I thought I’d share some of the ways that I try to overcome my tendency towards procrastination. My comments relate primarily to my work setting, but with a bit of tweaking maybe they could be used elsewhere.
This is the rather grandiose term that I use for how I organise my work. I have tried to ‘design it out’ by adapting how I handle tasks. I will elaborate on my full workflow process at some other time. (That’s not procrastination, it’s just saving space and avoiding total tedium for the reader!)
The first tactic to avoid procrastination is the most obvious one – just do it! If a task is only going to take a few minutes, get it out of the way. Don’t stop to add it to your to do list, or accord it appropriate priority – just do it!
The second tactic applies to those tasks that will be added to my ‘to do list’ – except that I don’t have a to do list (more of that another time as well). I allocate tasks a slot in my diary (like an appointment with myself), then I treat it like an appointment. I rarely cancel meetings, so it should follow that I rarely skip tasks that have been slotted in.
Thirdly, I try to ensure that every task has a clearly defined, and written, actionable next step. In this way, when I’m due to start work on it, I don’t have the excuse of ‘I’m not sure where to begin with this one’. So if I don’t need to invest time and energy in thinking about it, I can just move straight to ‘doing it’.
I came across a blog entry yesterday that also highlighted this as beneficial. For me, this starts with knowing what’s important. As I plan when to do tasks, I assess their relative importance, and allocate time accordingly. So the most important job gets tackled in the first available time slot of the day.
I also limit my planned activity to 3 designated tasks per day. This means that there is a realistic chance of completing them, and helps me maintain my energy and motivation.
Finally, if all else fails, I have two variations on a theme that I use to help me overcome my resistance to a task.
I write the task on the whiteboard in my office. This has two potential benefits – there is the nagging effect of a task staring at you, and the anticipated satisfaction of wiping it off.
Or, I put the relevant papers in a red folder and leaving it lying in a prominent place in my office. This has a similar nagging effect!
If anyone has tips and tricks that they use, I’d love to hear them.