Are you doing more but achieving less? Watching TV, sending text messages, and answering email, are all activities of a sort, each has an action assigned to it that implies "doing". But are we really doing something worthwhile, or are we allowing ourselves to be distracted by a countless variety of digital diversions that eat away at our time and ability to complete tasks?
Procrastinators have never had such a variety of things to do that really mean you’re doing nothing, nothing that will get you nearer your goals anyway.
Here are 5 procrastination tips to help you get started on any project:
1. Plan Ahead
Studies show that people who wake up knowing what they need to do with their day get more done. The easiest way to do this is to set your goals for the day ahead before you go to sleep. To do this most effectively, set aside 5-10 minutes sometime after your evening meal to sit down with a pen and paper and sketch out what you need, or want, to accomplish tomorrow. Try and end the session feeling upbeat and motivated. Ask yourself why you want to do this, and reflect on how satisfied you will feel when you sit down tomorrow knowing that you did what you set out to do.
Start with planning small tasks in this way to build a sense of growing accomplishment and achievement. Setting out big tasks can have a negative effect if you bite off more than you can chew and end the day with something left undone. So start small, and break big tasks down into manageable chunks to avoid setting the bar too high and ensure that you end your day with a warm glow of accomplishment.
2. Question Everything
The next step in eliminating distractions to use questions to ask yourself whether any given activity is helpful in completing what you have outlined for your day. When checking emails, for example, ask yourself is this directly relevant to the task at hand? If it is, then go ahead, but try to be discriminating and only respond to email that's relevant, the rest can wait. When it comes to digital distractions like Twitter and FaceBook, it's better to log off when working and allow yourself the reward of tweeting a task completed when you're done.
Having questioned you diversions into revealing themselves for what they are, how about using a question to inspire action? Ask yourself: “what small thing can I do right now that will get me started with this?” Settle on one small action and go…
3. Disable Distractions
So you've logged out of Twitter and Facebook. How about unplugging the TV and, if possible, the phone? And if you live or work in a place where real people are constantly interrupting you, perhaps you can plan time away at a library and enjoy distraction free focus for an hour or two?
I regularly head for a library when I need to write or finish a study assignment and I'm always amazed at how much more I get done there than when I work from home - especially if it doesn't have internet access!
4. Conjure Up Some Energy
Procrastination is a state of “stuckness” and immobility. It’s a horrible place to be and one that can feel hard to shift. If you can’t inspire yourself to start on whatever it is you are putting off, then at least get unstuck by doing something. But it has to be a good something, not further procrastination thinly disguised as action as in the above mentioned examples.
Take a walk, or take a shower, these are booth good for getting your energy flowing and conducive to creative thinking too. If music helps, put some on, you could create a playlist in iTunes containing your favourite uplifting and motivational music. You could even set different playlists for different tasks. I have playlists I like for cooking, and playlists for writing, one is Mozart, another is Brian Eno. Experiment and see what works for you.
5. Work in Time Chunks
When you're delaying the inevitable, finding a way to make a start is essential. My Mum taught me how to do this with housework, if there are things to be done and she's reluctant to start, she sets a timer for 20 minutes and challenges herself to see how much she can achieve before the timer goes off. In our house we often do 10 minutes in the evening where all three members of the family pick an area and tidy as much as they can in that time. It's amazing the difference it can make, especially if you do it regularly.
With computer projects timers can help you make a start and keep focused. I use Minuteur on my MacBook, it’s a simple non-intrusive timer that ticks away in the background and I find it super useful for writing projects. I set it for 20 minutes and commit to sitting and writing for that time. I also use a timer on my iPod touch for pen and paper projects.
Procrastination tips summary:
Knowing what you want, or need, to do in advance will help you start your day in a more focused and productive mindset. Turn off distractions to keep your focus clear, add music and movement to get you in the mood and then commit to setting a timer and making a focused start. Once you’ve started you’ve conquered procrastination and you are well on your way to constructive productivity.
Be sure to acknowledge your achievements at the end of your day. What did you learn? What could you have done better? Allow your experience to settle into your brain ready to help you over any hurdles tomorrow, and the next day…
Does this help or did I miss something? I look forward to hearing your comments
Photo by: AlexLawrence
More Procrastination tips & articles you might enjoy: