Let’s start from a fact. We are all busy. Every working day starts with a giant to-do list of people to see, projects to complete, emails to sift through and calls to make.
Feeling like there is forever far too much to do, we say we are really under the gun this week. But working hard to solve a problem is little to our credit if we created the problem in the first place. When most people refer to themselves as being under the gun, they want to believe the pressures and problems are not their fault. In most cases, though, the gun appeared after failure to do something in good time. Instead of being proactive early, they procrastinated until the due date became a crisis deadline.
While it's easy to fall into the category of a procrastinator - believe it or not- it's just as easy to climb back out and become proactive about your work. It seems obvious, but things do become easier when you've got them under control. Your work will seem more manageable (because it will be), which means that you'll have more free time to do the things you like. Plus, you'll actually spend less time (or no time at all!) thinking about all the work you have to do, win–win.
Let’s take a look at some proven ways to fight procrastination and get things done now!
1. Learn to pre-commit
Make a list of the task to need to complete and write down by when you will do it. Make a public commitment by sharing your plan with a friend or simply emailing someone (“You will get that tomorrow by 5pm”). Leave a healthy amount of time for emergencies, but don’t give yourself a week when you really need a day or two.
2. Set SMART goals and small steps to get there
Start by setting SMART (specific, measureable, attainable, relevant and time-bound) goals that motivate you and write them down to make them feel tangible. Then plan the smaller steps you must take to realize your goal, and cross off each one as you work through them. Motivation is inter-woven with what goals you make as well as the plans you construct to achieve them. Without plenty of reasons to work, you’ll find yourself burned out and lethargic.
3. Beat the ‘analysis paralysis’
The simple thought of the amount of work to do can be overwhelming, and it is often worse than the work itself. At the end of each day try writing down a simple to-do list of 3 tasks that you want to get done the day after, and what actions you will take to complete them. Keep it at your desk for when you sit down, or in your bag if you commute to work, and get it out right away when it’s time to get down to business. With a clear list of what to work on right now, you won’t have to stare at a long list of obligations that should get done “someday.”
4. Make space
Eliminate distractions and clear your work area. A tidy workspace will help you creating headspace too. This will make it easier for you to hunker down and work on what you need to. In addition, if you know you get distracted by your phone or browsing the Internet, set a time (and a time limit) to do these things after you've accomplished some of your tasks or during your break.
5. Break the perfectionism-procrastination loop
Procrastination is often a symptom of perfectionism. Because perfectionists fear being unable to complete a task perfectly, they put it off as long as possible. When people perceive a higher challenge than they feel capable of, they sidestep the discomfort through diversion. To break the loop get in touch with the real value of what you are doing, be aware of unrealistic expectations and leverage on the difference between excellence and perfection. Excellence stems from enjoying and learning from an experience, and developing confidence from it. In stark contrast, perfection fosters negative feelings from any perceived mistakes made, regardless of the excellence of performance.
6. Take a risk to make a change
Fear leads to excuses, and excuses lead to procrastination . . . which means zero change. Change can be scary, so to avoid change, we procrastinate. Simple. However, the longer you avoid change, the longer it will take for things to change for the better. Without risk, there can never be a reward, so take that step to make the change that will make things better!
7. One, two, three… Start!
The act of starting anything is often the hardest part of all, but once you begin, you'll see that things start to get easier as you go. It doesn't matter where you start, as long as you start somewhere. Once you begin, you'll be putting yourself on the path to success. No more procrastinating for you! Even if it’s a slow go, it's still something, and it's still a start!
If you feel overwhelmed or need some help with getting things done, feel free to contact me for advice.