Even though I am big proponent of Time Management, a big part of time management is actually about 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 seven proven ways to beat procrastination. You will notice that none of the following are actually about “time management” per se, they are about the emotions and psychology behind putting things off.
1. Do the worst task first: I have used this technique for years. I have even created more than one first thing. There is first thing in the morning, there is first thing 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; if you begin your day by swallowing a frog, then the rest of the day looks good.
2. 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.
3. Use a friend: I am not actually referring to delegation (but of course I dont mind that either); what I mean is 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.
4. 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.
5. 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.
6. Track it: The simple act of tracking a goal is often enough to keep the goal moving forward. It seems odd, but knowing that you are going to write down whether or not you have done something is often enough to make you move forward.
7. Reward or punish: The reason we do something is because it is more painful than not getting it done, so if we can make the completion a task more rewarding or the consequences of not completing it more painful, then we tend to move forward on things. Tying successful completion of a task to a reward is often a successful technique.
Remember that even successful people occasionally procrastinate. Procrastination is not a permanent condition.