Procrastinatio……n

Benjamin FranklinIt’s taken me ages to get around to writing this post (cue laughter). That’s a terrible line to begin this post with, but it’s true.

Unfortunately for us procrastination is a part of human nature. You may even be procrastinating now – are you reading this blog when you should be doing something else?

Everyone procrastinates. But that’s no excuse.

Procrastination is something we all joke about but it’s actually quite a crippling thing. Think of all the things we could do if we didn’t procrastinate?

Personally I would have gotten out of bed earlier this morning, had a shorter shower, gotten more done at work, caught up on lots of things I’d been meaning to do for ages. I would be more productive and more effective. My life would be better, I would probably be healthier, have more money, better relationships, more fun…

Often we manage to break out of our procrastination for long enough to catch up on things. But then we get comfortable and slip back into it.

Procrastination is opportunity’s assassin.

- Victor Kiam

Unfortunately it’s a constant battle with no lasting quick fix, but here are some tips that hopefully help you keep procrastination at bay:

  • Do the difficult tasks first, and keep the fun tasks as a reward
  • Break big tasks into smaller manageable tasks, that way they don’t seem so daunting
  • Allocate times eg. check emails for 15 minutes, write essay for 1 hour, return phonecalls for 20 minutes, study for 1 hour etc.
  • Play to your strengths. If you lose motivation in the afternoon then do the difficult things in the morning and keep the easier ones for the afternoon.
  • Keep your place tidy. Tidying up is something we often do as a method of procrastination – if you keep your place impeccably tidy then that option won’t be there any more.
  • Eliminate distractions: If you’re trying to work/study then: close your email/Twitter/Facebook/chat etc, ask the people around you not to interrupt you, turn off your phone, turn off your computer if you get distracted by the internet, turn off the radio or listen to music that doesn’t distract you, go to the bathroom/eat/drink etc before you start.
  • Deal with things as and when they happen. When you check your emails either deal with them there and then or schedule a time to deal with them.

Putting off an easy thing makes it hard. Putting off a hard thing makes it impossible.

- George Claude Lorimer

  • Write a to-do-list. They’re out of fashion in some schools of thought but they still work. Write things down, then prioritise. Choose the most important 7 things and number them in order of importance. Then start doing them in that order.
  • Plan ahead. Manage your time. Book in the important and time consuming tasks first. Then fit the smaller and less important things in around those.
  • Be aware. Notice when you wander off task. Sometimes just being more aware of what you’re doing can help you get back on task.
  • Reward yourself when you complete things: a cup of coffee, a chat with a friends, some time on Facebook, some fresh air…
  • Take a break. You weren’t born to suffer so schedule yourself a break when you need it so that it doesn’t seem like it’s just hard work.
  • Have a change of scene – work from a different office, study at the library, get up at a different time – anything to break your routine can also help break procrastination habits.
  • Dwell on the satisfaction of completing things. When you achieve what you set out to achieve then notice how you feel about it. Really savour it so that you can look forward to that feeling again.
  • Perfectionist? Some things are better done to an acceptable level than not done at all.
  • Try not to be afraid of making mistakes. The fear of making mistakes can be paralysing.
  • Cultivate habits. Make doing the thing you don’t want to do part of a daily routine so that it becomes a habit. Once something is a habit it’s easy to maintain.
  • Think about why you want to do it. If it’s big things that you are procrastinating on: dreams, travel, relationships etc then think about where you want to be in the future with these things. Focus on why you want to achieve them and that may bring you the motivation you need.
  • Just do it!
  • …or don’t do it. If you really can’t bring yourself to do it then is it something that you really need to be doing? Can you delegate it? Can you just forget about it?
  • Peer pressure – tell your friends and family about what you’re doing and when you’ll have it done by. This makes you accountable to someone.
  • Reminders – put your homework on top of the Playstation when you get home from school to remind that it needs to be done first.
  • Use tools – setup reminders in Google Calendar to text you at a time/date to ask you if you’ve done what you’ve supposed to have done.

Procrastination is one of the most common and deadliest of diseases and its toll on success and happiness is heavy.

- Wayne Gretzky

Remember that beating procrastination does require effort on your part and that isn’t always fun. In the long run there is no shortcut for effort. As with anything in life, you get out what you put in.

Good luck!

Original image: Wikipedia