THAT OLD BUGABOO, PROCRASTINATION

 

 

 

 

Who has never procrastinated? It’s not always a bad thing, but most often, it is. Here are some ideas on how to cope:

PROCRASTINATION CAUSES AND TIPS FOR OVERCOMING:

  • Overwhelm (break the task down into small parts)
  • Task is unpleasant (hold your nose and get it done—probably best to tackle the whole thing at one time, if you can)
  • Space is too disorganized (take 15 minutes a day to deal with it)
  • Perfectionism (learn to tell yourself “good enough” when something is good enough. Being perfect is impossible)
  • Difficulty making decisions (not making a decision is a decision to keep the status quo. Is that what you really want?)

HABITS TO OVERCOME PROCRASTINATION:

  • Do your most important task first every day when your resistance is lowest. Later, it has built up because you keep thinking about it and putting it off.
  • Check in with a friend on progress (perhaps you both have a similar problem; discuss what you’ve accomplished or not)

MAKE A PLAN:

  • Use the five-minute rule. Tell yourself you’ll only work for five minutes on whatever-it-is. You can do five minutes! Usually that will be enough to make you continue
  • Schedule your day, daily
  • Try to stick to your plan as much as possible, but don’t beat yourself up if you don’t get to everything every day
  • If you work at home, tell your family what your plan is and ask them to help you make it work
  • Learn how to get rid of distractions (that would be another post, but examples are to turn off electronic devices, close your browser, and shut the door to your office, if you have one

Here’s an example of my own plan:

DAY OF WEEK TIME OF DAY ACTIION AMOUNT OF TIME
Monday 8:45 Exercise 10 min.
9 am Current writing project 1 hour
10:30 Exercise 10 min
1:30 Marketing 1 hour
300 Exercise 10 min.
3:15 Housework 30 min
4:00 Marketing/social media 1 hour
7:00 Short story brainstorm 1 hour
8:30 Marketing 1 hour
Tuesday 8:45 Exercise 10 min.
9 am Current writing project 1 hour
10:30 Exercise 10 min
1:30 Marketing 1 hour
3:00 Exercise 10 min.
3:15 Housework 30 min
4:00 Marketing/social media 1 hour
7:00 Short story brainstorm 1 hour
8:30 Marketing 1 hour
Wednesday 8:45 Exercise 10 min.
9 am Current writing project 1 hour
10:30 Exercise 10 min.
1:30 Marketing 1 hour

Sorry about the wonky chart formatting. Can’t get rid of it, so it’s the best I can do. I think it’s good enough!
For more in-depth ideas, check out Dr. Patrick Keelan

Use action plans to achieve your resolutions in the New Year…and at any other time

And there’s Lifehack:

http://www.lifehack.org/articles/productivity/29-ways-to-beat-procrastination-once-and-for-all.html

Procrastination is a problem for most of us at one time or another. Learn the reasons for yours and how best to deal with it. Good luck!

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ANOTHER WAY TO SORT YOUR TASKS

A, B, C is often suggested as a way to sort your to-do list. Simple. Top priority are A’s, would-be-nice-to-do are B’s and C’s are hardly necessary to do at all.

 

But how to make the decisions? Would word classifications help you more? How about A being Reach (for long-term goals or goals that will give you the most return), B being Standing Still (for tasks that you need to do to keep yourself and your environment up to snuff), and C being for Forget It (unless you use those tasks to procrastinate, and they make you feel good).

Can you come up with some other words to use that will help you understand what role doing your to-dos has in your personal growth and achievement?

OVERWHELMED AND PROCRASTINATING?

The feeling of being overwhelmed is often the cause of procrastination. It definitely is for me. Feeling as if I simply cannot get the job done is the main cause, maybe the only cause, of my procrastination, because I get lots done. But I’m often berating myself for leaving some things, always the same things, undone.

One example is email. And I’m getting a handle on it now by slicing and dicing it into manageable chunks. You can use this system for most things, so let’s go step by step with what I’ve been up to.

First, you have to know how to use your tools. In this case, your email program. I know mine pretty well by now—I’ve been using Eudora since the last century. One of the most important things I know is how to make mailboxes. Other programs might call them folders. This is where you can put emails by group, just as you file papers. Next, you need to know how to filter messages. I do that for some friends, family, lists/groups and certain businesses. In Eudora, the mailbox name gets bolded when there’s anything unread in there, so I always know where I have new mail.

Now my inbox looks a lot less full (overwhelming), thus a lot more manageable. So, when I check mail, I first go through my inbox and delete every piece of spam I get. If any stray messages are in there, I slide them over into the correct mailbox. Now I have the email I really should attend to right away in front of me. The others can be read and answered, if needed, in their own time.

I also don’t answer every email right away. If I do, many people will then answer me right back, and I could spend all day with seven or eight emails, reading, then answering. If not urgent, wait at least a few days, a week or ten days may be better to answer friends’ emails. Back in the old days, people didn’t get those instant responses, and we’re probably even more busy now. Check the date every morning, and anything older than the week or ten days you’ve set for yourself is the one that needs to be answered right away.

