Most people in business, and in all fields of human endeavour, suffer from, or perhaps I should say they know a friend who suffers from, Procrastination.
In fact, I would say it is a virus of Pandemic proportions! The Procrastination Pandemic!!
In offices… that displacement activity that creeps in to dislodge the most important tasks, or the most difficult ones.
● That report, or proposal document, that you need to write
● That call to a difficult customer
● Or those sales calls
● That tricky email
● That presentation to be prepared…
… and so on.
It’s so easy to put it off a little… and so many people do.
And not just in business… such avoidance tactics crop up elsewhere in life, where people can suffer a tendency to avoid doing those things they know, deep down, they need to do to become successful
Such as that feeling of “I really must exercise, or go to the gym”
… or finishing off those jobs that have been waiting to be finished for ages.
In short, as the saying goes, Procrastination is the Thief of Time.
Many people readily admit to suffering from procrastination, which is the first step in curing it, but very few go beyond that admittance to actively using specific tools to overcome it.
Guilt-ridden business people then work long hours trying to rectify it.
So if you suffer from procrastination, paralysed by not being able to get those key tasks done, here are my favourite 14 ways to beat it:
1. Take the time to be organised. How is your work space? Is it cluttered, sloppy? Get rid of anything that’s extraneous, have an assigned place for everything. It takes time to get organised but pays off in fewer wasted moments. Once organised, stay that way. I have seen many disorganised people spending all their time getting organised, and never quite managing it.
2. Begin your Daily Action Plan the night before. Every day, finish up properly, and as part of that finishing up session, which might only take a few minutes, create a list of all the items you want to tackle the next day. When you arrive at your desk in the morning you then turn this list into an Action Plan… note, not a “To Do List” but an Action Plan. And reprioritise the plan as you work through the day.
3. Prioritise your time. Having goals and clear objectives is critical.
4. Honour your personal work style. Know when you are at your best. When are you at your most creative, or your most focused, for example?
5. Schedule time by blocks rather than by tasks. Allocate a given amount of time to a task, and then move on to the next so you don’t get bogged down.
6. Make the first touch the deciding one. This is the one-touch rule for paperwork. But note, I said The Deciding touch… not necessarily the doing one… otherwise you may end up doing low-grade activities when something more important is needing attention.
7. Apply the WIFO principle- Worst in, first out. Take one task that could be a bugbear for the day and tackle it first. This will free you from guilt for the rest of the day!
8. Schedule a Self-Organisation Session each week. This is time to clear up admin tasks and ensure you are well organised for the week ahead. This means you will not clutter up Focus Time with admin tasks that tend to distract.
9. Enlist the support of others. Delegate. Delegation is key… don’t suffer from the capability paralysis of “I would be better doing it all myself” (because you think you are the only one who is capable)… in fact you may well be highly capable (many highly capable people do suffer from this). But better to delegate parts of a project so that it gets done, than to be overwhelmed trying to do it all and it never getting done.
10. If you are stuck simply getting started on what seems like a big project or task, take a small easily achievable step. This is particularly the case when faced with what seems a large task, or a tough nut to crack. For example, if you have a huge report to complete, start by breaking it down into bite sized chunks.
And Remember the 80/20 rule: That 20 percent at the start will get 80 percent of the result, because it’s often the thought of a big task that puts people off. Once the task has been scoped out, thought about a bit, planned a little, and broken down into bite-sized chunks, it doesn’t seem so onerous at all.
11. Question the task. What if I HAD to do it… you know, what if it absolutely had to be done or I would face a firing squad?
Another great question is “If not now, when?” In other words, if you are not going to do a task now, when are you going to do it? Be specific.
12. Set Rewards… and forfeits. Turn the task into a bit of a game, or challenge for yourself with a reward and a forfeit which is commensurate with the scale of the task.
13. Remember the “Just do it NOW” motto… I have a baseball cap from a particular sportswear company (you can probably guess which one – the one with the big tick symbol on it…). it sits in my office … and seeing it in the corner of my eye is often the trigger to JUST DOING IT… just getting on with something that I have been putting off a little too long.
14. Eschew perfection. Don’t be paralysed into trying to be perfect. Yes, we want to excel, want to be brilliant. But not at the expense of something important not getting done at all for fear it won’t be absolutely perfect. Perfection-Hunting is often the death of a task.
So, there you have it. 14 simple ways to beat Procrastination.
Some of these are preventative and will help you simply operate more effectively and reduce the incidence of Procrastination. Some are geared more to how you handle procrastination when it arises… how you deal with it, break through it, and simply get on with what you know you need to do.
Of course, at a subconscious level the various Visual-isaction techniques I teach are all about breaking through the procrastination barrier, and are in fact the most powerful antidote to the Procrastination Pandemic… so use them as always.
Remember, it’s about Habits: successful people have successful habits. And our habits are driven by our subconscious – the beliefs we have, the self-doubt, the programming that is running on our mind. Which makes the Visual-isaction tools so effective when dealing with procrastination.