Everyone procrastinates on occasion, but a full 20 percent of the U.S. population puts off today what they can do tomorrow on a regular or chronic basis, according to a study on the topic. Procrastinating leads to everything from filing your taxes late to walking into the movie theater when the show has already started, from that knowing glance from your boss who is still waiting for the numbers you promised to that angry look from your friend who is tired of always waiting for you to show. It can lead to strained relationships at work and at home, and can be incredibly frustrating to all parties. When you procrastinate, you also likely spend more sleepless nights – either finishing up a big project that is overdue or worrying about the weight of your to-do list.
If you find that you are procrastinating more than before or struggling to accomplish even small goals, these 8 tips can help take the word “procrastinate” out of your vocabulary:
Make a commitment
When you commit to something, whether it is getting to the gym four times a week or finishing a big project with three days to spare, you are more likely to complete it. Accountability works. Share your short- and long-term goals with family, friends, social media contacts, colleagues and enjoy the real and virtual high fives as you follow through. When you simply have a goal, you only have a 10 percent chance of achieving it while committing to someone else increases efficacy to 65 percent and a specific accountability appointment with someone expands the success rate to a whopping 95 percent, according to the American Society of Training and Development.
Start with the most important stuff
While it can be tempting to focus on the tiny tasks that only take a few minutes of your time and energy, when you tackle the big things first, you create momentum and generate real progress. This feels good, ensures that you are on the right track and helps you accomplish your big goals. Sometimes this means that you have to start with the hardest items on your list, but it will feel that much better to cross them off.
Deal with the distractions
Take a quick look at your workspace. How many potential distractions are right in front of you? If you can see the morning rush downtown, your neighbors’ dogs, a dozen stress balls and a mini desk golf set, then you aren’t exactly setting yourself up for success. These little distractions can lead to wasting precious time and even “brain fog”. Likewise, apps and bookmarks that lead you astray are another ready source of procrastination. Clean off your workspace, your screen and anything else within your peripheral view. While it is important to be comfortable, getting too cozy at your desk will likely lead to more online gaming/chatting/shopping and less production.
Get in the right frame of mind and body
When you don’t feel good, you don’t perform so great either. Mental performance truly has a lot to do with your physical state. If you are feeling fuzzy, take a few minutes to enjoy a healthy meal or snack (fruits, veggies, whole grains, lean protein) and a few minutes of movement. Eating right and exercising can help clear your mind and prepare your body for whatever task is next.
Think progress over perfection
If you’re a perfectionist, you might find yourself waiting for the perfect time, perfect place and perfect circumstances to tackle your project. However, you might also find that you never get started and certainly never finish. Instead of perfection, think about progress. It feels really good to get even halfway through something significant by the end of the day. Track your progress and see what you can accomplish in the time, place and circumstances that you have.
Start fresh at 2 p.m.
Sometimes your day starts off great, but you find yourself sidetracked by mid-day and out of energy by 2 or 3 p.m. Instead of throwing in the towel, diving into Instagram and checking out, give yourself a fresh start. Note how much you have already accomplished and what you have yet to do and then make a plan for moving forward. If you wait until the end of the day to do a progress recap, you might feel defeated. If you grab a cup of coffee, take a quick power walk and reset mid-afternoon, you give yourself another chance to succeed.
Set a timer
Some experts recommend 2 minutes, some encourage 20. Find a set amount of time that inspires you to take action (without making you crazy). You can actually accomplish a lot in just 120 seconds. When the timer is on, no distractions, no interruptions, nothing else but the task at hand. This anti-procrastination strategy is nicknamed the Pomodoro Technique and has been used by everyone from the average worker all the way to the CEO.
Don’t be afraid to ask the big questions
If you are constantly procrastinating because you can’t stand your work situation or are simply bored and in need of a new challenge, then it might be time to examine the deeper motivations behind your procrastination behavior. Take some time to reflect on the things you love to do – do you ever delay when it comes to training for that triathlon, seeing the latest action flick, working on your photography or planning your next big travel adventure? If you find that you only procrastinate when it comes to work, it might be time to dust off your resume and find something you’re more excited to dive right into.
Dan Scalco is the founder and marketing director at Digitalux, a digital-marketing agency located in Hoboken, N.J. Throughout his career, he has helped hundreds of businesses save time, increase leads and maximize sales.