Many of us are very good at procrastination; we’ve had plenty of practice! Overcoming procrastination can be simple but we need to first understand why we’re procrastinating. One common reason is that we simply feel overwhelmed. We don’t know where to start and the task we’re facing simply seems too big or complex. Noticing what you’re procrastinating about and why is a good first step.
Here are three simple strategies to use if you notice yourself procrastinating:
1 – Break things down into more manageable chunks
It may sound almost too simple, but this is often a hugely effective strategy. If something seems too big to tackle, break it up into a series of smaller things which are not so daunting and start working on the first bit. This reduces the feeling of being overwhelmed as you don’t have to worry about the enormity of the challenge and you can just focus on the more manageable chunk. This can also be an effective strategy if you’re not totally clear about what you’re trying to achieve as the first chunks can all be about doing research and defining your goal.
2 – Eat that Frog
If you’ve already broken things down into manageable chunks and you find yourself procrastinating on the chunks then there is a simple technique described in ‘Eat that Frog!’ by Brian Tracy; Each day, make sure that the chunk you decide to do that day is the very first thing you do in the day before you do anything else whatsoever. Brian Tracy uses the metaphor of having ‘eat a frog’ on your to-do list and suggests that you can either stare at it all day, worry about it, and then eventually run out of time and guiltily carry it over to tomorrow or….. you can do it first thing and then everything else on your to-do list will seem easy in comparison and you’ll feel good about getting it done.
3 – Just do 30 minutes
If you’re still not making as much progress as you should, use both of the above techniques but instead of setting out to tackle a whole chunk, just decide to spend 30 minutes working on it with no target (or pressure) as to what you’re going to achieve – you simply have to work for 30 minutes on your chosen chunk and then stop. This is based on what Neil Fiore calls the ‘Unschedule’ and it reduces the pressure even further and you will achieve more than you expect. There’s a neat little iPhone app called Focus Time that implements this with 25 minutes of work and a 5 minute break (also known as the Pomodoro technique)
These techniques do work; this is how I get my accounts done, how I prepare big presentations, and how I get myself to the gym!