Have you felt your heart pound as you raced to complete that task at the last minute? Maybe it was homework, housework before company came, or tasks for your job. Whatever it was, even though you told yourself that “next time” you’ll plan better, and this was the “last time” you’ll go through this last minute rush, you still found yourself putting things off until the last minute again.
People who struggle with procrastination truly have the best of intentions with getting the job done – and getting it done on time. They end up frustrated with themselves, and they sometimes frustrate the people around them. The reality is that we all procrastinate from time-to-time. What kind of glutton for punishment jumps for joy at the opportunity to clean the toilet, do hours of homework, or spend hours on a boring work task? (Generally speaking, people don’t procrastinate on the exciting or fun things.)
The people who do get these jobs done know and do some things a little differently. Adopting some of their habits can help you overcome your procrastination problem. First, just get started, and do the worst or hardest job first. Putting those tasks first and getting them done means you are focusing on them when you have the most energy and it will give you a sense of accomplishment. When you get started, break your big jobs in smaller pieces. Don’t put anything on your “to do” list that takes more than 30 minutes to complete.
Second, create accountability. Tell others what your goals are, thereby creating positive pressure by giving yourself an audience. In order to enhance the positive pressure, you can use a strategy called “Race the Clock.” Set a timer for 10 minutes, and give your undivided attention to that task for that time. It’s also a good idea to set the timer for every 10 minutes because if you get off track for 10 minutes (by a phone call or some other task), you won’t lose too much time when the timer goes off and kindly reminds you to get back on task. (Tip! If you tend to work better under pressure, Race the Clock creates that same sense of pressure.)
Third, set aside time in your weekly schedule to complete administrative tasks (ex: paying bills, returning library books, picking up medication, going to the dry cleaners). Also, set aside time to clean up your papers that pile up. Use the F.A.T. strategy – File, Act, or Toss the papers; don’t put anything in a pile to look at “later.” The pile of things to do and paperwork can quickly add up, so be sure, to take 15 -20 minutes at the end of each day to put things away and look at the calendar for the next day. Gather what you need ahead of time so you will be prepared for tomorrow.
Fourth, don’t interrupt yourself! Interruptions tend to occur with some regularity (we may be able to predict who, how, when …) Think of who is most likely to interrupt you and let them know in advance that you need to set aside a “no interruptions unless it’s an emergency” time frame. When you receive phone calls, texts, or emails, consider whose time is it? Set aside time to check your emails and voicemails. Remember that responding right away sets a tone that you are always available and can create and even more stress and pressure for you. Digital distractions are sometimes our worst distractors and we don’t even realize how much time they zap from our day! www.rescuetime.com is a free website that tracks your on-line activity and shows you where you spend your time. It’s a great resource if you find yourself online but not sure how you are spending your time.
Lastly, it’s always a good idea to keep in mind when we are most productive. If you are a “morning person,” set aside time to tackle this list in the morning. If you are an “evening person,” set aside that time. Think about what you are normally doing during that time and clear your schedule of those activities. For example, if you know you get caught up in an hour of Facebook or online video games, don’t even turn on your computer since it will be too much temptation. The mantra of many people who struggle with procrastination is: How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time!