Today I'd like to let you in on a little secret. I am a chronic procrastinator.
Believe me when I say, I know every glorious excuse there is when it comes to procrastinating.
It's too hard. Too messy. I don't know where to start. I'll never finish. I don't feel like it, I have a headache, I'm not inspired...
And perhaps the greatest one of all - I'll do it tomorrow...
If you're a procrastinator, you'll know it affects everything you do - there are the small things like unpaid bills and tired kids who haven't gone to bed on time, as well as the big things like unfinished university degrees and missed career opportunities.
I bet you also know how incredibly frustrating it is to never achieve the things you really want. It's demoralizing, stressful, and really, it's just crushingly sad. Believe me, I've been there.
Now, a simple google search will come up with thousands of methods and techniques to beat procrastination, but today I'd like to share with you the things that have worked for me.
These ten methods may not be conventional, and they may not be coming from an 'expert', but they've all worked for me, so I'll let you in on them all - one procrastinator to another!
My 10 Secrets to Beating Procrastination:
Some people say you should start your day by 'eating the frog' and doing the hardest thing first. But if you're struggling to even get started, then that's probably the last thing you want to try.
I like to break things down into little increments that I can do right now, and make each step small, achievable and relatively easy. It's a way to focus on what you can do, right now!
I'm writing this post at the moment, and my list goes like this:
decide on topic
brainstorm dot points
organize points into a summary
type and set post
Psychologically, when you write a little incremental list like this, you're saying to yourself 'Yes, I can do this, and then I can do this, and this and this!'. Each point is a little bite of the larger project, and as you tick items off, you reinforce the fact that you can do it, and that it's easy.
And the funny thing about this method is that it builds momentum - the more things you achieve, the more things you want to achieve!
I have this one upbeat, fun playlist I always put on when I'm doing the housework that just makes me want to get stuff done - and whenever I play it I get more stuff done in less time. It's amazing!
Why? The fast tempo naturally makes you move and work faster. Try it - put on some upbeat, fun music, and watch just how much more you get done.
This one is for those mind-numbingly boring tasks we all hate to do.
Like ironing. Folding washing. Sorting tax receipts.
The trick is to distract yourself. Try doing them while catching up on Sherlock or The Blacklist - it might take a bit longer, but at least it will get done (and not be so terribly boring!).
Alternatively, most of us can clean house in our sleep we do it that often, and I always find I can get through half the house while catching up with my sister on the phone. When I hang up, I'm always amazed at how much I've done while I was distracted!
4. CHIP AWAY AT IT
I was spring cleaning the house recently, and the final task was clearing the dining table. Over the week I was cleaning, I'd just dumped everything I didn't know what to do with on there - stuff that had no home, stuff that needed to go to the op shop, other peoples stuff, and just general, random junk.
In the end it was a huge mess of stuff piled a meter high, and I remember thinking 'Whoa. Where on earth do I even start?'
So, I just chipped away at it. I picked up one thing and put it away. Then another and another. I remember thinking 'I don't even know what to do with half this stuff...' and then 'Well, let's just do one bit at a time and figure out the hard bits later.'
And you know, in the end there were lots of 'bits' but none of them ended up being that hard - altogether it was a giant, overwhelming task. But taken bit by bit, it was achievable.
Believe me, if you chip away at a big task, you'll eventually get there, and even if you only get a little bit done, it'll be far more than procrastinating and not starting at all.
5. PEACE AND QUIET
If you have a project you really need to focus on, try getting rid of distractions and make some peace and quiet for yourself.
As I write this, it's 5.23am. I'm sitting outside watching the world wake up, with no phone, no internet, just a coffee and a pen and paper. This is my peace and quiet and it's the only way I can write, so I do it as often as I can deal with the sleep deprivation. Is it eccentric? Absolutely. But it sure does help me get stuff done!
You don't have to get up before dawn like me, but if you can find the right environment and time to really focus, with no distractions, you'll be amazed at how much you can get done.
Procrastinators loathe routine - I sure do - but it's actually very handy. Doing the same thing, the same way, every time, takes away the need to make a decision - and procrastinators really struggle with decisions.
Try looking at how you can start some effective routines to get basic, daily stuff done, or better yet, look at how you can build off the ones you have.
Yep, even the worst procrastinators have some kind of routine - you certainly wake up each day, and probably brush your teeth and sit down at your desk. So build off those things! Add a basic task right after the one you're already in the habit of doing, then add another one every day or so.
Within a week, 'sit down at your desk' can become 'sit down at desk, review diary/planner, write incremental list, start with the easiest item, etc'.
See - it's easy peasy, and you can do routines!
7. MAKE IT BEAUTIFUL
Seriously, it's soul destroying trying to work in an uninspiring, ineffective space. So make it beautiful.
Buy a great pen and enjoy using it. Put some inspirational quotes above your desk. Buy the cutest housekeeping caddy or a pink vacuum cleaner - whatever floats your boat - just make it enjoyable!
Life's too short to be surrounded by ugly.
8. USE A TIMER
Why not try setting the timer on your phone for 10 minutes and see what you can get done!
I find this particularly effective for housework - I can spend all day on it if I'm not careful, and the thought of all those hours spent cleaning is horrible.
So try spending 10 minutes on each room and see what you can get done - make it a game with the kids and you'll have the house clean in no time.
9. KNOW THYSELF
As I was saying, I can spend a whole day cleaning if I'm not careful. If I start in the mornings, I end up spending the whole day faffing around wasting time, so I don't bother starting until 5pm. Then I've only got two hours until I need to start dinner, and most of the time everything gets done in that period because it's all the time I have.
I also know that trying to write anything longer than an instagram post on the computer takes me forever. So I write all my copy out longhand. Yep, old school with a pen and paper. I know I can write more, better quality stuff, in less time this way, so that's what I do.
The point I'm making is to know yourself. Not just whether you're an 'early bird' or a 'night owl', but know your particular quirks. Accept them, and make the way you work actually work with them!
10. JUST DO IT
If all else fails, just do it.
Don't think about it, don't think at all, just get up and start. Right now.
Forget reading the end of this post - I promise it'll be here when you get back.
Just go right now and do that thing you're procrastinating about. Right now.
Quick, don't think, just do it, you can come back when you're done!
So there we go - I hope that's broken you out of your procrastinating funk and given you loads of inspiration and ideas!
And if you have any tips for beating procrastination, I'd love to hear about them in the comments section below.