So, you have read the other two blog posts about procrastination and you have decided to do something about it. Where now? A good place to start is to forgive yourself for past procrastination. Draw a line under it and commit to change.
As Napoleon Hill (American Author) said, “Procrastination is the bad habit of putting off until the day after tomorrow what should have been done the day before yesterday”. And it’s important to remember that procrastination is a habit (deeply ingrained pattern of behaviour) and as a result it will take time and practice to break it. But here are some strategies to help you break the habit and open up a world of decisiveness, alacrity and élan.
Firstly, prepare for the task. Make sure you understand what needs to be done and that you have all you need to complete it. Write down all the sub tasks and how long they will take. Once you have this you can commit to the task wholeheartedly.
How do you feel about the task? Do you feel put upon or obliged to do the task? Reframing the task or rephrasing the internal dialog can help. If you need to or have to do something that suggests you have no choice. This can result in self sabotage or feelings of disempowerment. Saying ‘I choose to’ do something means you own the project, have control and are invested. What are the long term benefits, meaning or relevance of doing the task? Will it make your life easier, or your home nicer or get you a promotion at work?
Try to keep distractions to a minimum – turn off the phone, social media, etc. It’s OK if you like to work with the TV or radio on, but that can’t be the focus of your activities. You may want to have someone check-up on you. Never underestimate the power of peer / social pressure or not wanting to disappoint someone. This is at the heart of how support groups work.
When you have completed something promptly and on time, give yourself a small reward yourself. Remember how it feels to have accomplished something – pride, relief, etc. Try to act in the moment and tackle tasks as they come up rather than doing them another time and risk them building up.
Now we all find some tasks less enjoyable than others. Rather than splitting these tasks out and putting them to one side, a mix of nice tasks and less interesting or unpleasant tasks will help to keep things moving. If there are many unpleasant tasks, then perhaps get these out of the way first thing. This will then allow you to concentrate on more enjoyable tasks.
Now, I don’t agree that being disorganised is the same as procrastination. But as we are here, I am going to suggest some strategies to overcome this. Firstly, have a prioritised To-Do list. This will give you an instant view of what you have to do. It will prevent you from forgetting about tasks and will help you decide what to do next and what can be left until later.
It’s key to understand the difference between urgent and important. An important task has severe consequences if it’s not done, but is not necessary urgent. An urgent task needs to be done soon, but it not necessary important. Sadly, some tasks are both.
Think about when are you at your best? Perhaps in the morning or just after lunch. If you are not sure, take some time to find out. When do you have most energy or focus? Tackle your hardest or the most complex tasks at your peak times .
Set yourself deadlines to do specific tasks. These time-bound tasks will keep you on track to achieve your goals, and will cut down time for procrastination. If you feel overwhelmed or disheartened a useful idea is to break the task down into smaller, more manageable chucks.
What is the limit of your concentration? Perhaps try ten to fifteen minutes periods of activity. These quick / small wins will boost your confidence, make you feel less overwhelmed and give you a sense of achievement.
One final suggestion is to use technology. There are many task / time management applications depending on what you are doing. Becoming better at scheduling and project planning will have many benefits. And these sorts of tools can help you be more effective.