Is Procrastination Undermining Your Future? 5 Easy Steps to Break the Habit.
It’s April already! How did that happen while I wasn’t paying attention? First quarter of the year gone, a good time to take stock of how you’re tracking, did those New Year’s resolutions make a difference in your life? How many did you drop by the wayside? Were they too hard? Did you get side-tracked? Just being lazy? Or are you procrastinating……..
Procrastination is a normal human condition. Everybody does it! No problem at all, it’s our built-in survival mechanism…..very helpful unless it stops you from moving forward.
I’ve been there, and in certain areas I am still there! The most important thing to realise is what effect this might be having on your life, not just today, but how is it going to affect your future?
Analysing what’s causing the problem is your first step to solving it and then to take the necessary steps to start addressing it. The root cause behind procrastination is the key to it, in some cases it might be an undefined feeling of unease, fear even, or it could be a side effect of perfectionism.
You know how that scenario plays out right? You say to yourself: “I’ll do this as soon as I get it right” – when ‘right’ is actually achieved is a vague concept, one where the goal posts can be shifted indefinitely!
High expectations are so easy to set, you see the best examples from very experienced people all around you online and a quiet little voice inside your head says “what’s the point, I can’t be that good” so; you don’t try, you find other things to do, anything at all, but you avoid what you know you should be working on.
Or you get things going to a point where you can start showing your work to potential customers, but you don’t take that final step, again a fear of rejection kicks in stopping you dead in your tracks! This has got to stop, but some of these avoidance techniques have become habits and they can be hard to break!
Here is my 5 step program to get yourself back on track:
1. List what needs doing
Take some quiet time when you know you won’t be disturbed, to analyze what needs doing. This should be ‘Big Picture’ thinking, don’t worry about details. Write down everything you can come up with.
This can be just an old fashioned pen & paper ‘to do’ list.
Start your list brain-dumping everything you can think of and then during the course of the day, if more comes up, write that down as well. Don’t worry about duplication, don’t edit, don’t think about what it will take, money, effort or time, or even if you are capable of doing it, just get it out of your head and onto the paper, we’ll deal with all the other stuff later.
Next set aside some more time and divide the list into groups of things that belong together, things you need to do for the family or around the house, computer and technical jobs, promotion & marketing tasks etc. When you see your own list this will make more sense, you will see how certain things relate. Set these out onto their own sub-list.
I like to do this on my iPad, using an organising app called Trello.
It allows me to see at a glance what needs doing, separated by subject.
2. Chunk it Down!
Now it’s time to break down your tasks into manageable chunks.
A very large goal is too daunting to tackle, but broken up into smaller tasks it’s easy to get into, you can celebrate your progress and before you know it you’re done! Baby-steps!
3. Work out a Time Frame
Work out how long each task will take, estimate if you’re not sure. Write these times next to the task. This step alone has been a great help to me. When I run short of time and only have 15 minutes to do something I can quickly check my list and do the things that don’t require too much time, or prepare for something I can do later.
It has been proven in scientific research that people do their best work in 15-20 minute blocks. This varies for everyone, I like 15 minute blocks, other may prefer to work a little longer. Work out what’s best for you, even 10 minute blocks will work.
– Set a timer when you start work
– When it goes off it’s time to stretch, do something else for a few minutes, or go for a short walk if you sit a lot. 5 minute breaks work well.
– Then get back to work, reset your timer, then stop again after it goes off.
You’ll be surprised how much you can get done in 10-20 minutes, it’s often only about getting started, once you do you’ll get into the flow and want to keep going.
4. When is your personal best time?
Work out when your best working time is, for me it’s the early morning, I keep the phone turned off, no email or social media allowed and everyone is still asleep so I know I can work in peace. My husband is the opposite, he thinks best at night and prefers to work when everything is quiet. Identify your best time, take your family into consideration, pick a time when you are most likely to be able to stick to your task.
Set your start, and finish times and make sure people around you know about this, respect your space and agree to wait until you’re done before they interrupt.
Of course you must also switch off all other distractions, phone, TV, email, Facebook, nothing else allowed but the job at hand for the next 10-20 minutes. Even if you get nothing else done, this work will add up and in the space of a month you’ll find your sad old list getting smaller, long neglected tasks done and you’ll experience an emotional peace that comes when you stop fooling yourself and are moving forward.
5. Set a deadline for your project
Setting a time-line with a definite end point, not some vague ‘one day’ goal. make it as accurate as you can based on the timings you’ve allowed for each task. Self imposed deadlines need to be adhered to!!! If you are your own boss you need to do this yourself, or if you have a supportive partner or a good friend, enlist them to encourage you AND hold you accountable!
A Few Things To Watch Out For!
Old habits die hard, they will rear their ugly head when they get a chance and try and drag you down the rabbit hole once more, you get side-tracked, and off course again. Make sure you have identified what your best procrastination tactic is; Facebook? Research? Learning new stuff? Cleaning the kitchen? Playing a Game? It is easy to do ‘busy-work’, looks great, you’re so busy….. but it ain’t getting you nowhere baby!One More Thing……
Don’t fall into the trap of high expectations again, keep it in perspective, small steps will add up over time and become an unstoppable force. Lowering your expectations will make it easier to get started and to keep going even when you’re not as motivated, think of it as an easy walk, not a huge mountain to climb!
That’s it, I hope this gives you something to think about, no….. to do something about:) Time to get cracking! What are you waiting for??? Chop, chop!! Get a wriggle on!!