Thursday, July 12, 2007

Nine Ways to Beat Procrastination

I have been in the warehouse since early today. Good that it is cooler out.

I recently published an article on procrastination. One reader suggested a 10th point so I added her feedback.

Nine Ways to Beat Procrastination

I am a student of Time Management and a big part of time management is beating procrastination. We all procrastinate, even those of us who pride ourselves in having good time management skills.

From my studies, I have come up with nine proven ways to beat procrastination.

Do the worst task first: I have used this technique for years and I have even created more than one first thing. There is first thing in the morning, there is first thing in the after lunch, and there is first thing in the evening. I take a look at the items on my To Do List and figure out which one I am dreading the most and spend a limited time on it at least moving it forward. This is known as, swallowing the frog first thing and the rest of the day looks good.

Break it down: Often the reason that we procrastinate is because the task ahead of us is too big. Often there are small parts of the task that can be done. How do you climb a mountain? One step at a time.

Use a friend: I wasn't actually referring to delegation (but of course I don't mind that either), I was referring to tell a friend what you want to do and get them to help you start the task. Often it is the act of starting a task that is enough to get the task done.

Do the pleasant part of the task: Often many distasteful and large jobs have some parts to it that are not particular distasteful. Do them so at least you are moving forward on your most important items.

Fifteen (15) minutes: Just spend 15 minutes on a task. I have the attitude that I can spend 15 minutes doing virtually anything and I can certainly survive spending 15 minutes on something. Often by spending the 15 minutes on a task, I either complete it or I will get it moved forward enough that it has momentum to finish.

Track it: The simple act of tracking process on a goal is often enough to keep the goal moving forward. It seems odd but simply knowing that you are going to write down whether or not you have done something is often enough to make you move forward.

Reward or punish: The reason we do something is because it is more painful than not doing something, so if we can make a task more rewarding or more painful, then we tend to move forward on things so tying successful completion of a task to a reward is often a successful technique.

Use matras, One of my favourite is "successful people do tough things". I want to be a success so this drives me to get started.

Develop success habits. If something is a habit, it happens naturally. Deliberately plan systems to support successful habits. Decide what habits you want and do them.

Remember that even successful people occasionally procrastinate. It is not a permanent condition. Just do it - it is usually not as bad as you think.

And the reader point:

10. Know yourself, know the team:
Sometimes, the procrastination is caused by the overcommitted schedule. Thus, the reasonable timeline is very important. To make out the reasonable timetable, we need to "know ourself and know the team". That is to say, know the productivity. Also, when a unreasonable milestone is expected by the boss or the customers, we should have the braveness(also the evidences) to say "No, it can not be" - maybe in a moderate expression but the attitude should be clear. Also, it was suggested that throwing out your alternative plan when saying No. Reasonable schedule is the base of avoiding procrastination, also of avoiding frustrating the yourself/customer/team/boss. It benefits all the stakeholders finally.


At 11:01 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jim - I always like reading your blog and thought it time to leave a comment. It's good to see successful Guelphites making an impact and leaving their mark.

This post is particularly pertinent to me this week as we wrap up the fiscal year at Microsoft, evaluate how we did and move into planning for the next. Every job has its hard tasks along with the fun stuff.


At 11:05 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Let me add something else. I've had many coaching clients over the years who "procrastinate by acting." They have several projects underway. Every day or week they make a little progress on each one, but nothing ever gets completed.

I've urged them to adopt a version of Pat Riley's "No rebounds, no rings" injunction. It's "No finish no funds" or "no finish, no fun" depending on the project.

Far too many of my clients spend far too much of their time starting to prepare to begin to get ready to do something, instead of actually doing it.

At 1:51 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You danced around but never really nailed one of the most common reasons for procrastination.

People procrastinate when they don't know what the next step is, or don't know how to do the next step. Ask yourself, "What is the next thing I have to do to get this done?" If the answer is "I don't know" you just found your problem. If you do know the next step, ask yourself "why am I not doing it?" More often than not, a hidden task will reveal itself ("I need to buy _____" or "I need to call ______ and ask if _______")


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