I’ll be extremely honest… I’m a procrastinator at heart. You wouldn’t know it, though. When I was at university, I’d start on big essay assignments the same weekend we were assigned them. When I worked at an insurance company as a summer clerk, the first thing I did every morning was file whatever needed to be filed and type into the database what hadn’t been added. When I worked as a web graphic designer at a car dealer agency, I made myself a task sheet of all the banners that needed to be done and for when. I’m a productive beast when it matters.
Here’s the thing, though: all these organisational feats were due to procrastination… or rather a psychological need to procrastinate. In other words, I wanted to be done with things so I could stop stressing.
In real life (read: not work-related life) I’m a procrastinator. Right at the moment I’m writing this, I’m delaying washing my dishes, pots and pans included. My washed clothes are in a heap in my hamper waiting to be folded and put away properly. In real life, I’m a mess. Professionally, I get the ball rolling. It’s probably from far back in my past when my mother actually sat me and my sisters down at the dinner table every afternoon after school and helped us do our homework. I’ve always had this urge to finish work asap (but well) so I can go have fun.
But I’m a closer procrastinator at hand, as my real-life feats indicate. Yet I can’t tell you what a huge difference goal-setting techniques have made. Being accountable to something written on paper compels me to act. Yep, think lists. Because just thinking about the task that needs to be done (e.g. doing the dishes) leads to very little action actually taken.
Needless to say, action is everything when it comes to productivity and reaching your goals.
Here are a few tricks I’ve learned to break out of my procrastination rut:
- Write it down so you don’t forget (I’m also a serial forgetter).
- When in doubt, act. Crossing out each item will feel like an accomplishment and will energise you enough for the next item.
- Write a new to-do list every day. Using the same list for too long will leave items that stick around too long, and that sink to the bottom forgotten.
- Hang around action-oriented people. If such people are not readily available, read motivating quotes that leave you wanting to take action asap. It’s easy to pick up spirit from energy-driven people or quotes.
- Get plenty of downtime and sleep. For me, downtime can be either exercising, reading, playing a video game or watching a movie. However, make sure downtime doesn’t encroach into everything else, because then you’re just procrastinating.
- Prioritise and organise your to-do list. Does that first item really need to be done before the fifth one? Does it belong there in the first place or can it be done later? For example, if I have to create some material for the first item on my list, I’m certainly not going to start that item before the material is ready.
I’m not always successful at not procrastinating. I’ve had my fair share of setbacks. In university, I did sometimes put off papers due relatively soon in order to watch a television show or some other. However, I never did fail to hand in papers on time, mainly because then I’d have an incredible attack of the guilts. Goal-setting and personal leadership are always going to ultimately steer you in the right direction. The more items I cross off my to-do list throughout the day, the more I feel accomplished and allow myself to relax and do the things I really do want to do.
Plus, it helps me have a clear conscience.