In this post, you will be introduced to the methods I used to improve my procrastination and still use to date, because they work so well.
Before the tips, let’s have an important recap;
Why do we procrastinate?
This part is a recap of my previous post: Understanding Procrastination. You are NOT a Procrastinator. You have a habit of Procrastinating.
Those who procrastinate think of what’s going on right now and if they feel pain, they need to relieve it instantly. They neither learn from the past nor look further into the future.
There could be many reasons why you are procrastinating and it’s important right now to not feel bad, embarrassed, useless, lazy, a failure, useless or ashamed. Feel proud and a sense of achievement that you’re now aware of and you’ve taken action by reading this post.
I greatly improved my procrastination by first off, realising I was actually doing it, this is a huge, huge step to do because unless you know why you are procrastinating, you cannot do anything about it to fix it.
Some of the reasons;
- You don’t have a clear vision or a purpose
- You are stressed about something, it’s on your mind and you can’t concentrate
- You may feel or actually, may not have the experience or knowledge in how to prioritise your work/tasks
- You might be holding fear. Fear of failing, being inadequate, fearing success.
- You hold anxiety and spend too much time fearing rather than doing
- You don’t know what is required of you
- You are overwhelmed by the task you’ve been assigned or needing to do
- You feel you need to do everything with perfection, if it’s not perfect, you can’t get started
- You hold negative limitations about yourself, “I am not good enough”, “someone is better than me”, “I am not worthy or valuable”. These are called self-limiting beliefs
- You’re bored, you find the task you’re given or need to undertake, boring. You dislike it or find it difficult
- You do not feel that you are competent and able. You hold very little or even no self-worth
- You need instant gratification. You need to complete a task to feel a sense of accomplishment, you’ve sought an immediate result when you do the smaller tasks but lack the motivation to continue when starting the longer and more time-consuming projects.
Understanding what procrastination is and using the methods I will be introducing to you, over the next few posts, will help you to overcome it, but first, you must identify the reasons.
An important note: Procrastination can also be a sign of underlying conditions for some people, if they suffer from chronic procrastination or they find it truly paralysing to move forward, It would be wise for them to speak to a trained professional.
Also, it’s worth me noting here this won’t disappear overnight. you need to be consistent with the methods, day in, day out. It’ll likely take some time to get you into a good flow.
Method 1: Adopt a ‘Do It!’ Mindset
When you think about turning to something else other than what you need to do, tell yourself to…
“Do it NOW, Do it NOW!, Do it NOW!”
Then do it. Start it.
Do this over and over, I even do this when I know I am not really struggling with committing to start because it reminds me to get into action.
I learned this from Brian Tracy as he spoke about Chronic Procrastination.
Method 2: Understand that everything you think you need to do, needs to have an action put against it
You must, first of all, realise, the tasks which you currently need to do, need to have an action attached to them.
Actions could include eliminating, delegating, postponing, or actually doing.
The more time you waste when you procrastinate is time wasted that you could have been working on a task contributing to your goals but, it’s now wasted time and time is your most valuable asset. Once it’s gone, it’s gone. You can’t borrow time, save it up, or gain more of it. Don’t waste a second more!
With that being said, don’t start cramming things into your day, it’ll get you overwhelmed and you’ll lose your sanity!
Keep things super simple, apply focus and achieve more in your days by figuring out what the real action is that you need to take.
Method 3: Write Lists
Take some paper, Write down everything you think you need to achieve – this will become your Master Task List.
Download everything from your brain.
Review your Master List before moving on, for each task ask yourself;
- Does this really need to be done?
- Does this really need to be done, now?
- What is the consequence if I don’t do it? How will that consequence make me feel?
- Do I need to do this or could it be delegated? Mark with an M (me) or D (delegate).
Q’s 1 and2 also help you identify when you’re procrastinating. If you’re sorting your emails into files, tidying your desktop, doing a piece of housework, ask yourself these questions and you’ll uncover if you’re procrastinating.
What do I do with my massive list of tasks?
The below is what I did and still do.
Step 1: Prioritise your Master List
You’ve done your Master List but now we need to prioritise everything and put an estimated time against it which you think it’ll take to complete so that you can instantly get them organised.
Place ABCD or E next to each task.
Tip: I like to start with crossing out, deleting or otherwise remove all of the tasks which have absolutely no impact on my life or business, first. These are my E tasks.
The key below is for deciding what priority to give remaining tasks;
A = Your biggest, important task which is going to give you a maximum worthy outcome. Brian Tracy calls them ‘Big Frogs’. These tasks have the biggest consequences if you do not do them. If you have more than 1 A task, break them down into A1, A2, A3, etc, A1 will then become your biggest important task on the list (your ugliest frog!) Go eat the Frog.
B = The tasks which you should do. The consequences are mild if you don’t complete this task and at most you’ll make someone unhappy and you will be an inconvenience. These tasks should not be done before your A tasks.
