The ability to overcome procrastination and tackle important actions can have the biggest positive impact on your life, and it is one of the chief hallmarks of the most successful people. If you nurture the habit of setting clear priorities and getting important tasks finished quickly (and excellently), the majority of your time management issues will simply fade away.
So how do you overcome procrastination? Here are 10 different techniques:
Think about the 80/20 rule, where 20 percent of your activities are bringing you 80 percent of your results. Is what you’re working on something that really needs to be done? What are the consequences of not doing it? Perhaps you should delete the activity so that you can move on to what is important.
2. Be positive.
Procrastination is usually tied to negative self-talk, or when you say things such as “I have to,” “I should,” “I must finish.” Changing this self-talk to messages of choice and commitment helps overcome procrastination. Instead, learn to say “I will” or “I choose to.” Switch your energy from your procrastination self-talk to the language of the producer.
3. Take the first step.
If you start the task right now, you remove all the anxiety and feelings of stress. As soon as important activities and tasks come up, make the decision to schedule time in your calendar to at least start the task, or to ask for advice, if needed. That way you will be able to get it done as early as possible.
4. Ask for help.
When lack of clarity causes procrastination, some- times asking for help is all you need to do. A trusted mentor, a supervisor, a coach, or somebody else you trust can provide clarification, insights on where to start, or outline steps for completing the project.
5. Break it down.
Break down large projects into actionable steps. Huge assignments don’t look as big broken down into the smallest steps possible. Make sure that you are entering actionable tasks into your calendar. The smaller blocks of time required for each task will be much easier to schedule into your calendar.
6. Follow the 25-minute rule.
To reduce the temptation of procrastination, each actionable step on a project should take no more than twenty-five minutes to complete. This rule is based on the Pomodoro Technique, which is a time management tool created by Francesco Cirillo. This technique is especially useful at those times when we are overwhelmed or have to do something we don’t really want to do.
7. Give yourself a reward.
Celebrate the completion of project milestones, and reward yourself for getting projects done on time. It can be a coffee break or a little time on Facebook or Twitter, or it can be a big reward. Whatever it is that you want or that makes sense, a reward provides positive reinforcement and motivates you toward completing your project.
8. Set and respect deadlines.
If you haven’t been given a deadline for a project, ask for one or assign yourself a deadline, and write it down in your calendar. Make your deadlines known to other people who will hold you accountable. Procrastination is much more likely with no real deadline.
9. Remove distractions.
You need to establish a positive working environment that is conducive to productivity. Remove any distractions. If you are having a hard time working on a task or project, having a lot of distractions is only going to help you make excuses to not work on it. Access to the Internet, nearby people available for chitchat, the phone ringing, e-mail pop-ups— all of these things are going to cause you to procrastinate. Therefore, remove all distractions for at least twenty-five minutes and work.
10. Be accountable.
Having an accountability partner is one of the best ways to stay on track with tasks and projects. In his book, Still Procrastinating?, Joseph R. Ferrari tells the story of a Harvard economics professor who paid his coauthors $500 when he did not deliver a promised paper or finished product by its due date. Having a financial consequence certainly helps curb procrastination, but you don’t have to go that far. Most times, simply having someone follow up with you on a promised task is enough to keep you on track.
Which of these 10 techniques resonate with you? Let me know which one(s) you decide to try and how it works.