If there is anyone who can say they have never once struggled with procrastination, brain block or fighting off distractions to stay on task, I would be highly interested in talking to this person. Either they are a machine or they don’t know how to identify the urge to procrastinate and do it unknowingly.
I’d like to think I use my time efficiently for the most part, but I am certainly one to also struggle with procrastination. It tends to hit when I have a large or complex project on my plate, one I know won’t be completed quickly or easily. So I avoid starting it altogether. Instead, my mind wanders to completely pointless topics (how much does a baby giraffe weigh?) or I fill my time taking on tasks that aren’t urgent or important (refilling the cat’s water dish).
Procrastination is completely normal, and something you will have to push through at all points in your career – even in your personal life. The good news is you’re in good company! That may not sound all that encouraging, but what it means is that for those of us who have successfully fought through procrastination, at least for the most part, we have some advice to share. Here’s a sampling of my own best tips for pushing through procrastination. Take a look!
- Set realistic goals.
When it comes to the time management of our days, so often we’re guilty of trying to fit 10 pounds of potatoes in a 5 pound sack. Picture what that might look like. I bet it’s reflected all of our work days at least once (and for some, maybe that’s every day).
When you overload today’s to-do list with an impossible amount of tasks, it can seem too overwhelming to even get started. This is when procrastination sets in. In contract, when you set realistic goals for what you can accomplish today, and you prioritize those goals with important and meaningful tasks, your outlook on the day will shift. So step one – be realistic. Get a feel for how long a task will really take to accomplish, and even pad that with a little extra time. Know what you need to get done today to keep the rest of your week on track, then focus solely on accomplishing those tasks. Let tomorrow’s worries wait for tomorrow.
- Set your rhythm for the day and choose tasks that share this rhythm.
It was during my college years that I learned I was far more effective when I “block scheduled” my days. What this means, at least for me, is that I would determine the rhythm for any particular day and choose tasks that share this rhythm to accomplish. This greatly helped to reduce procrastination because my tasks flowed together nicely when grouped by rhythm, and once I was on that rhythm it was easy to keep productivity flowing.
I still carry this strategy through to my work flow now. For example, some days I set as my “out of office” days where I schedule as many meetings, phone calls, events or other out-of-the-home obligations to take on that day. Why? Because it’s so much more efficient for me to get in the mindset that I will be taking on business development today. And other days take on a very different rhythm where I schedule tasks that require me to be in front of my computer with a great deal of interrupted focus. When I control the rhythm of my day, instead of battling the ebb and flow on contrasting rhythms, I find procrastination stays at bay.
- Assign the amount of time you can devote to each individual task.
Another common trigger for procrastination is giving yourself *too* much time to complete a task. I know, in point #1 I said to give the appropriate amount of time plus some padding, and that still holds true, but my caution here is not to give yourself a gaping window to complete a task. The reason is because you will tend to drag your feet on a task if you feel like you can afford to wait to start it. So I again stress that allotting an accurate and realistic amount of time to complete a certain task is critical to pushing through procrastination.
- Build in small “treats” for hitting your goals.
For many of us, we are our own task master. While this is a much better scenario than having someone shouting over our shoulder to work faster, it also means we need to be our own motivators to stay on task. One of the best tips I have for pushing through the temptation to procrastinate is to build in small treats for hitting certain goals throughout the day or week.
For example, I know I need to get 2-3 projects off my plate at the beginning of the day to prevent things from backsliding or sneaking up on me. But once these projects are complete, I build in a reward, usually in the form of a break or relaxing activity. This can be getting outside for a walk or run, browsing a store, or enjoying lunch with a friend. When given the option to either waste time avoiding a task, or get down to business and then earn a reward, I am far more motivated by the reward. Find what motivates you and then dangle that carrot!
- Eliminate all distractions.
Even as I write this very post, I’m reminded by how easily I am distracted. When I really need to reign in my focus on a project, I can’t trust this to my own self-control. I need to block off my internet so I down dive down rabbit holes on social media and I often place my phone on silent and in a different room. Having these distractions within reach almost always results in me checking in on them like a nervous habit. Even email can be a major distraction to me. I’ll often use Gmail’s “Pause Inbox” feature to pause messages from ever hitting my inbox for a period of time while I wire into a project that needs my sole focus. If you haven’t enabled this feature, I highly recommend it!
- Give yourself grace.
Finally and most importantly, you have to learn to give yourself grace when it comes to procrastination. Some days I’ll feel like I’ve fully squelched this temptation in my work flow, and just days later it will rear its ugly head. Time management does require some degree of long-term planning so that you stay on task for the things ahead; however the real key is to simply take it day by day – even hour by hour, if you must. Focus only on the task at hand, seeing it through to completion, then let your mind move on to the next task. If one day you fail to hit this mark due to procrastination, start anew with the next task. The next time you’re presented with the temptation to procrastinate, if you can overcome it using any of these lessons you learned from the last time, consider it a personal victory!
Do you struggle to push through procrastination? Have you discovered some unique tips to overcome this? Share your thoughts by leaving a comment below!