Ten Steps to Stop Procrastinating

Posted on April 8, 2008. Filed under: Stop the Drama | Tags: , , , |

Today is about Stopping the Drama

I procrastinate. A lot. Especially when I have to do something that I don’t enjoy, am scared to get into, or just feel overwhelmed. However, I recently had to write a report, and it was the kind that I often avoid or procrastinate doing. This time, I had a quick deadline for finishing the report, so didn’t have time to do my usual procrastination, and just jumped right in. As a result, the report got done quickly and I didn’t waste time mulling over the work, procrastinating about it and having it hang over my head. Deadlines can be good that way, but everything doesn’t come with a deadline that forces us to avoid procrastination. So here are some tips that I have used which help me to avoid procrastinating.

  1. Just start. It can be very useful to simply start a project, but make no promise about being perfect or getting finished. Instead, I just jump right in, but limit myself to one hour of work as a way to get started. So whether it’s cleaning out my basement, or writing a major report, the job doesn’t seem as big if I just get started and promise myself that I will work for only one hour.
  2. Make a decision. Projects can sometimes sit indefinitely because you need to make a decision to get it started. Painting your living room? What color will you choose? Making plans for summer camp for your kids? What camp will you pick? Again, just taking that first step to gather information you need to make a decision helps. However, set a deadline for yourself to gather enough infomation and then choose. Then you can move towards action to execute your choice.
  3. Use bribery. Give your self a treat — it can be a piece of chocolate, a massage, or a weekend away. Promise yourself a a reward once you have finished a task or project you are avoiding.
  4. Use denial. Withhold something until you have completed that task. When I am at work, I often don’t allow myself to go to lunch until a specific task has been completed. This forces me to get it done, and then I can reward myself with food.
  5. Don’t try to be perfect. It’s sometimes hard to start a job that you want done perfectly. How can anyone live up to that expectation? In stead of perfect, try for “good” or “good enough”. Besides, many projects can go through draft stages so that getting to perfect is almost possible. For me, the hardest part is getting started. But when I let myself off the hook and say it doesn’t have to be perfect, but has to be something that I can improve perfect, it makes it easier to get started.
  6. Work with someone else. People do this all the time to get in shape by hiring a personal trainer. I recently did this by training for a half marathon with a partner. Knowing that she would be waiting for me at 7AM was all that I needed to get out of the bed to go and meet her for a run. So whether it’s working out, or writing up a report, collaborating with someone else can force you to stop putting it off and starting getting it done.
  7. Face your fear. Sometimes people procrastinate because they are afraid of the outcome of their work. Visualize the worst case scenario–what would happen if you fail in this task? When you address it directly, it is often not as bad as you imagined. Then knowing how bad it can be, frees you up to imagine how good it can get–and work towards making that a reality.
  8. Unplug. No food. No music. No nothing. Eliminate any distractions so you can simply focus on the task at hand. I have seen people spend so much time setting up the right work environment–the right drinks, food, music, temperature, whatever–that all their energy goes to set up and none goes to their work. Just keep it simple, and keep things away that could distract you. If you want to eat or play music, use that as a reward (see #3).
  9. Just let it go. There are some tasks that sit for a long time, not getting done. Then when you turn your attention to it, you realize it is no longer important or timely or simply needs to not be done. When that happens, just take it off your “to do” list and use your energy for another current project.
  10. Don’t start a blog. I often end up here blogging, instead of doing some work or project that I am supposed to. Blogging is fun. Going through my work email is not. Recognize where you let yourself get distracted and try to avoid that situation. With that said, I will get back to work……

Anne

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    Musings on how a disorganized woman with a full time job, three kids and a real need to relax is trying to make life simple.

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