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Getting The Monkey Off Your Back

As Published In Professional Organizers Blog Carnival
Getting The Monkey Off Your Back

How much of the stress and frustration you experience is due to the fact that you have some huge looming task hanging over your head? Something you’ve been procrastinating on for weeks or months, a project you just don’t want to deal with but you’re going to have to tackle at some point? We call that “The To-do.”

Set Yourself Free

You worry about the consequences of not getting “The To-Do” done, but you still put it off because it seems overwhelming or depressing or just too hard. “The To-Do” pops into your head at odd moments throughout the day, gnawing at the back of your mind, stressing you out. “The To-Do” wakes you up in the night, filling you with a sense of dread and panic. “The To-Do” distracts you at work and drains the fun from your free time. Intellectually, you know that a weight will be lifted once you get “The To-Do” off of your list, but you still can’t seem to muster the energy to get started. And each time you think you might give “The To-Do” a stab, your everyday responsibilities seem to get in the way. How will you ever get this monkey off your back?  Maybe the answer isn’t trying to fit “The To-Do” into your normal routine. Perhaps you need to step away from your daily life and put everything else on hold, in order to give such a big goal the attention it needs.

I recently put this theory to the test in my own life — I had a couple of “administrative” tasks that had been hanging over my head for months. I had been putting off initiating complaints against two different companies that were not providing me the services they had promised because I dreaded the end-result — if we couldn’t resolve our differences, I was going to have to cancel my contracts with them, find new providers, and possibly initiate legal action to get my money back (what a pain!) But I also knew that I would never solve my current problems unless I actually got the ball rolling. I needed a good chunk of time to gather my documentation, organize my thoughts, research my options, and prepare my letters — how would I be able to do this while still maintaining my daily routine of clients, marketing, writing, tweeting, etc.? The answer is, I wasn’t! This was going to require a temporary (but radical) shift in focus.

So I planned two days in which I would ignore everything else in my life and get these complaints written. I freed up my calendar, rescheduled my clients, set my blogs on autopilot, and switched off my phone. I ignored my social networking friends, and even my real friends while I turned my full attention to the task at hand. And you know what? It wasn’t nearly as arduous a job as I had imagined (it never is!) I got in a groove, cranked out those letters, and went back to my daily routine with an amazing sense of accomplishment. Two REALLY big items off my plate — woo-hoo!

What’s the monkey on your back? Doing the research and filling out the paperwork to switch life insurance companies? Updating your resume? Cleaning out the garage? Scheduling a doctor’s appointment to check that weird mole on your back? Submitting a book proposal to a publisher? Finishing your thesis? Refinancing your mortgage? Whatever it is, I promise that the actual task will be nowhere near as painful as you’ve built it up to be in your mind. And wouldn’t it be nice to shut up that evil monkey that lives in your subconscious, the one who nags you about all you haven’t gotten done?

Stop screwing around and commit to completing this project before the end of the month. Set aside whatever amount of time seems reasonable to tackle it (a day or two or three), kick the kids out of the house, lock yourself in your office, and even use some of your paid leave from work, if you have to — do whatever is necessary to give yourself the space and mental energy to really focus on this task. It will be over before you know it and you can return to your real life lighter, freer, and feeling more in control of your destiny!

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Ramona Creel is an award-winning 15-year veteran organizer and member of the National Association Of Professional Organizers. As well as having birthed “The A-To-Z Of Getting Organized,” Ramona is also the author of “The Professional Organizer’s Bible: A Slightly Irreverent And Completely Unorthodox Guide For Turning Clutter Into A Career”—and the creator of more than 200 “quick-start” business tools and templates for use by productivity professionals. She writes seven different blogs, has worked with hundreds of clients, and has delivered scores of presentations on getting organized. Ramona resides on the roads of America as a full-time RVer—living and working in a 29-foot Airstream. Learn more at and

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One Response

  1. Janet Barclay says:

    Great strategy! If something isn’t important enough to set aside time to get it done (or to pay someone else to do) then maybe it shouldn’t be done at all – in which case we need to take it off the list and forget about it once and for all!

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