Do you often make plans to complete a task, but then four hours later your work still isn’t done and you just can’t find the motivation to get started? If procrastination is holding you back, you can do something about it. With a bit of planning and focus you can get your schedule on track and reclaim your day.
“Procrastination is the voluntary delay of an intended action despite the knowledge that this delay may harm the individual in terms of the task performance or even just how the individual feels about the task or him or herself. Procrastination is a needless voluntary delay…Habits are not easy to change. We need to make a conscious effort with specific strategies for change to be successful,” said Dr. Timothy A. Pychyl in Solving the Procrastination Puzzle: A Concise Guide to Strategies for Change.
Here are five ways to stop putting things off.
1. Make a list
Write down want you need to accomplish for the day and indicate when you must complete each task. This will help you stay focused. Once you’ve made your list, post it in a spot where you can see it.
“Goals provide focus. With no guiding vision or plan, people tend to drift. Goals provide a measuring stick for progress. Goals enhance productivity. They bolster self-esteem. And most of all, goals increase commitment, so you’re more likely to achieve whatever you set out to conquer,” said Hara Estroff Marano.
Experts recommend doing the least favorite task first. This way, once you get to the tasks you enjoy, you won’t need as much energy because you actually want to complete the activity.
2. Give yourself a reality check
Refrain from convincing yourself that the task you need to complete can be done later. Don’t fool yourself into thinking you have more time than you really have. Being overly optimistic will be your downfall. Remind yourself how much time you really have to get your work done. Set a deadline and stick to it.
“You feel overly optimistic about the task at hand. Procrastinators are normally good at the tasks they have to complete, they just don’t feel like doing it…You tend to think that since the given task is easy and within your expertise, you can do it any time. However, when the deadline is near, you will realize that even though you are an expert, and the task is relatively easy, you no longer have enough time to complete it…The result is that the work does not get done in time, your reputation takes a beating, and your self-esteem climbs down a notch,” said Hanif Raah in Procrastination: A Self-Help Cure to Get Things Done, Build Motivation, and Break Lazy Habits for Life.
3. Remove distractions
All that list making and reality checking will do you no good if you can’t concentrate. Do your best to keep distractions as far away from you as possible. That means if you’re a big TV junkie and you need to complete a project at home, don’t work in the living room. It’s unlikely you’ll be able to resist the temptation. And if the distraction keeping you from doing your work is a co-worker, find some creative ways to keep that person out of your work area.
4. Reward yourself
Once you’ve reached your goal, give yourself a little reward. It could be that chocolate muffin you’ve been eyeing at the local bakery or a new pen. Whatever it is, make sure to give yourself a pat on the back for a job well done.
“Instead of focusing on what you do wrong, try paying more attention to what you do right. While straight talk and brutal honesty are often good for getting your butt moving, for sustained motivation, the positive approach will keep you from burning out,” said Mike Kramer.
It’s not necessary to reward yourself every time you meet a goal. Just give yourself a small treat every now and then. Too many chocolate muffins isn’t all that healthy. And where would you put all those pens?