At times, procrastination helps us gain clarity by providing time for ruminating or marinating our options; yet, if procrastination continues for too long, it prevents getting things done, achieving desired results and attaining set goals, none of which are good.
Stop procrastinating! Use these options to get the ball rolling:
- Break projects into smaller, bite-sized actions. No entire project can be completed at one time; instead, when them down into tasks that can be completed step-by-step, checking each item off, one by one, from a daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly or annual to-do list. When creating this list, start each item with a verb, and make sure it is broken down into the smallest increment of what is to be done so it's more feasible.
- Gain clarity on anything that is confusing or unclear. Vague priorities, unclear directions, lack of knowing how to do something and being unfamiliar with the order in which to move through the steps necessary for getting tasks done are all problematic. Ask questions to better understand the objective, your team's priorities and how to accomplish each step necessary; if you don't know how to do something, ask someone who does know it for assistance. Never be afraid to ask those questions, realizing that the result to not asking is far worse than any answer you could receive.
- Set deadlines for each specific task. I have yet to find a calendar that includes "someday"; therefore, when we say "I'll get to that someday" or "I'll work on that when I get some free time", we are usually setting ourselves up for failure. Instead, assign deadlines for each of the smaller, bite-sized actions within the projects to be completed, making it possible to block off time on your calendar for when each task will be completed. Every "what" assigned a "when" is more likely to get accomplished, leading to more wins.
- Maintain accountability for designated deadlines. Some people respond better to a reward being held in front of them for completing a necessary task; other folks respond better to avoiding punishment or embarrassment from not completing assigned tasks. Once you know what motivates you, use that self-awareness to drive your desired behavior and encourage your greater focus on achieving desired results. Make it fun, utilizing gamification when possible, and make what best motivates you a tool for accomplishing what must be done.
- Quiet any perfectionist tendencies. One of my favorite mantras reminds me that, "Done can be better than perfect so focus on good enough." Perfectionism is frequently the cause of procrastination; subsequently, focusing on the desired results can empower us to get past waiting for "the right time"and get us to stop continuing our work on projects for perpetuity in the effort of achieving perfection. Stop comparing yourself with others; achieving your desired results usually has little to do with how the finished product compares with what others do or have done. Instead, focus on getting things done to the best of your ability, not necessarily in a perfect way.
- Utilize a timer. Working in a focused manner for a short stretch can boost both efficiency and total output... Anyone can do an undesirable action for a short spurt, and it's amazing how much more can get done in that shorter amount of time than if you think you have longer to finish. If you think you have all afternoon to do something, it will likely take that full amount of time; however, if you set a timer for a shorter timeframe, you'd be amazed how much you can get done in that block of time. Likewise, if you are a competitive person, try getting more done within a set amount of time than you expect you can or have done in previous instances. Most importantly, when the timer goes off, you may find that you are engrossed in the task and will keep at it, getting even more accomplished.
- Minimize interruptions. It can take 23 minutes to recover from a distraction, which means productivity suffers each time we get distracted. Deactivate social media notifications, and schedule specific times to check those sites for what's happening. Send phone calls to voice mail while working diligently on a task that's coming due, catching up on calls at set times during your day. Turn off previews of new emails, scheduling when you will look at your inbox instead of letting your inbox bleed into all that you're doing. Remove visual clutter from your workspace, wear headphones to signal when you are not to be disturbed, and fill the chairs in your office to prevent those stopping by from making themselves at home.
- Implement music's motivating abilities. Some people are energized by fast-paced music while others get more focused through smoother tunes, both leading to greater productivity. Pick enough tunes in the tone you prefer to fill a set block of time, group them together as your productivity playlist and, then, use that playlist to motivate desired output.
- Put color to work within your space. A study published by Frontiers in Human Neuroscience found that red increases attentiveness; a separate study by the University of British Columbia shares how blue boosts creativity. Whether via color in your desk accessories, on your walls, in what you wear or through what you eat, bring into your workspace what color fuels the actions you hope to be taking.
- Spend more time with folks who get things done. For years, I've heard that you become like the people with whom you spend time. If you prioritize spending time with people in your life who are considered hard workers or go-getters, their energy will rub off on you and motivate similar productivity in yourself. As activity breeds activity, time with productive peers can insight greater productivity within ourselves when we spend time with those getting more accomplished.
Which tactics do you prefer for limiting procrastination? Are there any on this list you'll try when stuck next?