Friday, May 13, 2011

Procrastination – How to Deal with It, NOW!

Know when you are procrastinating

Keep track of what you do when you put important tasks off. Are you surfing the internet, checking email or cleaning the house? When you find yourself engaging in these chores, as yourself if this is important in its own right, important to do right now, or simply a way to avoid doing something else.

Another sign of avoidance may be a shortened attention span. If you can’t actually sit down to the task you need to accomplish for more than a few minutes at a time, you may be engaging in procrastination.

Learn why you are procrastinating

You may be putting off a task simply because it is unpleasant, boring or difficult.

You may feel you lack the skills to tackle the chore, leading to your putting if off day after day.

Or you may not have an action plan to work on a task that looks monumental at the onset.

These are just some of the reasons why you put off doing something you need to do. The key word is “need”. You have to do it. You just don’t want to, or feel capable of doing it, or simply don’t know how to go about it.

Try these ways of beating procrastination

Ask for help: If you find you don’t have the resources to do the chore you’re facing, ask someone who might – a colleague, a friend or an expert. You’d be surprised at how much you can learn just by asking. If you don’t understand the task, this is the only way to make sure you are using your time and energy effectively. Nothing is worse than thinking you’ve finished an item on your To Do list, only to realize that you got the instructions wrong and have to start over.

Get organized: Set up a To Do list. Break your larger tasks into smaller goals that you can accomplish in a day or an hour. You will feel better ticking off these smaller items from your list and, in the meantime, understand the larger project better by forcing yourself to think of the process for completing it. One caveat: don’t spend more than an hour organizing yourself every day as this activity of ‘organizing’ can itself become a delay tactic. After you’ve implemented your organizational system, you should be able to whittle down the time you spend ‘organizing yourself’ every day into a few minutes.

Get a push: Friends and colleagues are there to help you. If you find yourself putting off a task that needs to be done, set yourself a reminder system. Automatic it into your calendar or smartphone. Find someone else to remind you a few days ahead of time. Ask them not to take “no” for an answer. You know yourself best. Anticipate your excuses and give them to your friend or colleague so that they can tell you, in all honesty, “you said you’d use that excuse…just do it already!”.

Reward yourself: I know myself and I know that I am susceptible to bribery J. Give yourself a reward for accomplishing a task you want to put off. Buy yourself a chocolate bar. Set aside some quiet time to read for pleasure or soak in a warm bath. You can even try paying yourself. Five bucks per completed task, tucked away in a shoebox, can equal a nice pair of shoes at the end of the year.

Some of these strategies may work for you and some will not. For me, To Do lists and calendar alarms are my best friends. The only way you will know what works for you is if you try it out for yourself.

Good luck!

Photo courtesy of graur razvan ionut at

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