It’s the day before your monthly business review presentation; you are frantically struggling to finish it; something which was scheduled, but you started late on it.
Right now, you hate yourself for spending the week on low-priority activities such as checking social media, chatting with colleagues when this high-priority deadline was looming ahead of you.
Procrastination is delaying a seemingly unpleasant, monotonous, or challenging assignment that’s due immediately in favour of something that’s simple or enjoyable.
When we procrastinate, we while away time in full awareness of the timeline, then stress about finishing it at the last minute, wishing we’d started earlier!
So, how do we stop procrastinating?
Here are steps you can adopt to deal with this issue for better productivity:
1. Break down the task into small chunks
A task seems overwhelming when you view it as a large project; once you break it down into smaller tasks, you can work through it by taking one thing at a time. Take the example of the presentation, creating one can be thought of in the following manner:
- Conduct a research
- Capture the main points
- Work on one slide at a time
- Review and add the final touches
2. Make a to-do list
Create a list of your daily, weekly, and monthly tasks, along with the time required for each item. Writing down activities (on paper/phone) is the key to figuring how to complete them.
Within this list – prioritize what’s critical and to be done right away, things that can be done later, items that can be delegated, and jobs that are not needed and can be removed.
Something you find repetitive, like say generating invoices, entering data, etc. is easy to put off, but when you remind yourself of the long-term consequences, you may discover solutions to tackle it by assigning to someone else or setting a fixed time in the day to wrap-up the presumably boring exercise.
I’ve always found a to-do list a useful tool that brings focus and clarity in your working practice while recognizing/eliminating the time-wasters, and I swear by it for managing time effectively.
3. Identify a time when you’re most energetic
Be aware of what part of the day you are the most efficient; pick that time to do your most important and challenging activity.
If you’re not a morning person like me, start with checking on your e-mails or finishing up a meeting before getting cracking on that high-priority item.
“The greatest amount of wasted time is the time not getting started.” Dawson Trotman
4. Minimize distractions
Keep yourself away from things that don’t allow you to concentrate – phone calls, e-mails/social media notifications, intruding colleagues, and so on. If you are operating from home – find a space where you can function with minimum disturbances.
5. Aim for completion than perfection
Even organized individuals may procrastinate due to the fear of failing at an assignment. The aim of perfecting something or having doubts about one’s own ability may lead you to prolong an activity until it’s too late. This pursuit for perfection is delusional, keeping you from achieving anything substantial.
Creating that ideal concept note and thinking of the right time to do it has made me postpone the very act of initiating to write at times. Just beginning the job while imagining the joy of finally being able to pull it off is all one needs to set aside apprehensions and reservations. You can’t fix it if you haven’t even started, can you?!
6. Self-motivate yourself
Give yourself a pep-talk to purposefully keep moving towards your goal. Remind yourself about past accomplishments in similar situations, use positive affirmations like “you can do this!”, “you are the best!” to encourage self for target completion.
Promise yourself a reward for completing a crucial project within the timeline – a sumptuous meal, watching a much-awaited movie, something motivating to get you through this tough phase.
7. Garner support to spur you into action!
Discuss your projects with colleagues and friends who can either help out or keep you on track by continuously checking on your progress. It’s not always easy to do things alone, so it’s a good idea to be prodded into action when your deadline is fast approaching.
Remember, everyone procrastinates once in a while – what’s important is to identify the reason, take proactive steps to avoid it from happening, and ultimately get going on that task at hand!