You’re here because you want to stop that awful procrastination habit, so we’ll dive in before you put off reading this article. But first, a disclaimer: Overcoming procrastination takes self-awareness and new behaviors. All seven of these strategies probably won’t work for you, so find the ones that do and incorporate them into your routine.
1. Break it down.
Big projects can be overwhelming, so take 5 minutes and outline all the things you need to do to get started.
For example, if you’ve been meaning to hire a web developer to redo your site, your list might look like this:
- Make a list of things you want your website to achieve and do (i.e. ecommerce, live chat feature, responsive design).
- Make a list of the personality traits and skills your web developer needs to have.
- Ask 5 if they have web developers to recommend.
- Spend 15 minutes finding web developers online.
- Contact 3 finalists.
- Meet with each web developer.
- Talk with team for feedback.
- Make decision & hire web developer.
Adding one of these things to the calendar is easier than the daunting task of “hiring a web developer.” If you do one thing per day, at the end of the week you’ll see that all the little tasks add up to a good amount of progress.
The most important in that list is the last one: Make a decision. Serial procrastinators often go through all the steps to reach their goal and then pause at the end. Fear of making a bad choice causes most procrastinators to “freeze” up. If you have gotten that far, chances are good your choice will be OK. Also, see No. 6 below.
2. Give the task 10 seconds. Or 2 minutes.
“Research on motivation indicates that once you make even a 10-second effort to start on That Thing You Don’t Want to Do, you’re over the hump and on your way to completing the task,” writes Tina Gilbertson, LPC, and author of Constructive Wallowing.
If you haven’t started a task, then thinking about it for 10 seconds will get the gears grinding, and before you know it, maybe you’ve outlined everything you need to do. That’s a step toward progress that should be celebrated.
Some people, like James Clear, live by the 2-Minute Rule: “If it takes less than two minutes, then do it now.” Once it’s done, it’s no longer occupying space in your brain and slowing down your other efforts.
3. Commit to a deadline.
With some tasks, you might already have a deadline. If you don’t, commit to a self-imposed one. Have you noticed how if you ask your co-workers for something and don’t attach a deadline, you often have to remind them? Our co-workers are just like the rest of us. They will put things off until the last minute unless something else is motivating them to do otherwise (i.e. get this done before I go on vacation).
4. Ask yourself, “Why don’t you procrastinate MORE?
This tip is courtesy of Marty Nemko, Ph.D. An answer could be, “Because I’ll lose my job, and then my house and my car.” A little fear can be an excellent motivator.
“Often the reasons you come up with for why you don’t procrastinate more may be more persuasive to you than any reason I could suggest,” he said.
But if you find that your answers to this question are paralyzing, then this strategy about how to stop procrastinating is not for you.
5. Block off time in your calendar.
This is one of the things that keeps me progressing on my “just for fun” projects. I set aside 30 minutes or an hour at a time to work on them. It doesn’t matter how much I get done, just that I dedicate that time to that project. More times than not, I find myself not only starting the designated task but also finishing other things that need to get done because I got in a groove once I started.
One other thing to consider when working on a big task that requires a lot of brainpower: When are you most alert and energetic?
That’s when you need to schedule time to work on that project. It might be in the morning before you do anything else. It might be late at night when you have no external distractions. Whenever it is, that’s when you need to work on that thing you’ve been putting off because you’ll likely be able to make sizable headway on it when you’re going at full power.
Another idea is to do the tasks you least like to do first thing every morning. If you spend an hour or two on them, the rest of the day you can focus on the tasks you enjoy and end the day on a positive note.
6. Follow the mantra “Done is better than perfect.”
Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg has learned to embrace this motto in her life. “Aiming for perfection causes frustration at best and paralysis at worst,” she writes in Lean In.
Psychologist and author Tamar Chansky agrees. “Strive to do excellent work, not perfect work. It’s not about lowering your standards, it’s about lowering the very unrealistic stakes that you’ve constructed in your mind of what it means to fall short of the non-existent construct of perfection.”
Think about why you’re not ready to call a project or task finished. Is it because it’s not 100% perfect?
7. Start working on a task out of order.
Maybe you’re dreading doing one of first steps on your list. If that’s the case, skip it (for now) and jump to the part that excites you. You’ll be happily making progress and then that dreaded task might not look like the monster under your bed anymore.
If you’re still procrastinating finishing that task after working on things out of order, you’ll need to employ another anti-procrastination strategies to get the full job done.
Hopefully you’ve learned about at least one technique that taught you how to stop procrastinating. Now, instead of sitting on this information, spend at least 2 minutes thinking about how you’ll incorporate it into your workflow.
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