Building on yesterday’s post about time management, and using the article from Frances Booth on Forbes, Frances wrote about productive tips for procrastrinators. I just love it as I am definitely a procrastinator at heart and it really make sense when you want to work on your business.
So here are Frances’ 10 time management tips for procrastinators:
Firstly, notice that you are procrastinating and acknowledge this. Try and do so without judging yourself and without getting stressed about not having enough time. Simply say to yourself (in your head or out loud) a simple phrase such as “procrastinating” or “moving on”. Choose a phrase that works for you. In doing so, you’ve acknowledged it – you’re procrastinating.
Now you’ve acknowledged it you can move onto the next step – doing something about it.
Look at where your time goes
We all use different props to fill our time when we’re procrastinating. Start to identify what these are for you.
Do you fill your time meant for other things with browsing social media, for example?
Or get lost in the maze of the Internet?
Do you clean the kitchen?
Or switch on the TV?
Digital distractions are a powerful procrastination temptation that we need to consciously resist. It can be all too easy to click on a social media icon when a task is too boring, difficult, or uncomfortable to do. Does this happen for you?
Start to note down exactly where your time goes.
Make time your best friend
Procrastinators frequently delude themselves regarding the passage of time. If you often tend to get to the end of the day bewildered as to where the day went then try shifting your relationship to time.
Rather than being foxed repeatedly by time, make friends with it instead. Start to become aware of exactly how long each task takes, rather than making a wild guess. To do this, look frequently at a watch or clock, and learn what really takes you 15 minutes, what takes 30 minutes, and what takes an hour.
Check in with time regularly, and really notice how each day passes for you.
Improve your estimates
When procrastinators estimate how long a task will take, they tend to estimate without factoring in any time for procrastination. They then procrastinate, and the actual time for the task takes far longer than they estimated (because it’s task time + procrastination time). They then get disappointed or discouraged at best, and miss deadlines or give up at worst, because everything is taking longer than it ‘should’.
If you know you procrastinate, factor that in to your estimation, so you’re not always ‘behind’ time. While wishful thinking might mean you start off hopefully each day, missing your targets continually is demoralising, so it’s better to make an accurate estimate.
As you start to procrastinate less, your estimates will change to include just task time.
Too easy …
We tend to procrastinate most when the task we’re facing is at either end of the spectrum – either too easy or too difficult. If it’s too easy, we get quickly bored, have little motivation, and there is little to hold our attention.
The trick here is to use frequent mini-rewards to keep going from one small spell of time to the next (such as every 30 minutes). These can be simple things such as food or drinks, or breaking off for a short (five minute) walk or conversation.
… or too difficult?
If the task is too difficult, we also procrastinate. The reasons here are different. We know the task ahead of us will take a lot of effort, we’re perhaps not sure whether we can do it, and maybe – if we’re honest – we’re scared. So we put it off and put it off, doing anything other than the task. Finally – usually because time is running out – we have to do it.
Deadlines are one way to deal with this, but a less stressful solution is to tackle the task while there’s still plenty of time. Notice that you’re taking a leap and pushing yourself and that this might be the reason for your procrastination.
Be kind to yourself and give yourself credit for stepping up to this task. Then get on with it small step by small step. Add a couple of easy tasks in to your day too as light relief.
Just a little
Can a little bit of procrastination be a good thing? Yes.
This is not a green light to go back to hours of procrastination … but five minutes of procrastination can be helpful as a lead in to tasks. For example, you can use this when starting the working day or re-starting after lunch.
Digital examples could include quickly checking a social media platform, the weather forecast, or the news headlines. Non-digital examples could include putting the kettle on. Stick to five minutes though and don’t let it become a wasted hour.
During this short, intended procrastination, you can build up to and get ready for your task ahead. (Email isn’t suitable here however, as it tends to take a lot longer, stir emotions or knock people off course.)
Meet more deadlines
Often, the only time we finally get round to focusing properly on a task is when we’re uncomfortably close to a deadline.
So if you want to be more productive and focused, an easy solution is to have more deadlines. This idea may make you feel pressured, but these are deadlines that you impose on yourself. So decide, for example, that a certain task must be done by 3.30pm, or by the end of Friday. If you work for someone else and a self-imposed deadline isn’t enough to motivate you, ask them to set you more deadlines. Get into the habit of promising to deliver certain things by a certain day/time (in doing so you’re creating helpful deadlines).
If you repeatedly can’t find the motivation to get on with the things on your To Do list, and find yourself procrastinating all of the time, consider whether you need to change what’s on your list.
This could mean a step as big as changing your entire workload. One solution might be to delegate the things you don’t want to be doing to someone else, leaving you free to focus on the things you are motivated to get on with. Another solution might be to look for and take on a new project related to the part of your role you’re most interested in.
Put more of what you want to be doing on your To Do list and you’ll find you get round to doing it.
Are you expecting a miracle?
Are you expecting – for example – that you’ll produce the best presentation ever written by 5pm? If so, you’re likely to scare yourself to a halt with unrealistic expectations that can never be met. No wonder this sparks a long cycle of procrastination.
Think instead in baby steps. Could you aim to start that presentation today, for example? To commit one solid hour to it this afternoon and just see how it goes? Don’t expect miracles and you’ll be more likely to make a start.
I hope you enjoyed the read and that you can apply some of those tips. Believe me, they work!
Talk to you soon.