It has been estimated that 20 percent of us have a chronic problem with procrastination. Why do we delay, defer, postpone or schedule? Who knows?
What’s important is that if you are ready (or if you think you might be ready tomorrow), then here are a few ways to help you get through the sometimes debilitating habit of procrastination.
1. Admit You Have a Problem
The first step to avoiding procrastination is like many other situations: admit that you have a problem. Take a look at your work habits and determine why you are putting off doing some particular tasks.
You might find that you are not deliberately avoiding this work; you just can’t seem to find the time to get it done. If that’s the case then you don’t have a procrastination problem you actually have a time management problem. That’s good news because it’s easy to fix by setting priorities and sticking with them.
2. Set Priorities and Stick With Them
Next start your day off with a “to do” list that prioritizes your most important tasks. As your day progresses you watch for some tell-tale signs of procrastination.
These might include leaving an important item on your list until the last minutes of the day when you run out of time to complete it or starting in on a job and then getting up for a cup of coffee or checking your e-mails before you get it done.
If you are going to avoid making procrastination a habit you need to stay focused on the job at hand and not give in to the many distractions that can take you in another direction.
3. Deal With Your Time Management Problem
If you are still struggling after you admit you have a problem and just can’t get your priorities completed you may have a time management problem. You may still be a procrastinator too but get yourself a good time management book and start following some of the techniques they suggest.
You may never be perfect at time management but you will be better and that will certainly help you deal with your procrastination.
4. Eat the Elephant in Small Bites
Another good suggestion is to take large or particularly difficult tasks and break them down into smaller and more manageable pieces. How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.
This will get you moving and as you complete the smaller pieces you will feel good that you are accomplishing something and eventually you can cross that job off your list. It’s very important to focus on starting the work rather than finishing it.
Thinking about all of the work involved in completing an onerous task can get you down and discouraged. Instead of thinking about the finish line, just get up and running in the race.
5. You May Be Perfect, but… Let It Go
It’s also okay to give yourself permission to do the best job you can rather than always striving for perfection in everything you do at work. Sometimes this perfectionism can lead to procrastination as we put so much stress on ourselves that we can just give up on the job completely or leave it until another day.
It’s okay to be human, make some mistakes and complete a task that is very good, even if it’s just shy of being perfect. You may surprise yourself when you let go of the idea of being perfect and find that your work and your productivity is pretty darned good.
6. Put Down the stick
Stop beating yourself up about making mistakes or your procrastination habit and don’t let others do it either. The last thing you need when trying to get over a difficult habit or pattern is negativity, from internal or external sources.
Learn a little tenderness with yourself as you are growing out of both your perfectionism and procrastination. Reward yourself (but not too much) when you move forward and re-commit yourself (a lot) when you start to fall back. If you are patient enough with yourself you will get where you want to go.
7. Change Your Thinking and Change Your mind
Most of our procrastination is about our thinking. We put up mental blocks that get in the way of getting things done. Sometimes our thinking gets us so worked up that we start avoiding tasks that just have to get completed.
The secret to avoiding procrastination is to change our mindset and reset our brains so that we can actually accomplish what we set out to do. Change your mind and your thinking and your body will follow.
Great post! I think these steps would be especially useful for freelancers. Procrastination can become a major issue when you are self-employed and even more so when you are working from home.
Double-checking to make sure you’re really having a procrastination problem as opposed to a time management problem is a good idea.
If you’re having problems coping with perfectionism, one of the things I’ve found that helps loads is to be a minimalist at the same time.
Most perfectionists see perfection as adding more and more stuff to make things better. Whereas the opposite is often also true. You can make things better by removing stuff instead.
In the words of Antoine de Saint-Exupery, “A designer knows he has achieved perfection not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.”
It also helps with the problem of thinking too much. Because when you have less to think about, it’s easier to get stuff done, and you’re less prone to procrastination.
Great article, Mike! I really enjoy these steps, especially #5! It’s difficult to let go of the idea of being perfect.
I recently wrote an article on my website called “18 Procrastination Excuses and How You Can Combat Them to Stop Procrastinating”. This article breaks down the 18 most common procrastination excuses and how we can understand and attack each one.
Check it out here: http://www.alldayproductivity.com/18-procrastination-excuses-and-how-to-stop-procrastinating/
I’m going to start doing all these things tomorrow.