Ask almost anyone what holds them back from reaching their goals, or what bad habit they’d like to overcome, and there’s a good chance they’ll say “procrastination.”
All of us procrastinate, at least a little bit. We put off things that we feel we should do, and even things that we want to do: anything from doing the dishes to writing a book.
Sometimes, a certain level of putting-things-off is a smart move. After all, if you’ve got a bunch of tasks on your list, you’re much better off prioritizing the important ones and letting the others slide for a few days, instead of running yourself into the ground trying to get everything done.
Often, though, procrastination is simply a bad habit. If you constantly procrastinate over little tasks, to the extent that they cause problems, or if you never get round to tackling bigger tasks, even though you’d really love to complete some major projects … then read on.
If you’ve got a big project in mind – perhaps writing a book, taking a new qualification, or changing careers – then you probably feel that there’s never enough time. Maybe you’re waiting until you’re not quite so busy, or until you feel more motivated.
Often, the best way to get motivated is to get moving – and you may have to make time for your goals rather than find it. Here’s how:
#1: Set Yourself a Deadline
Let’s say you’re 30lbs overweight, and you want to get healthier. A sensible goal might be to lose those 30lbs within the next six – nine months. You might want to look for a particular milestone (like a vacation, your next birthday, or Christmas) to help you stay focused.
Goals often remain dreams until they have a firm timescale attached. Once you’ve set that deadline, you can work backwards and pick milestones to help you keep up a good rate of progress with your project.
#2: Make it a Priority in Your Day
Even if you’re not really a morning person, making time for a big project first thing can be very powerful – it gets your day off to the right start. If you wait until all your other tasks are done, you’ll often find that you simply run out of time, or don’t have the energy.
For personal projects, try setting your alarm 20 minutes early, and spending those 20 minutes making progress. That might mean reading a book related to your goal, doing some research, writing, exercising…
#3: Be Accountable to Others
If you find yourself hitting “snooze” on the alarm every day, and if your deadline is getting closer and closer without you taking any action, then you need an extra motivational boost. By making other people aware of your goal, you’re much less likely to procrastinate (even if you still feel like it sometimes!)
You could join a group or club to help you along (offline or online) and get the support of like-minded people. Alternatively, you could simply announce your goal to your friends and family on Facebook: even if they don’t fully understand what you’re trying to achieve, they’ll want to encourage and support you.
If you find yourself putting off chores and other little tasks, you might think that this isn’t a problem – especially if you’re making good progress towards your goals. But all those incomplete tasks tend to mount up, and can lead to a lot of wasted time. (If you’ve ever lost one vital piece of paper in the chaos that is your workspace, you’ll know what I mean..!)
By finding time to take care of the little things, you’ll feel more relaxed and on top of life. Here’s how:
#4: Batch Similar Tasks Together
When you switch from one task to another, you tend to lose a bit of time – and concentration. For instance, if you answer one email, then file a few pieces of paper, then update your Facebook page, then answer another email, you make it very easy for procrastination to get the better of you.
Batching together similar tasks makes it much easier to stay focused and you work more efficiently. This might mean answering all your emails at once, then closing your inbox, or making several phone calls in a row.
#5: Set a Timer Going
However much you dislike a particular task, it’s on your to-do list for a reason. If you keep putting off the housework, your filing, or some other dreaded chore, try doing it for just 15 minutes. Set a timer going and work on that one task until the time’s up.
You can face just about anything for 15 minutes … and you may well find that, once you get going, it’s really not so bad as you thought.
#6: Create a Schedule
Perhaps you tend to procrastinate on some tasks because you simply forget about them – or remember them at completely the wrong time, like when you’re in the shower or driving to work.
If you have certain tasks that really should be done on a weekly or monthly basis, put them into your calendar. That way, you won’t have to worry about forgetting them – and you’ll have time set aside in order to get them done.
Where in your life do you struggle with procrastination – on your big projects or your small tasks? Let us know your experience (and your tips!) in the comments.
Photo credit: ‘Time’s Up‘ by Big Stock