One of the biggest setbacks in my life has been procrastinating. I was definitely guilty of being a serial procrastinator…BIG TIME!
I was that person who put things off until the absolute last minute and then ran around frantically trying to get things done. Crazy, I know! make it make sense?!
I would tell myself I’d start working at a specific time and when that time came, I would say “just another 10 minutes”, still not do it and then feel guilty about it. I didn’t realise at the time, but this really affected my confidence and self-worth.
My problem was I always thought you had to feel like doing something in order to do it. It didn’t occur to me that I was never going to feel like doing it?! So I might as well just get on with it.
Full transparency here: I still procrastinate sometimes. We all do to some degree, but when it affects your productivity and effectiveness, that’s a serious problem.
Here are some of the ways I overcome procrastination. I hope it helps you overcome yours.
- Identify Small Goals
How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. It’s the same with your goals.
Breaking down your goals into bite-size tasks helps you feel less overwhelmed. A big project that takes a month is easier to avoid than a task that can be completed in 30 minutes. This is why the five-minute rule is so effective.
The five-minute rule is when you force yourself to work on a task for only five minutes, knowing that after the five minutes you can stop. Chances are, after the five minutes are up, you’re going to keep going.
This “tricks” your brain into making your goal less overwhelming and a lot more manageable.
- Prioritise Your To-Do List
Oh the dilemma of the never-ending ‘to-do’ list! Which item do you tackle first?
If you’re anything like me, then you’re forever adding items to the list. Then comes the overwhelm, swiftly followed by procrastination…and the list just keeps getting longer?! But things still need to get done!
Here’s how to actually get the items on your ‘to-do’ list done:
1. Make a list of the things you need/want to do.
2. Each day, prioritise only five things you need to get done.
3. Do those five things.
4. Prioritise five things for the next day.
Knowing you only have five things to do makes you feel more in control of your day. You feel overwhelmed and are less likely to procrastinate.
- Work with your Natural Working Patterns
It’s important to know your natural working pattern and make it work for you.
If you are more alert in the morning, this is the best time to complete challenging tasks. If you feel more sociable after lunch, this is the best time to schedule meetings or calls. If you prefer to be more quiet later in the day, this is the best time to do easier tasks.
You are more likely to put off doing a task if you don’t like doing it at a particular time.
- Complete Smaller Tasks Quickly
Adding smaller tasks to your to-do list can make it seem never-ending and overwhelming. To avoid this, instead of waiting to do something, do it straightaway. For example, send that email while you are still on the phone with a client/colleague. This can also apply to quick phone calls, filing, and small data entry tasks.
- Set An Alarm
Parkinson’s Law states “work expands to fill the time allocated to it”. This means you spend 30 minutes on a task that you can complete in 15.
Use an egg timer or your phone alarm to allocate a specific amount of time to completing your task.
Working to a deadline may make you feel anxious at first, but you spend less time overthinking and may even create or find new hacks that help you get tasks done quicker.
Procrastination is often a habit created over years so it can be difficult to break. The urge to put things off can be overpowering, especially when there are so many fun and entertaining ways to distract yourself.
While procrastination might not be something you can avoid entirely, by implementing the strategies above you may find it easier to get things done. You will be more productive and effective, and have more confidence in yourself and your abilities.
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