Procrastination. It’s everyone’s problem, no matter what career you’re in. You know that there are these things you need to finish, but at the end of the day, you don’t. Even if you do put things in your planner or to-do list, they still have a way of not getting done.
Charles Dickens said, “Procrastination is the thief of time.” True enough, it steals away so much of everyone’s time and productivity. Procrastination makes projects run for longer than they have to be. Think about it: how many deadlines have been pushed back just because people can’t do things on time?
“So what am I to do? It just happens. I can’t help it.”
I disagree, because there are ways to put off the act of putting things off. Here are eight tips you can try.
1. Set daily goals
Many times, people fail to do things because they forget. With the many things that are going on in your mind, it’s nearly impossible for you to remember everything. For that reason, set goals for yourself daily. Write down what you need to get done before the day ends. Make sure these goals are clear and specific, so you won’t confuse yourself.
2. Break them down to smaller tasks
Often, you tend to procrastinate on the important stuff because you get overwhelmed. Something like “write an article about 8 ways to avoid procrastination” may seem simple, but it entails several steps too. And the moment you get the idea that it’s somehow too difficult, you tend to give up and do something else instead. Once that’s done, you move on to something else. Then another thing, and another, until the day ends.
Well, you did get a lot of other tasks done. You were productive. But then, you didn’t finish the task you were supposed to finish. And that’s not good.
To avoid that sinking feeling of something being too hard to do, break it down into smaller tasks. “Write an article about 8 ways to avoid procrastination” may consist of:
- Write a title
- Write introduction
- Write the 8 ways as headers
- Add supporting details for each header
- Proofread and edit
- Publish to site
Here, each of the 6 smaller tasks don’t seem so daunting anymore. It’s easier to wrap your head around writing an introduction, for instance, than the entire article.
Once you finish each task, tick them on your to-do list. That in itself gives you a sense of achievement, and it motivates you to keep on going. That way, the overall “big” task will be done before you know it.
3. Impose deadlines for each task
Those small tasks can be rendered useless if you don’t put dates on them. If you don’t know when they need to be done, chances are you’ll procrastinate on them, and do a less important task.
So set deadlines for each small task, and stick to them. That way, you give yourself a sense of urgency and priority. You can then decide which task you have to do first.
4. Start with the hardest task
Most often, you’ll have more than one task you need to finish within a day. To help you further in finishing them on time, figure out which one is the most difficult. Then, start the day off with that very task. Starting with the hardest task of the day will allow you to find your “flow”. With that, you can do the easier tasks more smoothly.
Compare that with doing the easiest task first, then doing the hardest one last. At this time of the day, your mind and body are already feeling knackered from all the work you’ve done. You feel that you want to go home as soon as you can. This flurry of “letdown emotions” at the end of the day will seriously demotivate you. In turn, that last task will go unfinished.
5. Focus on one task until it’s done
Multitasking is quite typical in the modern workplace. Thanks to ever more powerful computers and phones, people are able to do more than one thing at a time. Look at any computer screen of anyone working: you’ll usually see a browser with lots of tabs, as well as lots of other windows in the screen. People have become so used to working at several things simultaneously.
However, I don’t think this is good for productivity. Multitasking hurts accomplishment. Sure, you may have started out on everything, but at the end of the day, you will have finished nothing. Juggling tasks to and fro is inefficient. Your mind is not designed for multitasking, unlike computers. You’ll end up procrastinating more and doing less this way, because there are too many things going on in your head.
So when you’re about to get to work, choose one task, and work on just that. Don’t move on to anything else until it’s complete. This way, you can finish more tasks in less time.
6. Use the two-minute rule
This is a very simple rule that goes like this: If there’s a task you can finish in two minutes or less, do it now. Whether it’s answering an important email or making an important phone call, do it as soon as you can. Once those are done, you can get them off your mind and focus on the tasks that require longer to complete.
7. Have accountability
Even with all of these means in place, it’s hard to trust yourself to follow through. Your own willpower is the most untrustworthy thing in your life, ever. At first, you may be so excited that you do everything correctly. But as time goes by, you may lose that enthusiasm. Then, you’ll wonder why you reverted back to your regular procrastinating habit.
But what if you had a friend who always reminds you to stay on track? If your friend always alerts you whenever you procrastinate again, you’d be aware of it much more quickly than if you were alone. Your friend’s presence lessens your chances of going back to your old ways.
Procrastination is a habit for many people, and like most bad habits, it’s hard to break. Especially by yourself. Having other people to keep an eye on you is critical. Why? Because often, you aren’t aware of what you’re doing until someone else points it out.
8. Reward yourself afterwards!
Rewards are great ways to motivate yourself to do well. So once you’ve finished your goal for the day, don’t forget to reward yourself. You deserve it after a job well done!
And it doesn’t have to be extravagant. It could be as simple as eating your favourite ice cream or taking a walk in the park. Think of anything you can do at the end of the day that will inspire you to do your best during the day. When you attain your goal, treat yourself to the reward. But if you don’t attain your goal, withhold the reward.
It’s also a great idea to ask for your friends to help you implement this system. The temptation to reward yourself even when you accomplished nothing for the day is too great. Better to have other people watch over your self-rewards program as well.
There you have it. So the question is: “When should I begin?” The answer is now. The best time to remove procrastination from your life is now. Not tomorrow. If you say tomorrow, that’s already procrastinating. And isn’t that the habit you want to break?
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