Let procrastination be a thing of the past with these workable and down-to-earth strategies.
You have a report that needs to be submitted in a week’s time. Instead of working on it, you spend your time on Facebook or watch your favourite programmes on television.
Procrastination, or avoiding tasks that need to be accomplished in favour of more pleasurable ones, is common. Procrastinators tend to focus on instant gratification or short term goals rather than future goals. Fear of failure, lack of motivation and wanting things to be perfect are among other reasons why we put off doing things that matter to us.
Here are six simple strategies to get you going.
1. DO IT NOW
James Clear, author of ebooks on habits and human potential, writes about the two-minute principle, which works on the premise that if a task can be accomplished in two minutes, we should follow the rule and do it right away. Many tasks, such as writing an email, tidying your desk and setting up an appointment, don’t require a lot of time to be completed. If you catch yourself thinking, “I’ll do it later,” change the thought to, “It’ll only take two minutes so I’ll do it now.” The two- minute principle gets you going because it makes it harder for you to come up with excuses to postpone action.
2. SLICE THE SALAMI
The salami technique, as Edwin C. Bliss proposes in his book, Getting Things Done, is about breaking things down into smaller ‘slices’ or parts so that it feels less overwhelming. For example, if you need to write a report, you can’t possibly do it in two minutes, so come up with an action plan of smaller stages to get it done. This makes your task more achievable. Completing each step helps keep a momentum going that enables you to complete the bigger task in the long run.
3. MAKE THE CONSEQUENCES IMMEDIATE
Try to create ways to bring forward the costs of procrastination. For example, if you want to exercise but keep putting it off, you could get a buddy to exercise with you. This works because putting off exercise may not immediately cause your health to deteriorate, but breaking a commitment with your buddy to exercise causes you to look bad and affects the relationship.
4. REWARD YOURSELF
Citing research performed at the University of Pennsylvania, Clear suggests bundling a behaviour that is good for you in the long run with one that feels good in the short run as a way to bring future rewards into the present. For example, if you hate exercising, listen to a podcast you love while on the treadmill or cross trainer. If you’ve been delaying answering your work emails, why not pamper yourself with a pedicure while you do so?
5. KEEP A TO-DO LIST
Several motivational experts advocate the usefulness of making a list. Clear suggests making a list at the end of each day of no more than six tasks to accomplish the next day. Prioritise the list in order of importance. Tackle each task in order of importance and move on to the next task after completing the one before. At the end of the day, move any unfinished tasks to a new list of six tasks for the following day. Repeat this task every day. Doing this helps you to prune your ideas and trim away anything that is unnecessary. Deciding what to do the evening before helps you to get up and going the first thing in the morning — a great boon for habitual procrastinators. Also, focusing on one task at a time rather than multitasking allows you to give it your full attention and do it well.
6. USE VISUAL CUES
Having a visual cue is another way to track your progress. As visual evidence of your progress mounts, you’ll feel motivated to continue what you are doing and finish the task. Clear writes about the Paper Clip strategy. If you’ve set a goal to make 20 sales calls a day, for instance, you could flip a paper clip into a jar each time you make one. The more paper clips you see in the jar, the more motivated you’ll be to complete the task.
Don’t procrastinate — apply these tips in your life immediately!