Getting stuff done. Sounds simple, right? Yeah, not quite. Not if you’re one of the millions of habitual procrastinators out there, like me.
My own procrastination started in school, where I learned to frantically scribble some sorry-excuse for homework into my workbook as the teacher made her way around the classroom. Unsurprisingly, I was never an A-grade kind of student.
But in the pursuit of an A-grade life, I’ve come to terms with the fact that I have to kick procrastination to the kerb. It was holding me back from my goals in work, fitness, relationships; I could go on. If you’re anything like me, it’s time to get off your ass and send procrastination packing…
1) Start small:
Procrastination rears its ugly head when a task seems daunting. The more ambitious your task, the more you might be at risk of endlessly putting it off until you’re “ready”. I’ve got news for you. You’re as ready as you’ll ever be – and you’re never gonna “feel” like doing it. So start now…
Break it down into small pieces. Writing a novel? Get the words flowing by setting out to write 100 words every day.
Struggling to get yourself to the gym? Commit to just 10 bicep curls and see how you feel afterwards.
Big home clear-out? Start with a single drawer.
Of course, the point of this trick is that it gets the ball rolling. You’ll probably end up writing more than 100 words, and you’re not likely to leave the gym after just 10 bicep curls. But the promise of a quick and easy dabble was enough to get you to show up for duty.
Starting is the hardest part, so make it as painless as possible for yourself and you will have won that battle. Then it’s about maintaining momentum.
2) Go off the grid:
I had heard this simple suggestion but never gave it much credit until I saw for myself how effective it was. I was writing my first book in Palm Springs, struggling to pick-up a wifi signal from the pool area, when I discovered the joys of going offline. In little more than an hour, I pushed out 1,500 words. The next day I based myself at a Starbucks, with wifi. Guess what? I couldn’t even muster 500 words in 3 hours.
Lesson: Turn-off your wifi, switch your phone off!
Internet access might be crucial for your task, in which case I suggest blocking access to your main guilty pleasures (I’m looking at you Facebook). There are browser plug-ins which can help you with this. The point is to remove everything that stands between you and your task.
Being your own boss is a dream come true for many, but it’s not without its challenges. One of the toughest for me is the lack of accountability. I kinda need the threat of getting into trouble, to get my ass into gear.
Appoint a friend to act as a coach / business partner. Tell them what you are working on, commit to a delivery date and present your work to them for evaluation.
Entrepreneur? Look into joining an incubator. You can help another ambitious start-up forge their path, while they keep you in check.
Writer? Join a writing group, pair-up with another wordsmith and mutually monitor each other’s efforts.
Fitness goals? Ask your spotter to keep tabs on your progress. Be each other’s trainers.
4) Carve-up the clock:
If you’re going to make every minute count, then you had better start counting every minute!
Be brutal with your time management. Break your working day down into small chunks of time.
I highly recommend the Pomodoro Technique, a method developed in the late 1980s. The technique uses a timer to break down work into 25 minute bursts, separated by a 5 minute break. Two bursts of work and two breaks makes up one hour.
You’d be amazed how effective this approach is at helping you blaze through tasks at lightning speeds. I’ve churned out 5,000 words in less than 3 hours using this method.
5) Say no to everything else:
We all like to think we can juggle several tasks, wear many hats and please everyone. Multi-tasking is seen as a virtue. But sometimes, to get the important stuff done, you need to prioritize – and that means standing firm and not taking on more work than you can handle. Nothing kills motivation like the feeling that you’re drowning in a swamp of work.
Learn to respectfully say no and make clear to colleagues, family and friends that they will have your undivided attention, just as soon as you’ve worked through your pressing pile of outstanding work.
It’s a constant battle. It gets easier, but the spectre of putting things off never goes away completely. There will be days when procrastination takes a day off, others when it’s strong as an ox. Stay motivated, hold your resolve and keep up the good fight. You got this!
Join the conversation...