Want to get more done in a workday? Wish you weren’t always scrambling to meet deadlines at the very last minute?
Procrastination is a hard habit to break, but with a few tips and tricks, it can be done!
If you’re ready to stop putting things off, keep reading. Here’s our seven-step guide to eliminating procrastination from your life.
1. Recognise That You’re a Procrastinator
The first step in solving a problem is to recognise (and admit) that you have one.
Here’s how to know if you’re a procrastinator:
You fill your days with small, meaningless tasks as a way to avoid the big tasks and the most important projects.
You read (then re-read) emails before sending a response. This is fine to do with urgent emails from your boss, but you do this with every meaningless message that comes your way.
You rarely look at the bigger picture. Instead, you tend to focus only on the immediate short-term task in front of you rather than thinking of your long-term goals.
You convince yourself that you work better under pressure. That way, you have an excuse to delay working on important projects until the last minute.
Sound familiar? You just might be a procrastinator!
Before you can make a change, you’ll need to identify all of the little ways in which you put things off to a later date.
2. Start Making To-Do Lists
One great way to stop procrastinating is to make a to-do list and set deadlines for every single task that needs to be done.
Once you’ve made your list, prioritise it in order of importance. Then, detail everything you have to do to accomplish each goal on that list.
If need be, break one task down into a dozen smaller tasks. That just might be the motivation you need to start getting things done.
3. Break Big Goals Into Little Ones
Breaking big goals into mini-goals is a great way to stop procrastinating.
There's a simple reason why:
It's almost always less overwhelming to tackle one small piece of a project than the entire project.
Break each project on your to-do list down into multiple parts. As you finish each small task, you’ll start to feel a sense of accomplishment. You'll be able to take comfort in the fact that you're well on your way to finishing that big project.
As you create your list of mini-goals, set deadlines and time limits for each one. It can be helpful to use a time-tracker app to assess what tasks you’re spending the most time on and discover where you’re wasting time throughout the day.
4. Eliminate Distractions
Do you work from home with a dog that's always barking in the background? Do you work in a crowded office with tons of chatter and activity? Whatever your situation, distractions are almost impossible to avoid.
But there is a way to keep them at bay:
First, identify what those distractions are. Is it the phone ringing? Is it your text or email notifications? Is it a certain coworker who constantly walks in and out of your office?
Identify those distractions and then learn how to block them. The more you can avoid them, the easier it will be to focus on the task at hand.
If you work from home, you may need to turn off the TV. If you live with roommates in an apartment or dorm, find a quiet space to study or work where no one will bother you. If it’s your coworkers that are bothering you, close your office door or hang a “Do Not Disturb” sign outside your cubicle.
You can’t expect distractions to go away on their own. You need to be proactive in eliminating them.
5. Create a Plan of Attack
Some people find it easier to tackle the hardest tasks first. Others prefer to get all of the easy stuff out of the way before focusing on the difficult projects. Figure out which method works for you and create a definitive plan of attack on your to-do list.
Many procrastinators find it helpful to tackle small, easy projects first. If that’s how you feel, start by doing tasks that take a few minutes or less. That way, you can cross a bunch of things off your to-do list within as little as an hour.
The shorter your to-do list, the less overwhelmed you’ll feel, and the easier it will be to move onto those bigger items.
6. Stop Trying to Be Perfect
Do you procrastinate because you’re waiting for the perfect time to do something? Are you late with certain tasks because you do things over and over to make them perfect?
Stop trying to be a perfectionist. You may never be in the ideal frame of mind to address a particular issue or complete a task. So, stop waiting for that “perfect moment” to roll around. It may never come, and you’ll only waste your time.
Instead, recognise that it’s okay to have shortcomings. It’s even okay to fail. In most cases, it’s better to get something done than to not do it at all because you can’t make it perfect.
7. Reward Yourself
It’s human nature to want to reward yourself when you’ve completed a big project, and you should!
When you finish an important item on your to-do list, reward yourself. Enjoy a snack, a cup of coffee, a five-minute break, or whatever else will motivate you to want to get back to work.
Now, we’re not suggesting that you reward yourself with a half-hour break after doing a ten-minute task. That is NOT the way to approach this. But we do recommend enjoying a few little perks and rewards throughout the day as you accomplish what needs to get done.
Procrastination is a bad habit, but it’s fixable if you know how. If you’re ready to stop procrastinating once and for all, here’s what to do:
- Identify how you procrastinate.
- Make a to-do list.
- Break big goals into little tasks.
- Eliminate distractions.
- Create a plan of attack.
- Forget about perfectionism.
- Reward yourself for a job well done.
With these tips in mind, you should be able to make your procrastinating ways a thing of the past!
Caitlin Sinclair is the Property Manager at Jefferson Platinum Triangle, a luxury apartment community in Anaheim, CA.