Have you ever –
- Hemmed and hawed over a project?
- Drug your feet on even starting?
- Come up with 50 shoulda’s and kicked the can down the road?
- And down the road a little more?
Your lizard brain has taken over your prefrontal cortex with fear of failure and all you can do is hang out on facebook for hours or watch one more show on the Food Network. Procrastination is gripping you and you can’t even see the first step, let alone the whole staircase.
I spent my Christmas vacation watching my son delay his college application process. He spent hours on “Call of Duty” instead writing college essays. This was a project he promised to start in August. And suddenly it was December 28th and most of the deadlines were January 1st. Now he was behind the eight ball and his sister and I (his editors) were not very empathetic. Now with the pressure of the looming deadline, he had to git ‘er done! He did get it done although it was painful for all of us. Care for some ideas on getting over procrastination and moving projects to completion?
Here are some tips:
1. Vacation. Zig Ziglar makes the case in his audio tapes called “How to Stay Motivated”, that we all seem to find time to get it all done on the day before vacation. This really hit home with me. Suddenly, you have your day scheduled out, know all your priorities, don’t waste a minute and are completely focused. So, if you really want to take action, imagine that you are going on vacation and plan accordingly.
2. Three. When the alarm goes off in the morning, plan three things you want to accomplish today. Just three. Not five. Not ten. Just three. (1) Go to the Y and work out. (2) Finish the financial aid submission. (3) Finish 3 annual reviews. There. You have your day planned out. As Stephen Covey would recommend, you have to schedule your “Big Rocks” (important non-urgent projects). In doing so, the “gravel” (unimportant distractions i.e. facebook, twitter) will fall by the wayside.
3. Timer. I do this for every blog post I write. I give myself 30 minutes to write. Anything. Just write. I don’t have to finish. I just need to write. After thirty minutes. I’m done. If I’m still inspired and on a roll, I keep going. If not? Go onto the next project. I find this to be the best cure for procrastination. It helps you side step perfection. It doesn’t matter if it’s perfect. You invested 30 minutes. And you can invest another 30 minutes tomorrow. At least you started. Set a timer.
4. Appointment. Many times we are collaborating with coworkers, team mates and bosses who are even better procrastinators than ourselves. They create squishy deadlines or vague goals. This can be like herding wet kittens. Make a firm follow up date. Make an appointment. It might get moved. But at least you are taking steps to keep the team or department on task. Make an appointment to follow up and stay on task.
5. Chunks. Big projects are really just a gathering of chunks. How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. Break the project into chunks. I can remember my daughter getting a book to study for the SAT’s. It was a very thick book. An overwhelming book. I suggested that she take twenty pages a day. We wrote on the calendar page numbers on each day. We chopped up the elephant. Chunks are much easier to digest.
6. Worst is first. In “Eat that Frog” by Brian Tracy, he recommends starting with the worst task first (ergo eat that frog). So if that happens to be exercise or reading an SAT prep book or writing annual reviews. Go for it. Forgo answering emails, chatting over coffee with your coworkers, or surfing pinterest. Get out your fork and knife, and eat that frog. The rest of the day will glide by with the worst of it behind you. Tackle the worst first.
Procrastination can be debilitating. Try just one or two of these suggestions. You’d be surprised how starting a habit or two can change what you can accomplish. Let’s reduce the frog and elephant population (no animals were harmed in this post) and git ‘er done!