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5 Ways To Stop Procrastinating By Friday

We all have one: some big, horrible, awful-sounding task that we'd prefer to put off to next month. Or never. Unfortunately, procrastination doesn't really mean pushing something to the future, because if you're worried about it, a postponed task has a sneaky way of consuming a lot of mindshare in the present. Here are a few ways to finally get moving:

  1. Do a "home inspection” on the problem. I'm in the middle of buying a house. Part of the process is finding a disinterested yet expert third party to spell out exactly what's wrong with the property and how to fix it. I think this is a concept that should be used more broadly. Survey several other parties (a spouse, close friends, your mentor) to tell you what they'd do with your particular project. You may discover that the Biggest Editing Job Ever just requires moving a few paragraphs around.
  2. Break the project into concrete steps. Say you need to give a speech. This sounds like a huge undertaking, but it's really more like seven much smaller projects. You need to figure out a thesis, make an outline, find some key statistics and anecdotes, write a draft, practice it, revise, then practice it in front of others and ask for their feedback. All of these sound infinitely doable.
  3. Figure out how long each step of your task will take. We tend to overestimate how much time things we hate to do consume. I hate doing the dishes, so I used to think I spent like an hour emptying the dishwasher each time. Then I looked at the clock and found it takes 5-7 minutes. Likewise, if you hate cold-calling people, you may be telling yourself that making 5 cold calls will take all day. It won't. It will probably take less than an hour. Don't you feel silly fretting all week about something that will take less than 60 minutes?
  4. Block your task in first thing in the morning. Do it before you expend any energy on checking emails or even saying hello to your co-workers. If possible, make it the only thing on your to-do list for the day. Often, if we're dreading a task, we hide it in the middle of 20 other goals. Then, we feel like we've done something when we hit 19 of 20... but not the thing we really know we should have done. Don't give yourself that satisfaction. Force yourself to sit there twiddling your thumbs if you're not attacking the problem.
  5. Use blatant bribery. Kids get stickers for going to the dentist. Why shouldn't you? If you knock off your dreaded task by 9:30AM, give yourself permission to loaf the rest of the day. And have ice cream for lunch, a margarita after work or whatever it takes to create such positive feelings that you're never tempted to procrastinate again.
How did you finally get going on a major project?


Photo courtesy flickr user, ben.pike
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