Have you got something on your to-do list that’s been lingering around for ages, and despite your best intentions it just never seems to go away? We both know you’re displaying signs of ‘procrastination’ at its best, but having a name for your condition won’t help you get it done either! However, there are 5 simple steps you can follow to help get your butt back into gear…
My husband has spent the last few months since we moved in to our new home procrastinating over fixing some noisy plumbing. He’s had a few tries, but over time the job has got so big – in his mind – that you can almost see the pain and anguish on his face as the weekend approaches and he knows it’s ‘that time again’ when he really should have another crack.
This weekend he finally admitted that all of his story-telling (excuses!) had only contributed to making the job feel much bigger than it was, and over time his perception of the dreaded task had gone from do-able to unfathomable. And lets face it, when a job feels like that it’s not going to make getting over procrastination any easier.
The fancy explanation for this series of events falls under the name of ‘Parkinsons Law’ which explains how when you put something off, time and time again, the job grows in perceived complexity in your mind – the all-important word here is ‘perceived’.
So what can you do when a job feels huge, won’t go away, and the only option left is to get on with it but just can’t bring yourself to get started? Follow these 5 simple steps…
1. Write down what you’ve got to do – make sure it’s on paper, and not in your mind! For example: Write resume (I would use the plumbing example but I haven’t got a clue how to fix it either!)
2. Now break down the task into really small steps and put them in sequential order. Importantly, the smaller each step is the more likely it is you’ll actually get the bigger goal done so imagine explaining to someone how to do the job/task step-by-step and write the process down for yourself. For example:
3. Write down next to each task realistically how long it will take to complete. Don’t over-estimate – that will slow you down and make the task become even bigger in your mind because the more time you allow yourself the more time the task will probably take. However it’s also important that you’re not overly ambitious either. Imagine paying someone else to do the job for you – realistically how long would you expect them to get it done in? That’s how long you need to allow yourself.
4. Now schedule each task in your diary – physically write or type it in to your schedule, phone, notebook – whatever system you use.
Play to your strengths so book time in when you’re at your most energetic and have minimal distractions. If you know you’re a morning person don’t wait until the afternoon to start the tough stuff you’ve been putting off – block out time as soon after you get up and start immediately.
The process of actually blocking time out is very important as it gives you structure to follow and will help improve your focus and commitment to follow through with your plans. Again, having time blocked out ‘in your mind’ is now enough.
5. Focus on the benefits of getting the task done. We’ll do more to avoid pain than we will to find pleasure, but right now you’re probably going through more than enough pain putting off the job over and over again. So take a moment to write down all the benefits of getting the job done.
How will you feel when it’s complete? What will that mean to you? How good will it be to tick that job off your to-do list? And what will it free you up to do instead? When you can really connect with the benefits and are crystal clear on your motivation you’ll find it much easier to get started, and once you’ve taken those first few steps the momentum to finish will continue building exponentially.
Written by Faye Hollands – Director at Outshine Consulting
Faye is an accomplished Career Coach, Small Business Coach and Productivity Specialist who has successfully coached countless clients on how to create a career they love, get more done in less time, and achieve personal and professional success.
You can contact Faye on +61 2 8323 4335 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
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