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Section 8
Distractions and Priorities

Question 8 | Test | Table of Contents

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In the last section, we discussed four rewards of confusion and why those rewards do not aid in the actual relief of stress. You were also provided with the Uncovering the Confusion Cover-up technique so that you can see how confusion masks your real anxieties and fears.

In this section, we will provide strategies for locating the distractions that eat up your day, and recognizing how they interfere with accomplishing those things that you actually value and contribute to your post holiday letdown and depression. Then we will discuss four ways to approach your goals and make them more manageable so that you can get back in section after the holidays.

♦ Energy Leaks
One of the biggest problems with getting on with your life after the hectic holidays is that perhaps many little tasks drain away your energy. You may go through a whole day where all you did was answer the phone, read your mail, and sort your laundry. You collapse onto the sofa at the end of the day, completely exhausted, and yet….if feels like nothing is done! How could it all just slip away so fast? Is there anything you can do about it? Absolutely.

Your energy is leaking away via your put offs. It may turn out that those things you aren't doing are the real energy leaks, not those little things you are doing. Are you putting off answering emails or returning phone calls? Are you putting off getting that oil change? Maybe you have an office, basement, or closet in need of organizing. Are you putting off storing your Christmas decorations. Sometimes your put offs end up occupying your thoughts and they prevent you from working as quickly or as well as you could. It's like you're trying to do two things at once.

Like a garden hose with a leak in it, the pressure needed at the nozzle is weakened because of the water that escapes at the leak. It's time to find your leaks.

♦ Technique: Write a List

Start writing a list of all the things that are clogging up your thoughts and diverting your energy away from the important stuff. Write down anything. Maybe you have something you haven't told your husband or wife. Maybe a certain room in your house needs to be redecorated. Maybe it's time to update your resume and consider a career change. Sometimes just seeing in writing those things that keep you from focusing on the task at hand can quiet the internal nag that makes you so tired.

♦ Technique: Prioritize
Now that you've listed your leaks or put offs, it's time to prioritize them. Don't try to do everything, for now just list the top 5 things. Some of these things may be simple tasks, like reorganizing the files in your home office. Some of your priorities may be more life changing, like, maybe you want to lose 15 pounds or increase sales by 20%. At this point it doesn't matter. The important thing is that you make the list so you can see what's important to you.

Now that you have your list, let's take a look at it. What's at the top? What has prevented it from being done? Have other things gotten in the way? Are there projects that need to get done before this one, like, if your top priority is "spend more time with the kids," maybe you need to figure out a way to spend less time traveling for your job. Does your list seem daunting? Well, let's look at four strategies you can use to patch your leaks so you can exert your efforts where they will be the most productive.

4 Strategies to Make Goals More Manageable

♦ Strategy #1 - Doing It
Your first patch on this hose that is leaking away your time is Doing it. First, identify those things on your list that only you can do. I don't mean those things that you think that only you can do, or those things that you think only you can do right. I mean those things, like get your annual physical or call your mom more often, that only you can do. And then do it. Just do it. Pick up the phone and schedule that physical. Go the store and buy that new suit for future job interviews. Now here's the secret, I bet there are some tasks on this list that others really could do, but you have a problem delegating.

♦ Strategy #2 - Delegating It
Your second patch on the hose that is leaking your time is Delegating it. You need to find those projects that someone else can do. Did you write "put away Christmas decorations" or "organize the summer family reunion?" Maybe you've been putting off this task because you know it's too big for one person. Recruit help; make a plan. But help isn't just something for big projects. Maybe it's time that the weekly car wash is taken over by a neighborhood kid. At work, maybe its time to get an assistant or talk to your boss about restructuring your work day.

People who have the hardest time delegating responsibility are typically the ones who can benefit most from it. Force yourself to give at least one of the items off your list to a coworker, family member, or friend. The energy you save from this one task will provide you the time and energy you need to get rid of one or even all of your other tasks.

If you feel a resistance to delegating, perhaps the true issue your need to feel like a martyr and that you have to do it all; which then gives you the right to complain about it and be in a a bad mood. So the real issue is, martyrdom versus freedom. The choice is yours. Delegate or gripe about how overworked you are.

