“Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today!” Ben Franklin’s words ring hollow for the 20% of us who are chronic procrastinators.
That’s right, 20%.
And 95% of us procrastinate at least some of the time, reports Piers Steel, a University of Calgary’s Haskayne School of Business professor.
Even the best of us have an off day. Maybe you feel sick and lack focus. Or you’re annoyed and distracted. Then, again, maybe last-minute deadlines exhilarate you.
All of these can cause you to procrastinate, as can lacking clear goals, indecision, feeling overwhelmed and unpleasant tasks.
Honestly, the majority of us are wired to do what’s easy first and save the tough things for later because they’re unpleasant.
But procrastinating isn’t a desired trait when you hold a leadership position.
So how do you break what some consider to be simply human nature?
1) Don’t Listen To The Voices In Your Head
Stop telling yourself, “As soon as I’m done checking email, I’ll start [fill in the blank] – five more minutes won’t make a big difference.” This may give you immediate gratification and temporarily relieve your stress, but it won’t make the task you’re putting off go away.
Chances are you’ll find other things to do first, like quick-check Facebook, which we all know is impossible, because you’ll see that hilarious video or that quote about coffee or that cartoon about getting up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom, that’ll remind you to go get coffee, which will cause you to go to the bathroom and now that five minutes has turned into 30 minutes.
So the next time the voice in your head tells you to see if anyone has responded to your email or Facebook post, tell it NO! You’ll see the urge passes rather quickly and you can get on with the important things.
2) Stop Lying To Yourself
Have you ever told yourself: “I have plenty of time! I do my best work under pressure!” “I’m most productive in the afternoon. I’m not a morning person.” “I can’t start that now. I have to leave in 30 minutes.”
These are all lies we tell ourselves to feel better about procrastinating. They’re not true.
Rushed work is always going to have more mistakes in it than work that was done thoroughly. You can do the same work in the morning that you can do in the afternoon. And starting something today, means less work tomorrow!
3) Be Honest With Yourself
No one loves every aspect of his or her job. So if there’s a specific task you hate doing, be honest with yourself.
Admit you hate it and don’t want to do it. Then take a deep breath and get started! Just doing the smallest thing, like an outline of how you’re going to tackle the task, gives you a sense of accomplishment and progress which makes you feel better about yourself.
The more you do, the better you feel.
4) Throw Perfection Out The Door
Experts say that one reason people procrastinate is because they’re afraid of making mistakes. But no one’s perfect, so what’s the problem?
I guess a lot of people forget they’re not perfect, and that everything they do doesn’t have to be perfect right out of the gate.
So whether you’re writing a report, creating a spreadsheet, planning an event, etc., just write whatever comes to mind. It doesn’t have to be perfect or even good.
Getting something down on paper or on the computer gets your brain working, puts you in the right frame of mind and gives you a sense of accomplishment.
You can always go back and make adjustments later.
5) Spend the first 30 minutes of your day working
Don’t check email. Don’t look at social media! Just sit down and start working.
If you do this and get a good work rhythm going, it’ll be much easier to ignore distractions.
If 30 minutes is too hard, try 10 minutes. The goal is to get wrapped up in work and not distractions.
After you’ve been working for 30 minutes, then stop and check your email. Chances are you’ll only look at what’s important and not every single email because you’ll want to pick up where you left off.
6) Break Up Projects Into Smaller Pieces
People often procrastinate because tasks are overwhelming.
The key is to break projects down into smaller, digestible chunks that you can focus on one piece at a time.
Don’t give any thought to the other parts of the project, just the one you’re currently working on.
Once that’s done, move onto the next chunk. This makes big projects so much easier to conquer.
It’s also important to give each project piece its own concrete deadline. It creates urgency and doesn’t allow you to procrastinate.
7) Be Realistic With Your Time
At the end of your work day, take five to 10 minutes to make a prioritized, must-do list for the next day.
Count the number of things on the list and figure out how much time you can allot to each task.
But remember, there are only 24 hours in a day and that’ll never change.
So be realistic with the time you allot for tasks.
Just because you wish something would take 30 minutes of your day doesn’t mean it will. And don’t forget to incorporate time for interruptions.
8) Use Apps To Help You Focus
There are a number of apps that can help you prevent procrastination by blocking certain websites for a period of time. You’d be amazed at how well you can concentrate when you can’t open websites that usually distract you!
9) Listen To Music Or Wear Earplugs
If you have a project you need to do that’ll take a lot of concentration, listen to music via headphones or wear earplugs. Both will block out ambient noise that’s distracting.
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