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Gretchen Rubin

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Don't Let That Dreaded Call Go to Voice Mail

Posted: 10/21/11 12:32 PM ET

I was talking to a group of people a few nights ago, and someone mentioned a resolution that I thought sounded terrific.

"Whenever I can see on my phone that I'm getting a call from someone I really don't want to talk to," she explained, "I force myself to pick up right away. I never let a dreaded call go to voice mail."

"Oh, I always let those calls go to voice mail," someone responded. "I need to gear up for them."

"Well, I think it's better to pick them up," she answered. "I know I'm going to have to talk to this person, so I might as well get it out of the way immediately. Otherwise, I procrastinate, and it hangs over my head and ruins my mood. Plus, the person gets more annoyed because of the delay. If I just pick up, I deal with it, right then and there. And then it's over."

Given my particular work situation, this problem doesn't arise often (though it does happen sometimes); more often, I have to push myself to answer difficult emails right away, instead of delaying.

Nevertheless, the specific resolution is a terrific example of a larger secret of adulthood: No delay is the best way (usually).

For instance, I follow the one-minute rule. I try to exercise first thing in the morning. If I'm dreading a certain task, I get myself ready the night before, and then tackle it as the first item for the next day (Here are some other tips to stop procrastinating.).

I've found that articulating a specific rule -- "Don't let a dreaded call go to voice mail" -- is a great way to make sure that my habits and tendencies contribute to my happiness, instead of detracting from it. Having a specific rule in mind helps me shape my behavior. Mindfulness, always mindfulness!

How about you? Have you found tricks or strategies to help yourself avoid procrastination or to shape your experience?

I'm working on my Happiness Project, and you could have one, too! Everyone's project will look different, but it's the rare person who can't benefit. Join in -- no need to catch up, just jump in right now. Each Friday's post will help you think about your own happiness project.

A friend pointed me to WWWord -- "a home for readers, writers, illiterates, browsers, time-wasters, mavens, and bores -- and all who use, abuse, love and hate the English language." If that description suits you, you'll find a lot of interesting information there.

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