I’m sure we’ve all done it at some point in our lives. We’re given a task or an assignment and we think – “I’ve got heaps of time, I’ll do it later” and then panicked to complete it or received an ‘ear bashing’ for not completing it on time. And it’s not just work or study that falls prey to our procrastination habit either. How many times have you put off cleaning the house or paying the bills? I have a girlfriend who has put off having her hair cut now for 3 years. 3 years!!
As you can imagine, procrastination is not good for your health, not only can it give you headaches, fatigue and guilt, it’s essentially putting unnecessary stress on your body and mind, and believe me, it can be a bad habit to break! However:
There are many ways to overcome the procrastination habit, the following tips and tricks are ones that have worked for me, and maybe they can work for you too. If you struggle to get started why not give one or two a go and see if your productivity increases.
- Compile a ‘To Do List’: It sounds simple, but it really does make a huge difference.
Break your to do list down into categories with a subject, requirements and due date / time – additional columns can be added depending on what aspect of your life the tasks refer to.
- Create a ‘To Do Not List’: This one is just as important as item 1. We all have things we know we should not do but revert to when we don’t want to start something. Your to don’t list could include things like – check my phone every 5 minutes; check my email / facebook / twitter / instagram; chat with my work colleagues and so on.
- Start Immediately: It’s easy to let time slip away and workload mount up. This can hinder you recalling crucial details of the task in hand.
Write up notes / ideas whilst they’re fresh in your head and begin to structure the task – this will make starting it even easier and not seem like such an up-hill struggle!
- Bring The Deadline Forward: Give yourself time! If a task is due on Friday, bring the deadline forward to Tuesday – this will allow you to relax, check for any mistakes and give you some extra thinking time! How many times have we walked away and thought “I should have said that!” etc?!
- Block out Time: As with any task in life, you need adequate time. Make sure you block out time in your diary to work on the task – even if this is broken into 1 or 2 hours a day – and stick to it! Managing your time will still allow you to have social and family time.
- Take Breaks: Remember to take regular breaks – even making a cup of coffee or going for a walk can help when you’ve hit a mental block.
- Work in a productive environment: If you need to concentrate, make sure you hide yourself away in a calm, non-distracting environment. Turn off emails, social media and put your phone on silent. The myth of multi-tasking is exactly that. Did you know that for every interruption it takes 8 minutes before your mind is back to the same point BEFORE you were interrupted? Go back to point 5, block out time and then make sure you focus on that single task, you’ll be amazed how much more you get done.
- Break it down: One of the biggest reasons why we put something off is because we feel the task is too big. “Where do we start?” As you work out your to-do list, have a task column and work out what the first thing you need to do is. Then complete that one single task. As you complete each tiny task your confidence will grow and before you know it, you will have completed the entire thing. Remember “you don’t need to see the whole staircase to take the first step.”
- Work in 30 minute blocks: Turn off the distractions, close the door if you have to, but work solidly on the task for 30 minutes then have a 5 minute “reward” break – go to the loo, make a cup of tea, check your email to ensure nothing important has come through – if it has – schedule it, then turn off the distractions again and go for another 30 minutes. And finally for this piece:
- Work and Reward: If you complete a task in the time allocated and / or stick to your time management, remember to reward yourself – book a night out with friends or even treat yourself to that bar of chocolate!
Having a well-balanced work / personal life is precious to everyone! By utilising the tips above, not only will you be managing your time better, but your stress levels will fall and before you know it, you would have beaten that horrible habit…Procrastinating, what??
Written by Carly Hopgood