Whether you are a perfectionist, putting off your important tasks for fear of a sub-par performance, or delaying a dull work task, procrastination is a common pest that affects many of us. There are some individuals, however, who seem impervious to its pull. Here are 5 tips to stop procrastination based on the habits of highly productive individuals.
1) Prioritize and Make Lists: we often put things off because our goals are unclear, and thus, overwhelming. A good way to eliminate this stressful ambiguity is to jot down everything you need to do. If it is one sole task, break it down into smaller steps and write those out. Once you’ve gotten everything down on paper, rearrange them in order of priority by putting the most important (and likely most dreaded task first). Completing the most difficult stuff first will ensure your energy and attention is properly allocated, and set the pace for a productive day.
2) Establish Accountability: when we state our goals to an outside party, we both solidify them, and create what is known as accountability. This often enhances our motivation to get our work done as it makes us feel as though there is another party involved, and thus encourages us to complete our tasks and appear competent in front of our peers, colleagues, or what have you. This may seem superficial, but is actually an excellent way to foster responsibility.
3) Change Your Environment: if you’re trying to crank out the first chapter of a book you’ve been meaning to write, you probably won’t be successful if you’re doing it in your easy chair with a cup of hot coco. You will get the most work done in a neutral environment that doesn’t elicit leisurely thoughts.
4) Only Reward Positive Behavior: one of the reasons it is so difficult to stop procrastinating is because it is often a very rewarding trap. We put off the things we don’t want to do, and often replace them with highly pleasurable activities such as watching television, engaging in hobbies, socializing, or even snacking. This teaches our brain that “putting off task = reward.” And that is a very tough one to unlearn. If you’re putting something off, try instead to sit in silence and meditate, for example, until you accomplish one of your tasks. Once you have, then you can engage in something pleasant as a reward.
5) Just Do it: Nike says it best. What it all really boils down to, is being able to eliminate deviating tasks and just sit down to do the work. Get to your most important tasks done first thing in the morning, before getting your second coffee, having a bathroom break, doing your makeup, or passing by Janet’s office for a chat. Do it right off the bat, and you’ll feel that sense of pride and accomplishment that will only propel further success.