I am a planner, an organizer, a scheduler. Ask anyone who knows me and they will tell you that I am on top of things, I always get the job done, and I rarely let anything fall through the cracks. Normally, this is true, but what many people don’t know is that I am a chronic procrastinator.
Procrastination isn’t all bad. In fact, I willingly let it happen sometimes because a burning desire to blow work off usually means I need a break, so I take one. But sometimes, I get into that procrastination gutter and can’t seem to roll out of it (you know what I’m talking about, right?).
Being the systemic planner that I am, I of course, have a process for getting away from procrastination when it’s not productive and starts to cause that slow burning panic. Here are some of the techniques I use to stop the procrastination cycle and get back on track.
- Focus on no more than your three top priorities at a time (put the rest of the list away!).
- Tackle the biggest of those three priorities first thing every morning.
- Break down big tasks into manageable, bite-size chunks.
- Be aware of your distractions.
- Allow yourself time to be distracted.
- Force yourself to focus for short periods of time (start with 10 or 15 minutes).
- Shut off email notifications, instant messages, social media and texting during focus periods.
- Give up on doing everything perfectly and just get it done.
- Create a baseline to keep you moving every day.
- Set SMART goals…and actually use them to push yourself forward.
- Ask yourself periodically if what you’re doing, right now, supports your goals.
- Use an Action Planner to stay on track.
- Get an accountability partner.
- Pad your schedule to include some buffer time and take off some of the pressure.
- Create self-imposed deadlines to challenge yourself.
- Remind yourself how bad you want it.
- Acknowledge your successes and reward yourself for a job well done.
- Delegate tasks that don’t require your individual attention.
- Create motivational mantras that get you moving.
Have you ever fallen into the procrastination gutter?
What did you do to snap out of it?
Amen, sister! I’m also a planner and an organizer…but I’m not immune to procrastination. One time, in a college class I was taking, I described myself as a “perfectionist” as well as a “procrastinator,” and some of my classmates fought me on it. How could I be both things at once? Didn’t they oppose each other? I tried to explain that, in theory, they did…but somehow I was both! I take my time with things that are important to me, but I also tend to put off things that are important to me because I’m scared. It stinks! What snaps me out of it? Reading posts like this. It gets my motivation pumping again.
I love your list, Alyssa. My husband is my accountability partner most of the time, and it seems to work out well. I’m also MAJORLY into mantras! I’ve printed off some of my favorites and taped them to my desk at home (they help!). Maybe I should start writing the best ones on my arm or something, that way I can see them 24/7.
Thanks for your comment, Jill. It’s always nice to meet a fellow perfectionist/procrastinator! :) I think you might be onto something with writing mantras on our arms…we could create a whole new trend for tattoos!
Thank you for sharing these great tips. You listed 20 things and they’re all very important to keep in mind. I personally love the no. 10 and no. 11 tips. I always make a goal chart every day in the morning but sometimes I tend to forget to make one. And when I forget, my day is like going to a place where you don’t know where your real destination is.
Good for you, Steven. Daily goals can set your intentions for the day and keep you focused!
Hello Alyssa, what do you mean about motivational mantras? Can you please give me 1 example?
Anyhow, I really love this article. I am prone to procrastination and I really hate it when it comes. No. 14 “Get an accountability partner.” seems like a great advice. I haven’t thought about it but I’ll try that one. Thank you for these awesome steps.
Hi A.J. – A motivational mantra is something you repeat in your mind or out loud to motivate and encourage yourself. It could be something as general as “I can do this,” or it can be more specific such as “I am not going to obsess over perfection; I’m just going to get the job done.”
I’ll second A.J.’s notion about an accountability partner. In the previous company I founded, whenever we had people who worked on solo projects, we found that the person assigned to the project didn’t do nearly as well as when we had team projects. So, we created something called the accountabilibuddy (http://www.hullfinancialplanning.com/the-personal-finance-accountabilibuddy/) – someone who was assigned to be the check-in partner for the person doing the solo project. It helped enormously.
One other tactic I use is to take advantage of the Zeigarnik Effect (http://www.spring.org.uk/2011/02/the-zeigarnik-effect.php), which is the notion that your brain can’t stand when you have uncompleted tasks, and they’ll bounce around in your head until you can get them done. There are two sides to it. One side is that we procrastinate because we don’t want to start something which we can’t complete. The other side, which can be powerful, is that once we start, we’re impelled to finish. So, start somewhere on a task (beginning, middle, near the end), and let your subconscious provide the kicks in the rear to make sure you don’t have those unfinished tasks bouncing around in your head.
GREAT tips. I find when I procrastinate its cause I’m totally overwhelmed by to-do’s so I find a pen and paper and an old-fashioned list helps me realize how many things need to get done (rarely nearly as many as I imagine) and get a sense of satisfaction making it smaller.
And sometimes I just write all my to-do’s down on paper, rip them into slips and out them in a hat to pick from. I make myself commit to doing WHATEVER I pick no matter what. Helps unstick me when I really do have an overwhelming to-do list and the list is too long to look at. ;)