No matter how brainy, ambitious and gifted you are, if you lack the willpower to get things done it’s difficult to achieve success. Before you give up on yourself, understand it’s natural to procrastinate. Everybody does it – some more than others.
To help you stop procrastinating and to get things done, we compiled a list of our favorite life hacks for slaying the procrastination monster.
1. Don’t Get Stuck in Analysis Paralysis
Don’t overthink a project or task before you get started on it. If you dwell on it, no action will be taken – hence paralysis. Planning projects is important, but if you get stuck in the planning phase before you have every unknown answered, it’s impossible to move forward. Set a time limit for project planning and just get going. Answers will become apparent and blockages will be resolved as time passes.
2. Beware of High Standards
Have you ever heard the quote by Voltaire, “Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good?” If you fall into the trap of failing to get started on a project because you have the fear that it won’t be perfect, you’ll never get moving. I always remind myself, especially in creative endeavors, that perfection is subjective. My perception of perfect is completely different than your perception of perfect. Let go of your fear and move forward. Forget perfection and focus on progress.
3. Work Against the Clock
Sometimes we procrastinate on starting a project because we think we have a long time to do it. Have you ever heard of Parkinson’s Law? Cyril Parkinson, a British historian, identified this scientific law in 1955. Essentially, it identifies that work expands to fill the time available for its completion. For example, if you give yourself a week to write an essay it will essentially take the entire week instead of a more appropriate time period, such as a few hours.
You can beat procrastination by setting a deadline for all your tasks and by determining the appropriate amount of time to complete them. Set aside the proper amount of time for your tasks at hand and stick to the schedule. Schedule these projects and tasks on your calendar or place them in a to-do list with an appropriate time limit.
4. Find Value in Your Projects or Tasks
Often times we procrastinate on tasks because we don’t believe they have any value. If your tasks aren’t aligned to your goals in work and life then it’s difficult to get motivated to get started. Examine the value of the task. For example, perhaps you’re on the high school football team and you’re focused on becoming a professional football player. In your situation, studying for your Algebra exam might seem like a low priority; however, passing grades are required to stay on the team. Focus on the value of good grades to get started and stay motivated.
5. Break it Down
In work and life there’s always tasks and chores that we find mundane. It’s just a fact of life. Whether it’s doing laundry, working out, creating your weekly status report or making dinner – there’s always tasks that you can’t escape. Of course, many of us tend to procrastinate on these humdrum tasks.
Breaking chores and tasks into smaller chunks is a great way to tame the procrastination beast. The task or chore doesn’t seem as daunting if you break it down. For example, don’t create your weekly status report one hour before it’s due on Friday afternoon. During the week, add your accomplishments to the status report as you complete them. This way, you can reward yourself with a less stressful Friday afternoon at the office, and also make it home on time.
6. Get Started When Your World is Asleep
When I’ve given into procrastination, a trick that I personally use to get back on track is to shift my schedule and complete daunting tasks late at night or early in the morning when everyone else is sleeping. This way, I’m completely uninterrupted by phone calls, barking dogs, email, meetings or other distractions. This strategy helps me to laser focus on the task and finish it well before the deadline. I recommend using this strategy sparingly because lack of sleep can be a significant deterrent to getting things done.
7. Control Impulses
Sometimes it’s difficult to control impulses or urges to do something more entertaining than the tasks we know we need to do. For example, how often do you find yourself watching videos, playing games or reading Twitter posts instead of getting started on an important project or task?
WebMD explains that some of us tend to give into impulses easier than others due to the coordination between the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and the right orbitofrontal cortex. Furthermore, studies concluded that teenagers with less volume in the right orbitofrontal cortex might be more susceptible to lack of impulse control, such as alcohol abuse. The same article explains that it’s never too late to improve impulse control. Marc N. Potenza, MD recommends that you give yourself a small, healthy reward that will lead to a bigger payoff later when you don’t give into your impulses.
8. Work a To-do List into Your Daily Routine
If you’re prone to procrastination, creating a to-do list should be automatic as brushing your teeth every day. Working a to-do list into your daily routine can be key to getting things done. I recommend that you create your to-do list the night before so you’re ready to get started each morning without delay. A daily to-do list usually consists of approximately three to five tasks to complete every day. Immediately start with the most difficult task on your list. This way, you’re working on the task that requires the most energy when you’re fresh.
What are your favorite tips for slaying the procrastination monster? Please share!