Last week we shared 10 reasons why people procrastinate. It is helpful to understand WHY you procrastinate. If you haven’t already read that post, we suggest you do so in order to raise your awareness about your potential barriers to maximum productivity. Once you know what trips you up, you can do something about it, and we’re here to help! Today we are offering 10 strategies you can easily implement to fight or avoid procrastination.
- Eliminate Distraction – clear clutter in your work space, shut down email (or at least those distracting notifications) and remove shiny objects from your space. You’ll be more likely to focus on what you really need to get done when you’re not tempted to procrastinate by all of this “noise”.
- Gain Clarity – ask questions (of yourself or someone assigning you a task or project) to better understand the objective of the task, the as well as the recommended steps to get it done.
- Eat an Elephant – Q: How do you eat an elephant? A: One bite at a time. If you feel overwhelmed by a project or task, break it down into bite size pieces. The end result may feel daunting, but each piece should feel very manageable by itself. If the bites still feel overwhelming continue to break them down until taking the first step, or the next step, by itself feels doable.
- Stop Messing Around – Let’s get real for a minute. Sometimes we just need some discipline to stop “avoidance activities” and buckle down to work. Know what you use as avoidance tasks (i.e.: Facebook, a trip to the water cooler, checking email again, etc.) and don’t let yourself indulge until you accomplish a task or reach a milestone in your work.
- Establish Rewards – It can be motivating to have something to look forward to. Consider small ways you can reward yourself for staying on task for a period of time (this could be allowing yourself to participate in something that you previously used as an avoidance task – 15 minutes on Facebook, a call to a good friend, a walk around the block, cup of tea, etc.) and identify a bigger way to reward yourself for accomplishing the end result in a timely manner for larger projects. Consider the Pomodoro technique for working – set a timer, stick to a task or project for 25 minutes and then take a 5 minute break. Alternately, work for 50 minutes in an hour and do something for yourself for 10 minutes. Rinse and repeat.
- Block Time – Mark time on your calendar for priority tasks, and then honor it. Make appointments with yourself to work on something that you might otherwise put off. We are usually good at sticking to our appointments we make with others. We can do the same for important work we want to accomplish. When the appointment shows up on the calendar, no procrastinating; that is what you work on during that time block. Yes, some of this takes discipline, but you can do it.
- Minimize Interruptions (or at least know how you’ll handle them) – If you have an office with a door, consider closing it when working on a priority task or project. No door? Post something visible on your desk or the back of your chair that tells others that you are “heads down” for a period of time. Eliminate the candy dish from your desk if it is the reason others constantly interrupt you to chat. When you are interrupted by a colleague, stand to greet them (so they don’t sit and make themselves comfortable for a while), ascertain what they need and then make a decision about whether or not their need is a higher priority than what you were working on. If it is, make a quick note on your work about the step you were about to do next (this reduces the time it takes you to recover from the interruption and reengage in the work) and give them your full attention. If what you are working on is a higher priority than what they need, let them know you are on a deadline and need to finish your work, and ask them to come back or meet up at a later time.
- Adopt My Favorite “Recovering Perfectionist” Mantra; “Done is Better than Perfect“ – Get started, even if you don’t think you can do something perfectly. Most of the time, perfect isn’t required. Know when 90-95% is good enough. A perfectionist will spend 50% of their time on a task or project getting the last 5-10% perfect. That means if they spend an hour getting something 90% done, they will spend another hour perfecting the last 10%. Most likely, there’s a better use for that time.
- Ask Someone to Hold you Accountable – We are less likely to procrastinate and put something off if we’ve told someone else about what we intend to do. Knowing that person may ask about our progress, we are more likely to act. Share your goal or priorities with someone you trust and ask them to help hold your feet to the fire. An accountability partner can be a powerful productivity strategy.
- Go For It – Face the fear of failure (or fear of success) and do it anyway. Take a risk, ask for help if you need it, but make progress, move forward and decide that today is the day.
What are you waiting for? Use these strategies to fight procrastination, get stuff done and reach your goals.