declared bankruptcy at least twice, but I’m inclined to say three times.  I am kind of ashamed at how poorly I’ve taught my daughter to handle money just through how I’ve talked about it and how I have openly avoided it. But it changes now.

2. I have owned my debt.

I am aware of all of its existence and while this is depressing I am no longer afraid of being responsible and dealing with my money. I would avoid bills. Lay them around the house willy nilly and forget them I would get to adulting eventually.

3. I know where our financial problems have come from.

While yes, I have some credit card debt the real problem has been my refusal to be an adult and say no I don’t need to purchase that now. I usually pay cash. This is encouraging. I’m still working on a plan and family budget for how to deal with this, but it feels doable because I am the primary person I have to control.

4. You can’t change what you don’t track.

This is true for all areas of life. Now that I’m aware of my debt I am building systems to track my money so I can get to the future I want. I’ve come up with a plan on what to do with bills, and how I am going to pay them so I know 100% for certain that I afford them. And I have been really bad at saying no to myself when it came to purchases. Knowing I have a negative net worth forces me to ask, “Do you need to purchase that?” followed by, “Do you need to purchase that today?” and ”Is this the best price?”

5.  I am finally going to start a side hustle. Or three. 

Let’s be honest. There is only so much financial belt-tightening that anyone can tolerate. If I am really going to make a dent in this debt it is time to start working on some of the extra projects I’ve had in my head.

As a freelancer, I have been aware of passive and diversified income for a while. I just never did anything about it. I was too busy, or too stressed out to devote actual time to work on extra income generating projects. Now I feel both energized to work on these ideas, but also the financial pressure of contributing more to my families recovery and success because my irresponsibility helped get us here.

In the end, I am hoping that the stress of being on top of my finances is less stressful than being unaware and afraid of every purchase and bill that comes my way.

Today’s action item: work on a flexible food budget & meal plan system that will rein in spending at the grocery store.


A Beginning Manifesto

I am in debt. I’m actually not quite sure how much yet (we will talk about the details in the next post) but guaranteed it is at least $100K including both my husband and my student loans. Double that if you include the mortgage.And up until recently, I didn’t care. I pay my student loans every month, along with all my other bills. I spend a bit too much but we get by and I was ok with that.

Until I decided that I want to move to Canada. I’ve always wanted to live there, but now that my daughter is graduating high school I have the freedom to relocate without interrupting her education. So I researched the requirements to get a permanent resident visa for Canada. The important part – have a net worth of $100k CAD which is about $70k US.

I am not one to give up on my dreams. I will move to Canada. It is just going to take a little elbow grease first.

The Plan

I will be writing here about all of my adventures, struggles, and successes as I make my way to debt free.  I will give you regular updates as I make my way through this journey but each month I will do a review to give you specifics and track my goals.

The idea of these monthly updates will be to give an overview of:

  1. What has happened in the previous month?
  2. How am I tracking on my debt free goal?
  3. What am I going to focus on for the coming month?

Of course, that isn’t all. I have so much to learn: budgeting, saving, investing, and a few other things I’m sure. I need to figure out ways to increase my passive income. I’m currently a freelancer, but freelancing is what I call a 1 to 1 business. You get a client, complete the job once and bill that job once. Yes, you can work for a client frequently, but each assignment is a new piece you can only sell once. Passive income allows you to make an item once and sell it many times without any additional work. I love freelancing and not being beholden to a 9-5 job, but there are smarter ways to work than what I’m doing now.

At some point in the future, I want to learn about rental properties, but I am going to focus on debt reduction before I get into large-scale investing like buying an investment home.

I’m going to spend the next few days figuring out my finances, my debts, my assets and I will give you the first update.