I’ve been meaning to write this article for a while, but I just haven’t gotten around to it. Something else always comes up, or like the proverbial squirrel I see that shiny object. Like many people, I tend to procrastinate. Even if I know something needs to be done, I seem to be a master at finding an excuse–I mean a reason–to do something else. Sound familiar? If so, you are definitely not alone. Many people procrastinate, and for a variety of reasons. However, there are ways to overcome procrastination and become more effective at managing your time. But before we get to that, it might be helpful to understand some of the major causes of procrastination.
Oddly enough, boredom is one of the major reasons for procrastination. We all have certain repetitive, boring tasks that most of us can do on autopilot. But let’s face it, they’re dull. Whether it is at work or at home, these tasks are neither stimulating nor fulfilling. They have to get done, but we just don’t like to do them.
On the opposite end of the spectrum are those tasks that are huge and overwhelming. These are projects that can challenge us and make us question whether we can even accomplish them. Many of us have been guilty of putting off detailed reports at work, waiting until the very last-minute to hit the keyboard. Or perhaps we want to get in shape but just aren’t sure where to start, so we stay on the couch.
And finally, sometimes we put things off because we know the outcome won’t be perfect. For the perfectionists in the room, this will make perfect sense. We want everything to be just right but the reality is that something won’t meet our expectations. Maybe that report won’t be as clear and detailed as we wanted it to be. Or our goal weight won’t make us as thin and healthy as we hoped. And while the dangers of perfectionism are worthy of a separate discussion, suffice to say that the need for perfection is one of the greatest causes of inaction in today’s society.
So what can you do if you find yourself constantly procrastinating but want to become a better manager of your own time? Here is a two-pronged strategy you can use to conquer procrastination and boost your own sense of accomplishment.
Schedule It–One of the best ways to overcome inaction is to set a time in your daily calendar to work on the projects you have been putting off. But here’s the part that makes this work–only allot certain amount of time each day for this exercise, and be certain it is the same time each day. For example, if you want to write but keep putting it off, choose one block of time each day to sit down and open up the laptop. And here is the other part–it doesn’t have to be a lot of time. Start with fifteen minutes, and then work up to thirty minutes after a week or so. The key here is to do what works for you and be consistent.
You will be creating patterns, and those patterns will become habits. Let’s say you want to get into shape. Choose the best time for you, and then put that in your schedule. For some people it is before work. Other people can’t stand the thought of getting up early to sweat, so maybe exercising after dinner is best. Also, let go of judgement. Maybe you want to do fifty sit ups every night during that time, but some nights you can only do twenty. That’s okay. Rather than use that as an excuse to stop exercising altogether, simply accept that twenty is what you can do that day. Choose another exercise, or just watch the clock until your time is over, but don’t quit that time commitment. Some days you may do less, but some days you will do more. What you are really doing is setting that habit, and that is what will make your successful at your goal.
Rule of Three–When your to-do list has you completely overwhelmed, try the Rule of Three strategy. As we all know, the best way to tackle a complex problem is to take it apart and work on it bit by bit, With the Rule of Three, choose to do three things each day to overcome your procrastination and move your project forward. For instance, cleaning the house might seem like a monumental task when you think of all that has to be done. So, choose three things–cleaning off one counter, dusting one room, or cleaning all the sinks. Break all the tasks down, and then focus on three during your scheduled time. When you approach a large or long term project like this, you can break off bits and pieces until you reach your goal–without giving in to the overwhelm and giving up.
If you are a self-proclaimed master at procrastination, give this strategy a try. No matter why you have been putting things off, this strategy will help you create new habits for effectively managing your time. You will end each day with a strong sense of satisfaction instead of worrying about what needs doing tomorrow.