Procrastination hits us all, whether we are leading, trying to make sure we complete our weekly workload or simply clean our house. I find that I can often jump onto the procrastination train, sometimes with procrasti-cleaning or procrasti-eating, or even with Netflix. So, I’ve developed a set of five techniques that help me avoid my procrastination (or at least minimise it).
The first thing I try to do is what I would call, ‘set the scene’. A company without vision is just a group of people answering phones and drinking coffees. So, why should it be any different for us? We need to have an idea of what it is we are doing, before we begin it – otherwise we may just run around in a flurry, or find areas to procrastinate. I’ve wrote a piece on this before, so I won’t touch on it too much.
However, writing down goals is a great starting point and making sure they have fixed deadlines. It’s possible to change the end point when we reach it. I find that micro-goals or sub-goals are usually a great way to scaffold my project into bite-sized chunks. Plus, it’s always a motivator when we can cross something off our list as ‘accomplished’. I, personally, use notepads, whiteboards and pin boards to make sure I regularly see my goals.
2. Allocate specific times for specific tasks
Specific times for specific tasks, what do I mean by this? It’s quite simple when you get your head around it. Allocating certain tasks to particular parts of a week can be a way to compartmentalise our hectic lives. Parents pick up their kids at the same time each day, drop them off at the same time, so why can’t we translate this to our own lives. Laura Vanderkam writes of the routines many successful people do each morning before everyone else is awake. This is a typical example of a specific time (before breakfast – 5 or 6am) and a specific task (some examples included going to the gym, replying to emails, reading news, spend time with their children, writing blogs or novels). These people were successful because they found suitable time to complete tasks which they would not usually be able to fit in, or at least struggle to fit in.
I find that morning, for me, tends to be a productive time which I would waste sleeping if I didn’t get up early. At the moment, I use this time to read academic journals for my research. Sometimes I like to sit alone in a cafe, read the paper and drink a coffee as I prepare myself for the rest of the day. I have just recently began going straight to the gym after I finish work, and this was a much better way to ensure I do what I need to. If I go home, I might sit down on the couch and struggle to find the motivation to go. Because I have put a specific time (straight after knock-off), I find it becomes a regular part of my daily schedule instead of a chore.
3. Block out the noise
Nope, I don’t mean switch off music devices, just in case you were wondering. I mean switching off those unnecessary devices, closing that Facebook browser tab, and possibly closing the office door. Every possible distraction becomes a reason to stop working on your task. If you have a Twitter feed running, it will provide notifications for every new post in the browser tab e.g. (32) Twitter. Close it, and look at it later. For now, keep on the task you are trying to complete. Clutter on the desk can serve as a form of ‘noise’ to distract you – so get rid of it.
I know of some people I have worked with have dedicated time to complete tasks. They will turn off their phones, close their emails, close their door as if they are not there. Two hours or so is usually not going to break the system down, and that two hours may allow you to complete more tasks in that two hours of dedicated time than the rest of your distraction filled day.
This is one of my favourite solutions to most things in life, and I believe it is equally a great solution to some of our procrastination issues. Self-awareness is the degree to which we understand ourselves: things like understanding our strengths and weaknesses come under that banner. When we acknowledge our limitations and shortcomings, we can work out ways to harness them and overcome them.
My biggest weakness is my sociability. I know that, from assessing myself and reflecting, if I receive a text message from a friend to go for coffee – I’ll be there. I began to try to work out ways to mitigate this, as I spend too much on coffee and sometimes consume too much time on such activities. I use the allotted time method (above) to put my phone away, or making a conscious decision for several hours each working day not to open messages on my phone from anyone other than colleagues. This one is still a working progress for me, but it is something I’ll continue working through.
5. Find your motivator
Finally, find something which will keep you on track. For some, this can be the idea of promotion or jumping the corporate ladder faster than others. Financial stability, emotional stability, and a full and complete life are ‘big ticket’ motivators but may not work for small goals. It may be more beneficial to assign motivators to tasks which we don’t enjoy much (effectively increasing it’s personal value to you). What I mean by this is simple, find a way to reward yourself for achieving those goals set in step one. Perhaps after going to the gym four times a week could mean that you reward yourself by going for brunch with a few friends on the Saturday. Maybe, a nice bottle of wine or the occasional weekend away could be a gift to yourself for achieving something. I remember setting out a tiered goal for myself when I began my Business Honours year in 2015. I set certain bottles of whiskey for certain goals: including a whiskey I didn’t enjoy much at all for failure. Suffice to say, I settled with a nice bottle and this was an expensive, yet effective motivator for me.
6. Just do it
This one is a simple one, but sometimes we’ve just got to listen to Nike and just do it.
- Sit at your desk and begin work,
- Set your alarm and throw those blankets off,
- Drive straight to the gym,
- Open the word document and begin typing.
Whatever the task, whatever the goal, if you don’t start you will similarly never finish.
I never assume my methods are the only ways, or even the most effective way. I would love to hear your methods for controlling your procrastination – or perhaps you have tasks you have trouble with which you may want my commentary on. Post it in the comments, and let’s try for an even more productive 2016.
*Image by Emilie Ogez.