Have you ever delayed in starting preparation for an event?
Many of us beat ourselves up for procrastinating. Our 'parent voice' scolds and nags, tells us we're lazy, or worse.
More often than not, our internal conversation just leads to more procrastination, more scolding, and an unproductive feedback loop.
Procrastination is natural. All of us practice it from time to time. In some situations it can actually be useful.
Most often, though, it needs to be managed so that things get done.
Here are some tips for dealing with the urge to procrastinate.
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Eat the elephant one bite at a time
When you are faced with a large or intimidating project, chunk it into more manageable pieces. Consider these three chunking strategies.
• Chunk up: Sometimes we get bogged down in minutiae, can't see the wood for the trees, and feel really stuck. A quick overview will often show very quickly where to start.
Identify the bigger elements of a task, looking for the bigger picture.
Ask what one thing will get the project moving, what critical point will help everything else fall into place, and start there.
• Chunk down: Break large tasks into smaller actions. This lets you easily focus on the priorities that produce the best impact.
• Chunk sideways: Clump like with like. Sort tasks according to relevant categories. Example categories include Internet research, sending email, writing or drafting information, phone calls, and face to face discussions.
Do a brain dump onto paper
When you have a lot of ideas rattling around, a quick brain dump onto paper can turn that basket of cotton wool on your shoulders into the sharp brain you thought you'd lost at the supermarket.
If you are a linear thinker, making a list may be enough to get you going.
If you are like me and think in pictures and relationships, try a mind map for quick clarity. You'll be surprised how quickly you glean the essence of your topic or project.
On an A4 paper turned to landscape view, put your main topic or project in the centre of the page, then up to five 'branch' topics that relate to it.
Brainstorm additional branches to each of the five as ideas surface and draw them in using words or pictures.
Continue to add branches until you have run out of ideas, then survey your creation.
You will have more clarity and focus, and the first steps to take will be obvious.
Even better, you'll find yourself itching to get going, instead of wallowing in procrastination!
Do the hard thing first
Think of the last time you dragged the chain on a tricky task, put off something unpleasant, deferred deadlines. How did you feel? Heavy, lethargic, guilty, generally less than top class? Conversely, have you noticed the rush of adrenalin you get when you tackle a task that's been hanging around for ages?
Do the hardest thing at the start of the day, and you will have more job satisfaction, feel less stressed, and do a better job. Taking action on tough tasks quickly will give you a great feeling of success and release endorphins, which will make you feel more energetic and able to move faster. You will actually get more done!
Beware of majoring in minor things
Sometimes we keep doing low priority, low value activities out of habit or just to have a break. Ask yourself what hourly rate the work is worth. If it's worth less than the rate you're earning, or can earn, look for ways to outsource or delegate it. When you do work that's worth a lesser amount, you're effectively earning that lower figure.
Acquire a 'Do it NOW' attitude
Winners get going, losers just think about getting going. Every time you feel an 'I'll get round to it later' phase coming on, refuse to allow yourself that lazy habit. It doesn't take very long to develop a sense of discomfort every time you find yourself slipping into procrastination, as long as you notice it and do something about it. Every time you create even a tiny win over a disempowering habit, there's a sense of completion, of accomplishment that builds the next infinitesimal block in the ladder of your success.
Enjoy creative procrastination
Remember I said that procrastination can actually be useful? Procrastination is not all bad; there's good procrastination as well! Put off things that won't advance your life plan by being done today. Learn to focus on activities that lead you toward your goals and block out or procrastinate on the trivial, time-consuming minor tasks.
Give yourself the gift of time to do whatever you like, including doing nothing if that's your choice. Well-balanced people with healthy relationships and family lives know that time for themselves is important, and just as vital as working productively and spending time with others. It's not selfish to give yourself quality time. In fact, I believe it is selfish not to, for someone who never takes time to recharge ceases to be effective in their other responsibilities.
The bottom line is that procrastination is a habit, and can be replaced by other habits if you work on it. These tips will get you up and doing, help you create new behaviour patterns in your work, and still let you include the 'down time' we all need to be most effective.