How can we apply this process to other to-dos that overwhelm us? Cut them down to size, into pieces. I do this with housework. I do a couple of things every day. One day it might be laundry and ironing. Another day it’s cleaning the kitchen and bathrooms. One day I vacuum and dry mop, etc. Getting too much regular mail, as well as email? Spend fifteen minutes a day with it after dinner, handling it as quickly as you can. Throw away the junk, unread. File things right away that need filing and pay bills. Make a pile for reading, take it with you to your chair to read during commercials or in other stray moments. Planning for a party or big event? Do one chore a day, making a plan in advance so you know how many days you’ll need, adding a couple for a cushion.

This system defeats boredom and makes you feel in control. It changes what you say to yourself about what you need to do. Instead of, “I need to clean the whole house today,” you say, “I only need to dust and vacuum today.” Instead of saying, “I need to straighten out my closet today,” say, “I’ll work for half an hour on straightening out my closet, then quit for the day, and do the same tomorrow.” And so on. Try it, and let me know how it works for you.

DOING THE HARDEST THING

Most of us have things that we just don’t like to do for one reason or another. Depending on what those things are, we can blow them off most of the time (is it absolutely necessary for you to write a holiday newsletter every year?) or we absolutely have to do them (sorry, the kitchen has to be cleaned on a regular basis).

And it may be that you can blow it off, but you’re really rather do whatever-it-is because it will move your most-favored goals forward. Your most-favored goals are those that you have at the top of your goal list. You have a goal list, right? And you have put it in order of priority. If not, stop a few minutes and do that, now.

What has been proven the best way to move your most-favored goals ahead? Do whatever-it-is first. At the start of your day. Your resistance is lower then, but your motivation is highest. This is when you have the most optimism for getting things done. And once you do this a few times, you’ll realize that it makes the rest of your day so much better. You can pat yourself on the back for getting that chore out of the way and over with.

This is a particularly important thing to do when it involves your most important goals in life. That’s why so many people who exercise regularly (even those who don’t particularly enjoy exercising) do it first thing in the morning. This is why so many creative people get up before the rest of their family to create their art. This is how the best businesspeople get the best results. And this is how many great housekeepers keep the house spotless—tackle that dirty oven or cluttered, needs-cleaning refrigerator first thing.

Try it for three weeks (the time it usually takes to form a new habit) and see if it works for you.

DO IT NOW OR PUT IT OFF?

Two great ideas which are easy to remember when joined together–

The first is about doing something you know you should do, need to do, or sort of want to do, but keep putting off. Tell yourself to do it now. Tell yourself  you will only spend 10 or 15 minutes (your choice) doing it. Then you’ll stop and do 10-15 minutes again tomorrow, if you’re not finished in that timeframe, and other tomorrows until it’s all done. This works for a lot of people, especially if you make your future self  do it at the same time every day. Often, people who try this go for more than the time they decided on, even finishing the whole project, or at least making a huge dent in it. And that can spur them on to finish it totally.

The second idea is about putting it off for later. Use this technique when you want to quit a bad habit, like eating too much, incessantly playing computer games, smoking, etc.

When the desire hits, tell yourself  you’ll do it later. If you keep putting it off until you fall asleep that night, do that for twenty-one days (the number of consecutive days researchers have found it usually takes to break a bad habit–can’t skip a day or you’ll have to start counting all over again), the habit will most likely disappear. Even if it isn’t totally gone, you may have cut way back on how often you do it.

Or here’s a thought. Combine the two. Put off the bad habit by going to work on that project for 10-15 minutes. Hopefully, the lure of the bad habit will have lessened enough by that time so you can go on to do more productive things, or just chill out knowing you’re beginning to beat two bad habits, the putting things off, and your particular unwanted behavior. Win-win!

If you try this, I’d love to know how it works for you. Comments are always welcome here!

YOUR FUTURE SELF

You may have guessed that I do a lot of reading about subjects such as personal organization, time management, procrastination, self-development, and self-help in general. Of course, most of this reading over the years has been done to help me get better at organizing my stuff, managing my time, stop procrastinating, and self-development. I’ve done so much of it, I even wrote a column for Mysterical-e about taking notes about what you’ve read and marginalia.

http://www.mystericale.com/index.php?issue=111&body=file&file=reading_column.htm

With all this reading, there are a few ideas that stand out over the rest. One of those for me was happenedI was reading up on procrastination. I don’t procrastinate about a lot of things, but I have trouble with a couple—exercising and keeping up with email are the two biggest. I shared this simple idea on a goals list I was on for a while. It struck a spark in other people too, so I’m sharing it here.

When you’re about to put something off, think of your future self. Say to yourself, <your name> will thank you later for doing <such and so>. In other words, take a moment to think about how happy you’ll be later if you do what you need to do to accomplish your goal. Then, after you’ve done it and are thankful later, thank yourself. Say to yourself, Thank you <your name.>

Simple? Yes. Effective? Try it and see.