“If it weren’t for the last minute, I wouldn’t get anything done.” Author unknown
Okay, in the spirit of full disclosure, I must admit to you that I’m working on this blog at the very last minute, and I’m woefully behind on a number of projects that really need to happen. So one of my resolutions is to get off my butt and address the pressing issues I have been ignoring.
Are you starting 2011 with a renewed commitment to stop procrastinating? Millions of people are in your (our) shoes, but how many of them will succeed in tackling those critical things that never seem to get done? Sadly, not many. How can you banish procrastination once and for all?
Be brutally realistic. Subconsciously, you have already decided that some of the items on your list are never going to happen. Maybe they’re not that important to you, and you’ve taken them on simply to please someone else. You may be incapable of doing a task, but reluctant to accept that fact. It could be that it’s really not essential. Whatever the reason, erase the work you realistically won’t do from your list. Then you can direct your energies to the things you must do.
Conquer time. Many people complain that the reason they don’t get important work done is that they don’t control their schedule. That simply isn’t true (unless you are in prison, perhaps). The real truth is that although you may not have a lot of time, you have some. What you do with that time is your choice. Read our blog called Ruthless time management for the frantically busy.
Do it first. Don’t allow yourself to start the day without addressing the most vital of your put-off-tasks. Otherwise, you’ll get distracted from what is truly most important. See our blog post called Act strategically. Eat the frog first.
Chunk it up. If just thinking about the enormity of the job makes you queasy, start by breaking it up into manageable bits. Don’t allow yourself to wallow in the vastness of the task; as Dorie in the movie, Finding Nemo, said, “Just keep swimming…just keep swimming.”
Get help. If you think you have to do it all yourself, think again…and read our blog post called Help! I need somebody. Recruit someone to tangibly help, be a sounding board or hold you accountable.
Make a public commitment. Nobody wants to be caught not doing something they’d committed to do. Use your fear of embarrassment by making your resolution specific, deadline-driven and public. Explicitly tell people how they can help keep you on track.
Build in consequences. Finally finished that basement renovation? Schedule a massage. (You might need it.) Consequences can be positive or negative, but they should be incentive enough for you to do this hard work.
Give up on perfection. Remember The Cult of Done Manifesto, part of which states, “Laugh at perfection. It’s boring and keeps you from being done.”Perfection is unattainable and unnecessary. Your best has to be good enough. Otherwise, delegate it to someone else who could do a better job.
You show what you value not by what you talk about, or lay awake pondering, but by what you do. So get off the computer and spend a few minutes zeroing in what you’ve been trying to avoid. You may find that it’s easier than you think. Olin Miller said, “If you want to make an easy job seem mighty hard, just keep putting off doing it.” Like writing blogs, for instance.
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It is absolutely imperative to identify clearly your commitmernts and timelines, from which you can determine your priorities in a realistic manner. These have to be periodically reviewed as we all know things change. I have found that by doing an honest review of the amount of work likely to be involved in each project and the extent to which I have to involve others in any project considerably helps me to determine when I should be able to finish a project and cross it off the list. Nothing is more satisfying. Time lines you set for yourself can be just as compelling as those set by others, with the same concerns about procrastination. However, your timetable can be adjusted. It is often difficult to do something about timelines set by others to whom we are accountable.