C = These tasks are ‘nice to do’ but these tasks bring no consequences if undone. These tasks should not be done until A then B tasks are complete.
D = These tasks are ones that can be delegated. Tasks that fall into category D can be delegated to someone with the skill/desire to match the task. Delegating tasks will allow you to concentrate on your A tasks.
E = These tasks are ones that have absolutely no consequences or bearings to your life or business. These should be crossed off and not done, it doesn’t mean you can’t go back to it at a later date but for now, remove it.
As we go into your next list, You should start with your A tasks from here on in. These are your important tasks and do not move on until they’re done or updated enough from your side if you are in collaboration with someone else.
Create a Monthly list
From your newly pruned Master list, identify the priorities on the remaining tasks which you need to get completed.
Write out your Monthly List for the new Month.
These are likely to have recurring tasks (mine do), so it’s good to go ahead and pop a R next to those ones, which reminds me they’re recurring.
Create a Weekly list
Drawn from the Monthly list. Identify tasks that need to be completed in the coming week.
Create these lists on a Sunday if you can, or first thing on a Monday if you need.
Ask yourself this question when writing this list, if you’re not quite sure;
“Does this need to be done this week?”
Add it on.
No, not right now or this week?
Leave it on the Monthly list until it’s needed (you’ll be reviewing the Monthly list weekly anyway)
Missed one on pruning the master list and it doesn’t actually need to be done?
Remove it! Get rid of it! It’s clogging up your brain space.
Not urgent, or needed right now but might want it later?
Save it on a later list. Postpone it.
Create a Daily list
Create your final list. Your daily list. Draw tasks from your Monthly and Weekly List.
Your daily lists will focus you on what you are needing to get done on a particular day.
Prepare this list and review THE NIGHT BEFORE. Get up and know exactly what you need to work on.
As you go through, highlight them, cross them out, tick them off -whatever works. Just do anything to identify they’re done as it’ll offer an accomplishment visual and instills progression.
Method 4: Chunk your tasks – the key is bitesize
You may look over your Master list or Monthly Tasks and think – WHOA that’s going to take me HOURS!
Larger tasks or more daunting tasks require a slightly different plan process and focus.
I take the task and break it down into manageable chunks of actions,
I then work with the most important tasks first determined by my prioritising.
I then take each step at a time until the large task/project is complete.
When you chunk the task down, before you know it, you’ll be done,
A simple way to make large tasks manageable…
Take reading a book for instance. That’s quite a task!
Perhaps read for 10 minutes per day, you’ll then move to 20 minutes for instance and before you know it, the book will be complete.
Set yourself up to win, not to fail. When you’re done you can go ahead and reward yourself.
That’s your planning done – what about executing?
Method 5: Batch your tasks
Batching your tasks may help your focus.
For example, Client A and B on a Monday, Client C and D on a Tuesday and a pepper of ABC and D on a Wednesday, Marketing on a Thursday, and Networking on a Friday – for example – if you serve multiple clients.
You may also batch in line with themes, for example, reading, cooking, blog post writing, bookkeeping, cleaning, planning, etc.
Once you know what you want to batch, time block in your calendar, and then stick to doing them in line with your calendar.
Method 6: Utilise The Pomodoro Technique
The Pomodoro method works like this;
- Set your alarm for 1 pomodorro which is 25 minutes.
- Work solidly on a task with pure focus and no distractions for 25 minutes
- Take a break when the alarm rings for 4 minutes, do something unrelated to the task you were doing, do something fun – music, walking, reading something interesting etc.
- Set a new timer for the next 25 minutes and repeat.
- After 4 Pomodorros take a longer break – 20-30 minutes is ideal.
- Celebrate. Literally, Celebrate yourself. Reward yourself with something fun.
One final thing, always have the end in mind, all of the time.
If you need to take a break from the task, be sure to note down the very next step you’ll take when you re-attend this task and always remember the outcome you are striving for.
A few alterations of the Pomodorro Technique I use
1. I sometimes just extend the 25 minute focus time if I don’t want to lose flow
2. I choose some upbeat music to work with – it works for me but you may not like to work with music.
3. I have children and when they are home on School Holidays etc, I set a timer to complete less focus between dealing with them and chores for example 20 minutes of email checking.
I hope these methods work for you, just try them for a couple of weeks and tweak to suit you.
Still feeling like you can’t move forward with a task even when you’ve broken it down into a smaller, manageable chunks and prioritised it?
Ask yourself these questions;
- Why do I want to do the task? Does it line up with my goals, values and mission?
- If I do not do this task, how is this going to affect me? What will be the outcome? The consequence? (The pain should be greater if you don’t do it, than the pain of you actually just getting on and doing it).
- How is this task going to help me? What will I get from it?
If you ask yourself all of these questions, the answers alone should immediately see you taking action and getting yourself started!