Later. Tomorrow. Not today. I’ll get to it eventually.
Just a few of the most common catch-phrases of anyone who has procrastinated at some point or another.
Procrastination, defined as “the action of delaying or postponing something”, is a common thing — and we’ve all been guilty of having done it in our lives.
But where there’s a will, there’s a way. If you’re looking to beat procrastination, get motivated, and take control of your life, we’re covering 5 simple and tactical ways you can stop procrastinating now.
1. Avoid procrastinating by getting organized
When you feel a wave of procrastination coming on, your first step is to get organized. Do a complete and total braindump of EVERYTHING you need to get done (and are procrastinating on), and put it on paper. Your to do list might look something like this:
- Book dentist appointment
- Clean kitchen
- Vacuum the house
- Do taxes
- Book hair appointment
- Plan birthday party for dad
2. Beat procrastination by categorizing your list
Your next step, is to organize your list into two columns. The first column should be titled “one-action items”, and the second column should be titled “multi-step items”.
One-action items are tasks that have one and only one step to it in order to complete it. For example: booking a hair appointment. This is something that can be done in a matter of one step (either calling or booking an appointment online) and it’s complete.
Multi-step items are tasks that require multiple actions in order to complete. For example: cleaning your kitchen. This would comprise of a number of “sub-tasks” like cleaning your fridge, organizing your drawers, mopping the floors, etc.
Take your to do list from step 1, and categorize all of your to-do’s into the two columns you created, as either “one-action items” or “multi-step items”.
Your new list will start to look like this:
3. Stop procrastinating by simplifying your to-do’s
Once you’ve categorized your list, your next step is to keep things as simple as you possibly can. The key to pushing yourself through procrastination is to develop a habit for taking action, which in this case you’re going to do with a very simple and sustainable approach.
Review your “multi-step item” list, and start to break those tasks down, until they become multiple “one-action items”.
For example, vacuuming the house (which seems like a super daunting task) can be broken down into multiple steps, like so:
- Vacuum the kitchen
- Vacuum the living room
- Vacuum the upstairs bedrooms
Breaking it down like this, gives you one simple task to focus on a time, versus a huge undertaking that just makes you want to put it off until the last minute. When you do this, you can knock off parts of the “multi-step items” in a matter of a few minutes instead of doing it all at once.
Continue doing this for all the “multi-step items” on your list.
4. Use the Pomodoro Technique to stop procrastinating now
The Pomodoro Technique is a time management method that helps you stay focused for short bursts of time. Here’s how it works:
- Pick 1 task to work on
- Set a time for 25 minutes
- Work on that task with complete focus until the timer is up
- Take a 5 minute break
- Repeat, and take longer breaks every time you complete 4 of these cycles
Again, to keep things simple, start with one cycle. And if 25 minutes is too overwhelming, set a timer for 10 minutes to start. The point is however, to set a timer, and give those tasks on your to do list your undivided attention.
Since you’ve knocked every complex item down into “one-action items”, your goal should be to complete as many of those tasks as you can before the timer goes off (without rushing and losing quality, of course). This concept keeps you fully focused, and allows you to complete that long list of to do’s with clarity whilst being time boxed.
5. Create new time management habits and say good-bye to procrastination
Beating procrastination is an ongoing practice. The steps outlined above will definitely set you up for success and is a great start to getting motivated. To help sustain your battle against procrastination, start creating new time management habits. Similar to the Pomodoro Technique, there are multiple other systems to help you get things done effectively. A few of our favorites:
- Time-blocking: where you block off a certain chunk of time in your calendar to get specific to do’s done. This way it’s scheduled in, and is treated as a priority
- The 1-Minute Rule: the concept here, is that if a task can be done in under a minute, do it right away. In fact, it should never even be on your to do list (it likely takes longer to put it on your to do list than it does to actually do the task). An example of this, would be washing that one dish you used for dinner, or calling the salon to book a hair appointment
- Reward yourself after the task is completed: in other words, “eat the frog” and get the hardest tasks done first thing in the day, so you can enjoy the evening ahead with nothing lingering on your to do list