Overcome procrastination once and for all.
Think of a dartboard with a bull’s eye smack in the middle of it. If you’re in the bull’s eye, you’re working on the most important task of the day. However, instead of spending time in the bull’s eye working on your task, you’re all over the dartboard.
Here’s what you’re doing instead of working on your high priority task:
- Chatting with that co-worker who popped into your office a few minutes ago.
- Tweaking the formatting on the report that’s due on Friday, although it already looks fine (after all, you want it to look perfect).
- Catching up on industry news by looking through a stack of trade magazines.
Below you’ll find 18 powerful tips to help you overcome procrastination, so that you start spending more time in the bull’s eye working on what’s really important, instead of wandering aimlessly around the rest of the dartboard.
1. Don’t blow tasks out of proportion. Stop telling yourself that your career, the future of your business, and even your success in life hinges on the outcome of this one action that you have to take. If you do this, you’re just going to put so much pressure on yourself that you’ll be looking for any excuse you can find to avoid taking the necessary action.
2. Stop all-or-nothing thinking. Don’t tell yourself that if you can’t do something perfectly, you might as well not do it at all. Imperfect action is better than perfect inaction.
3. Change your thinking from “have to” to “choose to”. You may be procrastinating because you feel that you’re being forced by someone else to perform a task that you don’t want to do. For example, you may be telling yourself that your spouse is trying to manipulate you into mending the broken fence. Since you don’t like being manipulated, you procrastinate:
- You watch TV.
- You play video games.
- You take the dog for a walk.
Instead of telling yourself that you have to fix the fence, tell yourself that you choose to fix the fence in order to make your spouse–whom you love–happy.
4. Break tasks down into smaller pieces. One of the main reasons that people procrastinate is because the project that they need to tackle is so big, that they don’t know where to start. This makes them feel overwhelmed. Studies show that when children are watching television and they don’t understand what they’re watching, they look away.
Adults do the same thing when they feel confused: if you don’t know how to start a project, you’ll “look away” and start searching for a distraction or something else to do. What you need to do is break the project down into small pieces, so that they feel manageable.
5. Reward yourself. Tell yourself that if you sit at your desk and work on your taxes for 45 minutes without interruptions, you’ll reward yourself with that delicious brownie that’s in the fridge.
6. Three questions to ask. Before you start working on any task, ask yourself the following three questions:
- Is this the best use of my time at the moment?
- Am I the best person to perform this task?
- Am I using this task as an excuse to avoid working on something else that’s more important?
7. Keep track of how you spend your time. Grab a notebook and a pen; for an entire week, write down everything that you do and how much time you spend on it. You may be shocked to discover that you waste enormous amounts of time aimlessly surfing the web, reading blogs that don’t really help improve your quality of life, “chatting” on Twitter, and so on.
Ask yourself how your life would improve if you used that time productively instead.
8. Set a timer. When you’re going to start working on a task which you’ve been avoiding, set a timer for a specific amount of time–for example, forty minutes–, and tell yourself that you will not take your focus off the task until the timer rings. When the timer rings, take a short break; then, set the timer for another forty minutes and do it again.
9. Get Rid of Overlong Visitors. If a visitor begins to dilly dally, follow this process to get rid of them politely:
- Take control of the conversation.
- As you’re talking, suddenly interrupt yourself.
- Look at your watch and say emphatically: “Oh no! It’s already 3:15 p.m.!”
This process works, and it’s not rude because you’re not interrupting your visitor, you’re interrupting yourself. (This is one of the tips recommended by Mark Woods, author of the book Attack Your Day! Before It Attacks You: Activities Rule. Not the Clock!).
10. Block it out. Block out a day of the week, or an hour of every day, in which you don’t schedule appointments, accept invitations, or allow interruptions. That day, or that hour, is blocked off for working on a project that’s important to you.
11. Stop telling yourself that you have to wait until you’re “in the mood” before you take action. As an illustration, if you want to be a writer, you have to set a time at which you’re going to write, at least every weekday. At said time, you sit down and you begin to write. Even if you don’t feel inspired, and you don’t feel like writing, you get to it.
In much the same way, you have to take consistent action toward the attainment of your objectives, whether you feel like it or not.
12. Keep asking yourself, “What needs to be done next?” You don’t have to wait until you have a perfect, detailed plan of how you’re going to achieve your goal before you begin to act. Simply center yourself in the moment and ask yourself:
- “What’s right in front of me?”
- “What can I do right now to move forward, even if it’s just by a little bit?”
Always continue to move forward, even if it’s just by one inch at a time.
13. Make the task more enjoyable. If the task that you need to get done is boring, it’s very likely that you won’t want to get started. If this is the case, find ways to make the task more enjoyable.
As an illustration, if you keep putting off going to the grocery store because it’s something that you don’t like to do, try to turn it into a game. See if you can get everything on your list, and at the same time beat your record of saving money.
14. Get rid of distractions. A lot of the time you’ll procrastinate because there are just too many distractions, including email, social media sites, your cell phone, and so on. When you’re going to work on something important, you need to turn off all distractions. That way, you can give all of your attention to the task at hand.
15. Set a penalty. Just as you’re going to reward yourself every time that you finish one of the tasks that you’ve set for yourself, you should set a penalty that you’ll have to face if you don’t complete the task.
For example, tell yourself that for every day you don’t sit down to work on your novel at the pre-established time, you have to put $10.00 in a fund. At the end of the month, you have to donate the money to a nonprofit that you don’t like, such as the Bush Foundation if you don’t like Bush, or the NRA if you don’t like guns.
16. Have someone hold you accountable. Accountability is one of the best methods for warding off procrastination. You’re much more likely to get a task done if there’s someone holding you accountable. If you’re having trouble getting started on a task, find someone to hold you accountable.
17. Make sure that you schedule time for play. It may seem counterintuitive, but scheduling time for play is a great way to stop procrastinating. We all need to set aside time to let loose, relax, and just goof off.
If you know that at three o’clock you’re hitting the golf course with your best friend–and golf is one of your favorite activities–you’re much more likely to sit down and get to work than you would be if you were facing an entire day of drudgery.
18. Set deadlines for each subtask. Suppose that your boss assigns you a project that’s due in three months. Instead of focusing on the three-month deadline, break the project down into subtasks, and set a deadline for each subtask. That way, you can make sure that you work steadily on the project during the three month period, instead of leaving everything to the last minute.
What important task or project have you been procrastinating on? Maybe it’s one of the following:
- Starting a blog.
- Writing an ebook.
- Winning NaNoWriMo
- Starting an exercise program.
- Going back to school.
- Decluttering and organizing your home.
- Your graduate thesis.
- Clearing out the basement and turning it into a home office.
- Getting your finances in order; starting a retirement plan.
Whatever you’re procrastinating on, my ebook, “Make It Happen! A Workbook for Overcoming Procrastination and Getting the Right Things Done”, will help you get started and see the task or project through to completion.