Though control is an illusion, conquering procrastination allows us to gain a sense of control over our days. While we may not be in control of outcomes, we can control a few moments of the day when we push through our to-do list.
Often the dread of a task uses more time and energy than the task itself. Here are 20 tips to help you avoid procrastination:
- Do the job you dread the most first.
- Concentrate on one task at a time.
- If it takes longer to write the task on a to-do list, then go ahead and do it.
- Select one task to do that you have been avoiding and Just. Do. It. Then celebrate the win.
- If you are avoiding the job because you hate one aspect of the job, tackle that part first.
- If you are avoiding the job because it takes too long to gather the component parts, set up a designated area. For example, you don’t mind sending handwritten notes, but you hate the inefficiency it takes to gather the supplies. Create a correspondence station at your desk with personalized note cards, return address labels, and stamps.
- Often, we procrastinate because we imagine the job will take longer than it actually does. Keep track of how long you work on the project, so next time you will know what to expect.
- Use a timer for uninterrupted work. Use the Pomodoro app for 25-minute stretches or your mobile device to set your own pace.
- Replace your excuses with positive self-talk about the rewards of completing the task.
- Build your muscle of discipline as you build your physical muscles. If you would hire a coach, join a gym, set a workout schedule, and calendar time for the gym, then consider hiring a productivity coach, commit your goals to paper, set small daily goals, and celebrate wins as they occur.
- It can be emotionally draining to have undone tasks hanging over you. To enhance your mental health, tackle your to-do list
- Rather than add an item to your to-do list, say no to a request to do something that is not necessary or does not move your goals forward.
- Don’t allow perfectionism to prevent you from moving forward. Sometimes good enough is good enough.
- Don’t allow the fear of making the wrong decision paralyze you. As Yoda says, “Do or do not. There is no try.”
- According to author, Barbara Kingsolver, “There is no perfect time to write. There’s only now.” This works for writing, but also for other projects that are stuck on your list.
- Prioritize. You can’t do it all. You can’t read it all. You can’t learn it all.
- Set your priorities for the day at the end of the prior day or before you start each day’s work. Then, on a sticky note or small note pad, list 3 things that must get done today. Not too many, not too few, find the number that works for you based on real priorities.
- Use your high-productivity hours for top-priority projects.
- Do not start the day with email. Take a quick scan if necessary, to make sure there are no true emergencies, then close email down. Managing email is not the same as getting work done. Schedule time in your day to work on email and honor a time limit.
- Do not overschedule your day. Leave time for creative work or unexpected emergencies.
Marion Wright Edelman, the first African American woman admitted to the Mississippi Bar (in 1965), spent a lifetime providing a voice for poor children, children of color, and children with disabilities. I would imagine she knew a little something about an overloaded to-do list. I’ll leave you with her words for breaking through procrastination:
“Lord, help me to sort out what I should do first, second and third today and to not try to do everything at once and nothing well. Give me the wisdom to delegate what I can and to order the things I can’t delegate, to say no when I need to, and the sense to know when to go home.”