I recently wrote about goals and how the only way to actually achieve them is to do. Well, something that is usually standing in the way of doing is procrastination. I can tell you that from first-hand experience.
Procrastination has been, at times, my biggest fault, causing me to turn in papers late, push deadlines at work, or miss the closing date for job applications for what could have been the perfect position.
I have tried many methods to overcome my terrible habit of procrastination, some have been utterly unsuccessful, but I have shared some methods below that I find work for me. I change up my method depending on the circumstance, but it’s best to figure out what works best for you specifically.
Incentives – Sometimes I will tell myself I can have or do something if I do a particular thing or task by a specified time. I like to do this if it is something that happens on a regular basis, so I can group them together. A common one for me is, “If I am up by (a certain time) every day this week, I can stop at Starbucks on my way to work on Friday.” Grouping things let’s me use the incentive approach without overdoing it (and without overspending if it’s that kind of incentive) and it extends my efforts over a number of days – something that is beneficial in breaking old and creating new habits.
Create shorter-term deadlines – Sometimes my procrastination stems from having way too much time to actually complete something. In this sort of situation, I find it helpful to create a new deadline for myself that is at a closer date so I have less time to let it fall off my radar. If it is a project that can be broken down into smaller portions or steps, I assign a deadline to each one. If it is a small project but with a far-away deadline, I tend to do one of two things: 1. Complete it right away to get it off my plate, or 2. Create a Bring Forward (BF) in my calendar to remind myself to start the project at a certain date prior to the deadline. I usually try to just get it done, but if there are too many things on the go then starting later is helpful.
Create additional accountability – Outside of work, most of my projects are personal and I am completely in charge of the deadlines. Sometimes, though, I need a little extra “push” to stay on top of my deadlines. Additional accountability can be created in many ways – a contributor, a client, a mentor, a significant other, or even a family member or friend that you share information about your current projects with who checks in with you from time to time.
There are many more methods to overcome procrastination like getting organized, figuring out the cost of your “wasted” (procrastinated) time, or identifying the consequences of not being ready for the deadline, to name a few. What is especially important is to recognize that you are procrastinating and sometimes it is important to figure out why. There could be a deeper reason causing you to turn to procrastination that needs to be taken care of before you try to stop procrastinating.