In politics, there is the strategy of “deny, deny, deny” when you get in trouble. Many times, the more overwhelmed I get, I start to “delay, delay, delay”.
I am a world-class procrastinator. I can put things off and delay up until the very last minute. But…when it’s crunch time, I can always deliver.
I think that’s part of my problem. I don’t realize some of the negative effects of procrastination, because I do meet deadlines and deliver quality under pressure. I consider myself a “productive procrastinator”.
So it’s early Monday morning as I write this article. But I’m writing it now, only because I received an email this past weekend as a reminder. (So naturally I’d write about procrastination.)
You can train yourself to beat procrastination. Everybody is a little different. Here are a few ideas that have worked me:
1. Morning ritual
When I’m functioning my best, I am usually very consistent with my morning routine. I’m getting up at the same time everyday, listening to a good book, working out, and eating well. Find a consistent routine and stick with it.
2. Clear your work area
When I get overwhelmed, I procrastinate. And messy or cluttered surroundings tend to give me a sense of overwhelm. I can always tell, the messier my desk, the more I procrastinate and the less productive I get.
3. Have a clear plan
Without a plan, you don’t have direction. You can waste tons of time just fiddling with your schedule or trying to figure out where to start. Have a clear plan on the three big tasks for the day (everyday).
4. Eliminate distractions
Shut off email notifications and silence your phone so you don’t hear new texts coming in or the phone ringing. Close your door and get busy.
5. Beat the clock
Set a timer. A Pomodoro is 25 minutes but set the clock for just 10 minutes and try to complete a task. Gamify your project. Once you get started the 10 minutes will turn into more.
6. Get some fresh air
Get outside, walk, take some deep breaths. Breaking up the routine may give you a kick start.
7. Get some help
Team up with someone. Not only may they be able to help with the workload or creativity, but they will hold you accountable.
8. Prepare in advance
Have the necessary materials and information gathered in advance. Before it’s time to actually do the task, do all the preparation work. That way, when the time comes, you are ready to go and don’t find yourself distracted.
9. Break it down
If it’s a bigger project, bite off tiny pieces of it. Do these bite size tasks every day.
10. No TV
I like to work with noise in the background, usually a TV in my office. It may have a DVR show, the news, or CNBC on the screen. But when I’m having trouble, I must shut off the TV.
11. Power nap
The benefits of napping are clearly documented. Seems very counter-productive but a quick power nap in the afternoon and help you finish strong.
12. Feel the beat
Crank up the music for a few minutes. Your favorite music can change your mood and energy level. And play it loud! (co-workers would appreciate the use of headphones)
13. Take a drink
Coffee is the standard go-to. But try some tea too. And, for me, I love a good Red Bull every now and then.
14. Eat something
It doesn’t have to be much. Something as simple as chewing gum or a piece of hard candy can do the trick. I like an apple, banana or crackers.
15. Just do it
Easier said than done. But sometimes you just have to suck it up and JUST DO IT!
16. What’s the downside
If you fail to deliver, what are the consequences? Some are motivated by the fear of failure. Will procrastination have negative financial impact? Or will your personal reputation or credibility suffer? Usually the answer is “Yes”.
17. Reward yourself
Lastly, give yourself a big fat prize for overcoming the procrastination. I won’t give myself a new set of golf clubs for delivering this article, but I will turn on the TV and watch a DVR’d show.
There you have 17 ways to beat the procrastination habit. Are they foolproof? Not hardly, but they certainly help me. Procrastination is part of me and something I find even the most productive people struggle with. But look, I just delivered my article on time and feel great about the rest of my day. Good luck.