I am a bit weak when it comes to putting off tasks. If I don’t feel like doing something right now, I will often find a way to delay it. As such, one of my current self-improvement tasks is to work at overcoming my problems with procrastination (I considered not writing this blog entry for at least 3 minutes, after it popped into my head, until I considered how ironic it would be not to write it). I am having a healthy amount of success so far.
Firstly, I agree with this article: ‘Procrastination is not a problem of time management’. On days when I’ve been feeling motivated and productive, I’ve realised that I typically waste so much time with procrastinating that I wouldn’t have much less time to spend if I just did the things I’m procrastinating over. So fancy diaries, to-do lists, and other schemes may solve problems with time management, but not procrastination. To me, not procrastinating is a habit that I’m having to learn, by seeing the benefits that follow from it when I do get on with things.
In my research on this issue, I’ve come up with a few tricks, with some advice and adaptation from other sources, which are definitely helping push things in the right direction:
When faced with a task, establish if it can be completed now. If it can’t, do whatever can be done, then move it to later on your to-do list. Then forget about it.
If you come up against a task that can be done quickly (e.g. an email that only needs a quick reply), do it now. This typically applies to tasks less than 5 minutes long. This makes your life less cluttered and makes the bigger picture easier to manage. If you know from experience that the task is nonessential, you’re probably not going to do it at all, and you’ll eventually discard it, discard it now. Don’t keep it hanging around, weighing you down.
Force yourself to complete something by making commitments to third parties. If, like me, you feel bad when you let others down, let them know that you will complete the thing you are procrastinating about to a deadline - book meetings to discuss the results, promise to send them a copy by a certain time, etc. If they are relying on it, all the better, but even if not, this will encourage you to complete it on time. Don’t be over-optimistic with your challenge, but don’t be too easy on yourself either - otherwise you are just giving yourself an excuse for more procrastination.
I’d be interested in hearing your comments.