It’s easy to feel overwhelmed with life as your responsibilities pile up, your days fly by, and your motivation slowly but surely disappears. You might feel like there’s too much to do and not enough time to do it. Perhaps you feel overwhelmed and, like many people, you start putting off the things you should be doing.
Sound familiar? Welcome to the club! You’re not alone – we all end up battling the procrastination monster at one point or another. How can you win this battle?
The Australia Department of Health’s Centre for Clinical Interventions suggests a very helpful approach that involves three steps: What, How, and When. If you’re curious about this approach, here are some of the strategies for fighting procrastination.
What to do
You can’t win without knowing what you’re up against, so the first step in defeating the procrastination monster is to face it.
- Make a list: Write down all the things you need to do in a given day, week, or month. You might find it helpful to note each individual task on a separate notecard.
- Prioritize your tasks: label or categorize them in some way to show priority level.
- Break it down: If any of your tasks seem particularly dreadful, break them down into mini tasks until you can look at the pieces individually without panicking. Joseph Ferrari, a psychology professor at DePaul University in Chicago, uses this metaphor: “Cut down one tree. And if you can’t cut a whole tree, cut three branches.”
How to do it
The second step involves the how. Of the three, this one probably depends the most on your personality and how you operate.
- Know thyself: Identify what distracts you and make a point of resisting.
- “Worst first”: Do what you’re dreading first and save the best/easiest tasks for last. (Kind of like how we do dessert!) It makes sense to tackle what you don’t want to do while the day is young and your energy levels are high.
- Keep daily records: At the end of the day, track your accomplishments and set goals and priorities for tomorrow.
- Find an accountability partner: A lot of times it’s easier to fight the procrastination monster if you have a friend to fight with you.
- Go high-tech: There are many software applications you can use to limit or control your access to distractions online, like Strict Workflow (which blocks your internet access for a pre-defined period of time) and Productivity Owl (which closes browser tabs after a set time)
Don’t forget to include occasional rewards for yourself throughout the day to stay motivated. Remember, life shouldn’t be all work!
When to do it
None of the above will help if you don’t make a concerted effort to find the time you need to accomplish your tasks. It’s easy to let time slip away, so here are some ways to make sure it doesn’t:
- Put everything into a schedule: There’s no sense in making a list and prioritizing if you don’t also have a plan of attack.
- Time yourself: Allot a certain amount of time for a task and then move on. Racing the clock can actually be fun!
- Make sure you assign deadlines: If nothing’s ever due, nothing will ever get done, right?
If we got paid to come up with excuses, none of us would ever have to work. And if things got done by themselves, we’d never derive any satisfaction from a job well done. As the philosopher William James once said, “Nothing is so fatiguing as the eternal hanging on of an unfulfilled goal.”
So, go out and get things done!