Procrastination is natural. All of us practice it from time to time. In some situations it can actually be useful. However, for many people it needs to be managed so that things get done.

Here are some tips for dealing with the urge to procrastinate.

Eat the elephant one bite at a time

When you are faced with a large or intimidating project, chunk it into more manageable pieces. Consider these three chunking strategies.

Chunk up: Sometimes we get bogged down in minutiae, can’t see the wood for the trees, and feel really stuck. A quick overview will often show very quickly where to start.

Identify the bigger elements of a task, looking for the bigger picture. Ask what one thing will get the project moving, what critical point will help everything else fall into place, and start there.

Chunk down: Break large tasks into smaller actions. This lets you easily focus on the priorities that produce the best impact.

Chunk sideways: Clump like with like. Sort tasks according to relevant categories. Example categories include Internet research, sending email, writing or drafting information, phone calls, and face to face discussions.

When you have a lot of ideas rattling around, a quick brain dump onto paper can turn that basket of cotton wool on your shoulders into the sharp brain you thought you’d lost at the supermarket. If you are a linear thinker, making a list may be enough to get you going. If you are like me and think in pictures and relationships, try a mind map for quick clarity. You’ll be surprised how quickly you pull together the essence of your topic or project.

To make a simple mind map, on an A4 paper turned to landscape view, put your main topic or project in the centre of the page, then add ‘branch’ topics that relate to it. Brainstorm additional branches to each of the topics as ideas surface and draw them in using words or pictures. Continue to add branches until you run out of ideas. You will have more clarity and focus, and the first steps to take will be obvious. Even better, you’ll find yourself itching to get going, instead of wallowing in procrastination!

Do the hard thing first

Think of the last time you dragged the chain on a tricky task, put off something unpleasant, deferred deadlines. How did you feel? Heavy, lethargic, guilty, generally less than top class? Conversely, have you noticed the rush of adrenalin you get when you tackle a task that’s been hanging around for ages?

Do the hardest thing at the start of the day, and you will have more job satisfaction, feel less stressed, and do a better job.

Taking action on tough tasks quickly will give you a great feeling of success and release endorphins, which will make you feel more energetic and able to move faster. You will actually get more done!

Beware of majoring in minor things

Sometimes we keep doing low priority, low value activities out of habit or just to have a break. Ask yourself what hourly rate the work is worth. If it’s worth less than the rate you’re earning, or can earn, look for ways to outsource or delegate it.

When you do work that’s worth a lesser amount, you’re effectively earning that lower figure.

Acquire a ‘Do it NOW’ attitude

Winners get going, losers just think about getting going. Every time you feel an ‘I’ll get round to it later’ phase coming on, refuse to allow yourself that lazy habit. It doesn’t take very long to develop a sense of discomfort every time you find yourself slipping into procrastination, as long as you notice it and do something about it.

Every time you create even a tiny win over a disempowering habit, there’s a sense of completion, of accomplishment that builds the next infinitesimal block in the ladder of your success.

Enjoy creative procrastination

Remember I said that procrastination can actually be useful? Procrastination is not all bad; there’s good procrastination as well!

If something seems hard and difficult, sometimes that’s your intuition saying ‘Wait up. There is a better way.’ Or it could be, if you’re a ‘rush in and sort it’ kind of person, that by letting a situation mellow for a while, things will sort themselves or more clarity will arise, thereby saving time and energy.

Also, how often do you get hooked into low level activities? Put off things that won’t advance your life plan by being done today. Learn to focus on activities that lead you toward your goals and block out or procrastinate on the trivial, time-consuming minor tasks (as long as that doesn’t create a negative impact on people to whom you have a responsibility.)

The bottom line is that procrastination is a habit, and can be replaced by other habits if you work on it. These tips will get you up and doing, help you create new behaviour patterns in your work, and still let you include the ‘down time’ we all need to be most effective.

By Robyn Pierce

SOURCE: NZ Herald

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