We all want to stop procrastinating, but it’s tough. We all have some unpleasant task that we’d rather put off doing. Whether it’s in our personal or professional life, there’s a difficult, annoying, or thankless task that we simply must do. We say, “Oh, I’ll feel more like doing it tomorrow.”
But tomorrow, we don’t we don’t feel like it, and don’t do it. We continue to con ourselves with this line, and soon, all of the “tomorrows” have turned into weeks or months, and we haven’t even started.
Just as we have conned ourselves into not doing a task, we can con ourselves into completing it. It’s all a con game of the mind! Here are eight tips that work for me.
Do something to get started.
There are days when I can’t write a grocery list, much less a blog or a book! One time someone said to me, “Just do something—anything—to get started. Pick up a pencil!
I chortled but decided to try it. Honestly, it has worked for me, many times.
Go ahead. Look up the phone number of the person you dread calling or grab a file folder and label it Income Tax 2017. But just get started.
Use the 2-minute rule to stop procrastinating.
First mentioned by author David Allen in Getting Thing Done, this tip whereby you identify tasks that can be completed in fewer than two minutes. It helps you to check off some quick tasks on your to-do list.
This tip works best for micro-tasks. If you think it will take fewer than two minutes to toss in a load of laundry, call the vet for an appointment, or complete the questionnaire for jury duty, use this tip. You’ll get an almost instant sense of accomplishment.
Set a timer.
Invented by Francesco Cirillo and recommended by many productivity experts since, the Pomodoro technique is one of my favorites. I can contract with myself to do a dreaded or difficult task for only a short period of time and then allow myself to quit, or at least take a break. This also helps to break a big task into chunks.
I use the tomato timer on my computer and the Be Focused app on my iPhone for just about any task. It helps me get through the pile of mail that has accumulated after I’ve been away from home, revise a chapter I’ve written, and many other personal and professional tasks.
Identify ways to make it “easier”.
Shoveling snow will never be easy, but a bigger or better shovel might make it less tedious. Reading a complicated research study isn’t “easier” if I’m sitting outside in a lawn chair (or at least, in my sun room) but it improves my mood while doing so. There’s almost always some way to make the task seem less burdensome.
Stop procrastinating by picking the hardest task first, each day.
In his famous book, Eat That Frog, Brian Tracy says we are most likely to succeed when we eat the frog first thing in the morning, and— if we have more than one frog to eat— we need to eat the biggest frog first!
For me, this works best when it’s coupled with the Pomodoro timer. I cannot sit and eat frogs all morning!
Realize that “feelings” follow actions.
Feelings (“I’ll feel like it later”) do not precede actions. It’s the other way around.
In his book, author and psychologist Timothy Pychyl cites research to show that attitudes follow behaviors. He says, “When you start to act on your intention as intended, you will see your attitude and motivation change.”
Let someone help you.
There’s almost always someone who can you help you complete some of your tasks.
Raking leaves was almost fun to do with the kids. (Almost!) Visiting a sick, elderly relative was less stressful to do with my husband. Unwinding a ball of massively tangled yarn is best done with my sister. A little help goes a long way.
Give yourself a reward for completion.
Plan ahead of time to give yourself a reward for finishing your dreaded task. It doesn’t have to be the pot at the end of the rainbow. But after you eat the frog, yeah, you deserve a chaser.
Some of you have an upcoming IBLCE exam that you haven’t started to prepare for. Re-read this blog and see how many of these tips you could use to stop procrastinating.
Invoking the 2-minute rule, you could download my free 8-week Study Guide. Or, you could use Pomodoro to give yourself time to gather up and organize your study materials, or you could let someone help you—me! Register for my live or online Comprehensive Course if you’re a newbie, or get my live or online review course if you’re recertifying.
What’s your favorite way to stop procrastinating?