♦ Strategy #3 - Throwing It Away
In addition to Doing it and Delegating it, the third patch on the hose that leaks your time is Throwing it away and the third type of item you want to recognize on your list are those that you have been putting off for a long time. They've been on every New Years Resolution for the last several years, they make it on to every Weekly To-Do list you've made but failed to complete. Every time you turn around that task is still there, haunting you. Maybe it's time to cross it off the list. I don't mean that it's time to do it. I mean, that maybe its time to just drop it.

Do you have a pile of clothes that you've been meaning to repair? A stack of papers that "need to be gone through?" How long have they been there? How much have you sacrificed by keeping this chore on your list and never doing it? Beating yourself up and feeling guilty every time you see the pile.

Moving the pile around to get to things behind or under it. Just having the pile there, looking unsightly and being in the way. It's time to consider just throwing it out. You haven't missed those things for this long; will you ever miss them? Put those clothes in the car and take them to Goodwill or the dumpster. That end table you'll never refinish, that lawnmower you'll never repair: get rid of them and cross those items off your list forever. Save that energy for those tasks that are really important.

Nothing adds to a mood of depression like a cluttered desktop; closet; dresser; or bathroom countertop. Think how much better you would feel going to your closet that actually has the clothes hung up or working at a desk where the materials are neatly organized.

♦ Strategy #4 - Questioning It
Finally, look at the remaining items on your list. Are there other items that you've been putting off and you just don't know why? For these we will use a different kind of technique. Patch this leak through Questioning it. Remember, not all procrastination is bad. Sure, procrastinating drains our energy away and makes it so we don't accomplish those things we want to accomplish. It makes us disorganized. But it also can serve as a subconscious protection. So, if there is an item on your list that you just can't cross off and just can't bring yourself to do, maybe there's a reason.

Take some quiet time for yourself. Surround yourself with that item. If it's a room you've been wanting to redecorate and you just never did, sit in that room. If it's a stack of papers you just can't seem to bring yourself to look at, bring them near you during your quiet time. And then meditate on them. Why can't you bring yourself to do it? You may be surprised at what you will find. Maybe you can't redecorate the room because, while you need the additional space, it reminds you too much of your little girl, now away at college.The basis of procrastination is emotional resistance.

Think about the task you are procrastinating on and boil it down to one or two words like, painting the room, then think about the emotion that represents lazy, also known as "painting is a lot of work and I don't want to make the effort" or is the emotion "pain? I don't want to think about the fact that my daughter no longer lives here."

Now that you have the four techniques of Doing it, Delegating it, Throwing it away, and Questioning it, you are prepared to make a priorities list as long and as detailed as you need. Remember, the priorities list is a tool to help you focus your energy on what is most important. Don't let the items lower down on the list drain your energy. Approach them when you're ready for them and no sooner.

In the next section, we will discuss Yes's and shoulds.

Peer-Reviewed Journal Article References:
Borg, I., Hertel, G., & Hermann, D. (2017). Age and personal values: Similar value circles with shifting priorities. Psychology and Aging, 32(7), 636–641. 

Fried, E. I., van Borkulo, C. D., Epskamp, S., Schoevers, R. A., Tuerlinckx, F., & Borsboom, D. (2016). Measuring depression over time . . . Or not? Lack of unidimensionality and longitudinal measurement invariance in four common rating scales of depression. Psychological Assessment, 28(11), 1354–1367.

Raeder, S.-M., Bone, J. K., Patai, E. Z., Holmes, E. A., Nobre, A. C., & Murphy, S. E. (2019). Emotional distraction in the context of memory-based orienting of attention. Emotion, 19(8), 1366–1376. 

Troy, A. S., Saquib, S., Thal, J., & Ciuk, D. J. (2019). The regulation of negative and positive affect in response to daily stressors. Emotion, 19(5), 751–763. 

Yang, F., Knobe, J., & Dunham, Y. (2020). Happiness is from the soul: The nature and origins of our happiness concept. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General. Advance online publication. 

What are four techniques you can use to make your priorities list more manageable? To select and enter your answer go to

Section 9
Table of Contents