“Procrastination is the thief of time. Never do tomorrow what you can do today. ”
– Charles Dickens
As I’m writing this post, I am finding myself resisting a strong urge to procrastinate. Though it had been three weeks since I had written my last post, I am still very much tempted to put off creating a new one for yet another day.
If you’ve found yourself putting off important tasks over and over again, know that you’re definitely not alone. In fact, most people fall prey to procrastination to some extent – some at a greater degree than others. Nevertheless, though some of us may try to deny it, we are all well aware of the inevitable negative consequences that comes with procrastination. Mostly, it comes in the form of that sucky feeling of being riddled with panic and finding ourselves wishing “If only I had started earlier..” which usually wash over us as deadlines loom around the corner.
As you may already noticed, the more we give in to procrastination, the more likely we are to fall prey to it in the future. As we put off our tasks more frequently, we often end up finding ourselves in a vicious cycle. If we don’t actively take actions to stop procrastination, it becomes far too easy for it to evolve into a severely bad habit that can adversely affect our lives and hinders us from becoming our best selves.
So how exactly can we effectively part ways with procrastination?
Like any pesky bad habit, kicking procrastination to the curb wouldn’t happen overnight. It requires self-discipline and persistent effort. Fortunately for us there are techniques that we can use to do so a little less overwhelming. With that, here are five practical tools which when practiced consistently can help you to overcome procrastination and gain back control of your life.
1. Break down large tasks into smaller tasks
In many cases where I would put off starting a task or project, it is usually because I find the work to be too difficult or too daunting. In these cases, I have subconsciously associate pain to those particular tasks so it’s no surprise that I would do whatever I could to delay myself from experiencing that pain.
When you find yourself in a similar situation, the best thing you can do is to break down that seemingly huge undertaking into smaller, manageable tasks. Remind yourself that the hardest part is to begin so it would be helpful to make your initial step as simple and easy as possible. Once you’ve completed a few steps, it is likely that you would have created a momentum where you will feel more excitement about getting the rest of phases of that particular task or project.
If you still procrastinate on the task even after breaking it down, then break it down even further. Focus your attention and energy on one step at a time without thinking about the rest of the phases and before you know it, you will have completed the whole project with ease.
2. Take Charge of Your Surroundings
Whether we realize it or not, different environments have different effects on our productivity. Personally, I found my surroundings to greatly impact my productivity. Hence, whenever I need to get things done, I do what I can to make sure that my work space would promote productivity and minimize procrastination.
If you happen to be working at home, position yourself away from things that are usually of distraction to you i.e: television, gadgets etc. If you are trying to get things done office, it can be a challenge to focus on getting things done when there are so much distractions to begin with. In addition to having colleagues, clients, visitors etc. constantly around us during business hours, we are also faced with the distractions of our gadgets. But no matter where we may be working, though we may not be able to shut out the people around us, we can always do our best to curb the distractions of our gadgets.
Make a point to only check your personal media accounts at a minimum – it can wait. We can also make a schedule for checking emails both for work and personal emails. Prioritize on only attending to emails that requires our immediate attention when you are pressed for time, this will greatly reduce the amount time wasted so you can focus on getting things done.
3. Create Timelines with Specific Deadlines
As I have a full time remote job, deadlines play a huge role in how my days play out. Since I pretty much make my own schedule, I found that one of the most effective tools to make sure that I am on track with my deliverables is to set a timeline for each task or project that creates the urgency to act.
At the end of the previous or at the very start of each day, make a list of the main things to get done for that day – this includes everything from tasks to meetings. If possible, make it as detailed as possible and be sure to give yourself a realistic amount to get each tasks and for each meetings (base it on your previous experiences). Though it’s true that we often can’t quite pin our days to stick to the schedule we’ve set for ourselves because things changes unexpectedly, if you make a point to set deadlines and divide your time accordingly, you will much less likely to waste time as you have a clear plan as to how your day will and should play out on a daily basis.
4. Share Your Goals with Others
We humans have the amazing ability to talk ourselves into or out of nearly anything. By letting others know of the goals and projects we’ve set out to do, we help to reduce the chance of us backing out of them.
I love sharing and letting my loved ones know of my big goals because as I let them know of what I am intending to accomplish, they instantly become my accountability partners. Though accountability partners can certainly be those in your personal network (significant other, siblings, friends etc.), if you do not feel comfortable to share the details of a goal or project to your loved ones, a professional such as a business coach would make a great accountability partner.
Public accountability can be powerful as a trigger to remind us to take consistent action and making progress. However, it particularly comes in handy when you inevitably hit roadblocks that may derail you from whatever you’re working on.
5. Just Do It!
Nike had it right all along – sometimes we spend too much time over thinking and over analyzing things that can easily be solved by taking action. Though planning and scheduling are essential in keeping track of progress, the task itself will never get done if we don’t take action(s) to get it started.
If you find that you are constantly making excuses, trying to justify as to why you have yet to take action and/or waiting around until it’s the perfect time to start, remind yourself that the perfect time is always now.
Remind yourself that the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step and that the only way to get ahead is to get started. After all, the sooner you begin your journey, the faster you’ll experience the satisfaction and sense of accomplishment of getting to your destination.
So what are you waiting for? Roll up your sleeves and let’s get things done! 🙂