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Surefire Ways To Stop Procrastinating

Aug 17, 2007
We're all guilty of procrastination at some point, when we just can't get the motivation to start the report, tackle the paper work, clear out the shed, make the phone calls, organise the filing cabinet, repaint the bedroom.

Not only that, ever notice how easy it is to get distracted when there's a pile of work waiting for our attention: suddenly housework seems incredibly inviting; surfing the net, playing computer games, texting friends and of course eating take on a far greater priority than what really needs to get done.

Then of course there's the guilt that you haven't started yet; the task(s) to be done weighs very heavily and is ever present, reminding you just how hopeless you are. Not very nice.

One thing that makes it so hard to begin and so easy to drag your feet is that it's common to feel overwhelmed by everything that needs to be done. The mountain of paperwork looks too huge to undertake so you put it off, the pile gets higher, you put it off some more...you get the picture. Looking at the whole of it and trying to figure out where to begin can make you feel exhausted, defeated and inadequate.

In January 2007 Boots the Chemist launched a new campaign called Change One Thing to help people keep their New Year's Resolutions, but also in recognition that when you try to change everything all in one go, you are bound to fail. By changing one small thing there is a greater chance of success.

That's how to break the grip of procrastination. Do one small thing. Rather than convincing yourself that you don't have time to tackle the mountain of papers, set aside just a half hour to do one thing. Make one phone call, deal with one piece of paper, file one centimetre from the pile, write one page of the report.

Then stop.

Do something else. Then return and do the next one thing.

We can hear you already, "All well and good, but how do I get the motivation to even do that one small thing?"

There are a few things you can do. The first is to try to set aside your need to get it perfect (another reason it's easy to procrastinate). Aim for 'good enough' at first.

You can set a 'soft' deadline ("I'll give myself till lunchtime to make that phone call."), give yourself a reward ("I'll make a nice cup of tea after I clear out two boxes of junk"), tell a friend and ask them to help. Sometimes - even at work - a seemingly impossible task will go much faster if you enlist someone else's support.

What also seems to work is to talk through your ideas before starting a new task and there are a few reasons for this: first, it helps people clarify their thoughts, second, they don't feel so alone, third, new ideas will inevitably emerge if more than one brain is focused on the problem at hand.

That's true whether you're painting your bedroom, clearing a closet or tackling that mountain of paperwork.

Finally, you can give yourself permission to procrastinate!

We don't mean 'forever', but occasionally, you just might need to say it's OK to put off till tomorrow what your guilty mind says you should be doing today.
About the Author
Jo Ellen and Robin run Impact Factory who provide Professional Personal Development and Management Training, Presentation Skills, Communications Training, Leadership Development and Executive Coaching for Individuals.
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