How To Stop Procrastinating and Get Things Done

Procrastinating is the act of putting important and urgent things off by doing something more interesting or more pleasurable. Like watching TV, or by using the biggest time suck of all: Facebook.

“My advice is never do tomorrow what you can do today. Procrastination is the thief of time.” – Charles Dickens

Of course, procrastinating is a normal part of life for many people. But for some, the thought of meeting deadlines, pushes them to breaking point and forces them to look to do anything instead of the task in hand.  But it’s these hardcore deadline dodgers that pushes friendships, relationships and bosses to the brink.

According to a US study, procrastination costs employers $10,396 per employee annually.  That’s serious money.  It was derived from a survey of 10,000 Americans (assuming they were on average salaries and they didn’t procrastinate about doing the research) who admitted to wasting more that two hours a day on non job activities.

It’s not just the work that’s suffering either. According to research, procrastinators suffers from more stress related illnesses, such as colds, flu and headaches. But its not just employees, entrepreneurs and business owners that are experts at procrastinating. 

The author JRR Tolkien famously suffered from perfectionism and procrastination in equal measures, spending almost 16 years on his next major project after writing the Lord of Rings Trilogy.

“It’s the job that’s never started that takes the longest to finish” – J.R.R Tolkein

Even former US President Bill Clinton was called “punctually challenged” by his Vice President Al Gore. If you want to stop procrastinating and get things done: try these 7 tips

7 Tips To Stop Procrastinating and Get Things Done

1. Break the Task Down

As the old joke goes, how do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.  Break the task down into small steps. If you can’t see the wood for the trees, start with one tree. If you can’t do a whole tree, start with a few branches. And if you can’t do a few branches, then start with a handful of leaves. But whatever you do – start.

A great technique for getting focused and productive is the Pomodoro Technique  – which is giving yourself 2o minutes with no distractions, then taking a 5 minute break (check your email, Facebook or whatever) and then followed by another 20 minute focused time with no distractions.

A simple system for getting started if 20 minutes seems a lifetime is to start with 2 minute tasks.  This is simply tackling the smallest of your tasks in 2 minutes or less. Maybe it’s booking a meeting, maybe it’s sending an email. If it can be completed in 120 seconds do that task first and attack it with the all the effort that would have normally taken you a couple of days of procrastinating effort.

2. Be Realistic

Let’s be honest. You can’t do everything. In fact it’s the fear of having to do everything that’s probably making you procrastinate. Remember: Simply having a plan and achieving 80% of what you set out to do is still a good result.  See How to Get Big Results 80/20

3. Find Something Positive

Try and find something positive in what you’re doing. If you see the task you’re doing as too negative, and there’s a lot of positive distractions around you then you’re going to give in to those distractions, just to feel good.  So try and find something meaningful or enjoyable about the work you’ve got to tackle.

4. Make your goals public

You are more likely to follow things through and achieve your goals when you tell people about them. Being held to account makes you want to succeed or at least not feel like a failure by not achieving them.  A good example of this is Weight Watchers. The weekly “weigh ins” keep the dieters focused on the goal – the fear of failure (that they’ve not lost weight) helps them avoid the distractions (the chocolate or the cakes). Whether you share your goals with your coach or on your Facebook page is more likely to ensure they are achieved.

5. Leverage Technology Or Processes

Nowadays with all the web based productivity apps, you aren’t confined to writing out long “to do” lists with all your tasks on. Of course having a system that works for you is what matters, but with all the web based productivity apps out there it would be shame not to make use of them.

Two Free apps that I recommend are:

If it’s daily habits that you’re trying to build, whether that’s exercise or contacting 5 new prospects everyday, then I strongly recommend using the Lift which is a public declaration of your goals married with “checking in” when you’ve completed the goal.

For keeping track of your tasks or for managing your projects I personally like to use Trello – which is a web based project management system based on the Kanban system using a visual task board to show work in progress against projects. I find that the visual boards are great for seeing at a glance where you are on a project. 

For my project boards I show on the left all the tasks that I have to do in relation to the project and as I work on the tasks they move to the middle to show that I’m working on them. As I complete the tasks the tasks move to the right into the “completed” section.  This technique can be used just as well on a white board with post it notes and I’ve used both the web app and the white board version and both have worked well for me.

6. Focus On The End Goal

Of course it’s easy to get overwhelmed with a big long list of tasks ahead of you.  As you start on the tasks start thinking about all of the things you will be able to do with the free time, money or whatever it is you will achieve when you’ve finished all the tasks.   This will help you stay on track and achieve your goals.

7. Celebrate Success

When you’ve completed the project you’ve been putting off doing, you can relax in the knowledge that you’re no longer a procrastinator!   This is where you should reward yourself for staying with it and completing your tasks and freeing yourself of the distractions which would have previously took your off the rails.    

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