You know that task that’s been on your to-do list for days? The one you keep avoiding?
Procrastination is the biggest hurdle to managing your time and meeting your goals, yet many of us succumb to the temptations to push tasks aside, and check our social media feeds one more time, or grab that fourth cup of coffee. The next time you feel the urge to procrastinate, try these techniques to finally get things done:
Working on something you’ve been procrastinating on for just 10 minutes can help you get the ball rolling. “A lot of times people who have been putting something off for various reasons find that 10 minutes can become an hour,” says Jan Yager, time management coach and author of Put More Time on Your Side and Work Less, Do More.
Ten minutes is typically enough to get you in a groove. Plus, if you’ve been putting something off because you fear it will be too difficult, too boring, or too tedious, once you get started, you may find the task really isn’t as bad as you imagined. Even if you stop working on it after 10 minutes, that’s still a step forward.
Sometimes we procrastinate because the task seems insurmountable, or just too much to handle at the time. If this is the case, break down the task into smaller chunks, setting deadlines for each step.
“Sometimes procrastination is really information,” says Yager. Ask yourself if you’re missing important data that you need in order to complete a project, or whether you’re unsure of the direction that you’re supposed to take. Maybe procrastination is telling you that you’re unprepared to take on the task. Are you feeling afraid of finishing the project because you’re worried about failing? Perhaps you’re suffering from low self-esteem.
“In the world of relationships, we are so much more cognizant of procrastination being information. The classic example is when someone gets cold feet before a wedding. We say oh, he or she is rethinking if this is the right step. But when it comes to work, (we don’t think this way),” says Yager.
To scare yourself into getting the task done, make a list of the consequences to you of delaying the task. Yager also recommends making a list of the positives. Writing down “If I make these cold calls, I might generate more business” can be the motivation you need to get started. If you’re the type of person who thrives on pressure, writing “If I don’t make any cold calls, I may lose out on potential opportunities, or I may lose my job,” might be enough to scare you into getting the it done.
If you recognize you’ve been putting something off, put that item at the top of your priority list and don’t do anything else (including checking emails) until you’ve made some headway on that item.
“Do part of the task, but in a different order,” explains Yager. If you have to write a report, for example, but you’re blocked on the opening paragraph, work on the ending instead until you feel ready to go back to the beginning.
“You can substitute another priority task for the one you’re procrastinating on, so long as you force yourself to go back to that other task,” says Yager. Set a period of time that you allow yourself to procrastinate, such as giving yourself 30 minutes to do something completely different, such as reading the newspaper or figuring out what movie you’re going to see on the weekend. The key, Yager explains, is to give yourself permission to avoid the task, but to make a pact with yourself to go back to the task you’re procrastinating on when that break time is up.
Telling yourself you’re going to get a reward when the task is completed can be all the motivation you need to stop procrastinating. The reward can be as small as going to Starbucks for a specialty coffee instead of the office swill or calling a loved one or leaving work early—whatever it takes to motivate you to get the job done.