Mallory Welsh, LCSW

I often meet with clients who are balancing many different stressors in their life whether it be with their family, work, friends, school, or perhaps a variety of many different stressors. It can be easy to lose track of things you want to complete in a timely manner, especially if that list grows and grows each day. Procrastination is a slippery slope of adding more stress to your busy plate of stressors. I do believe that some individuals truly thrive under short time frames and are completely comfortable with procrastination. While that may work for some people, there are other people who struggle with a growing to-do list because it may not just cause them stress, but also even anxiety.

I recently read an article from FastCompany, “How I took control of my to-do list by using this simple (but effective) productivity hack” by author Kara Cutruzzula that touched on this very topic. Cutruzzula describes an interesting acronym to help individuals who could be struggling with accomplishing their to-do list in a timely manner.

Cutruzzula uses the acronym OHIO, and she does not mean the state Ohio! OHIO stands for “Only Handle It Once”. This idea stems from an MIT efficiency expert, Bob Pozen, who is the author of Extreme Productivity. The concept is essentially instead of letting work emails pile up, laundry pile up, junk mail on your kitchen table pile up, kids toys in the entry way, shoes not in shoe racks, text messages from friends or family, grocery items needed, or perhaps documentation notes for work pile up, or whatever it may be in your life that is “piling up”, “only handle it once” can come in handy. This means instead of letting things sit; handle those items once you notice them. For example, you get a work email and instead of saying to yourself, “I’ll get to it later” use the 3 minutes or more to send the email as soon as you receive it. Done, you completed that task!

There certainly will be days when there are other pressing needs that using more minutes on non-urgent emails is not feasible. Pozen describes that when that happens, to simply put an alert in your phone or calendar when you will circle back to completing to it. Putting it on your calendar shows that you are putting a deadline in for yourself, based on the necessity of the to-do item. Doing this will relieve that stress, that you are telling yourself it will get done, but it does not need to be done immediately in that same day.

Pozen also points out to only do that technique of placing things on your future calendar seldom. If you find you are constantly pushing things off for the future, it could be really important to ask yourself what are the root causes you are avoiding certain tasks.

As a clinical therapist, I often encourage clients to explore reasons why they are avoiding certain tasks in their life. With exploring why we avoid certain things, it can provide us a sense of clarity about ourselves and with that clarity, it often can help explore different coping strategies that may help with certain tasks or stressors.

Thus, using the OHIO technique “Only Handle It Once” can truly help you not only be more efficient in your daily tasks, but it can also reduce some stress and anxiety that you may be indirectly adding on your plate of many stressors.

If you are currently struggling with procrastination tendencies, it may be a good idea to connect with one of our skilled counselors at Symmetry Counseling today. You can contact them at 312-578-9990 to set up an appointment.