If procrastination was an Olympic sport, I’d have a gold medal. I had grand intentions for a productive summer, but life got in the way with an unexpected move out of state, and I put off all those tasks I had planned in favor of later. When I have free time. When things calm down. When school starts. When our house sells. When we get a new house.
Procrastination is a habit that rarely benefits us. It adds stress, worry, and mental clutter. It can add physical clutter too if you’re procrastinating on an organizing project, returning books to the library, or taking those charity donations out for drop off. Procrastination can also have monetary penalties if you pay that bill late, delay filing your taxes, or put off billing clients.
Procrastination is a habit that spirals. If you delay doing one thing and don’t face negative backlash, it’s easier to delay the next task, maybe even a little longer next time. And if that one fails to bite you in the rear, you’re more likely to procrastinate on other tasks, even longer, until they’re being put off indefinitely. Someday becomes never.
In an effort to curb my own procrastination habit, I’ve pulled together these tips for killing procrastination.
- When you’re working on the computer, close as many browser windows as possible. It’s too easy to get distracted by the Internet. Block distractions during work time — turn off email notifications, close Facebook, maybe even silence your phone — so you can focus on the task at hand. Don’t make it easy to procrastinate.
- Write tasks and appointments down. Don’t rely on your memory to remind you what you’re supposed to be doing. As much as possible, assign a deadline to tasks and put them on your calendar. You won’t find time to tackle your to-do list if you don’t schedule it. Scheduling ensures you’ve blocked out time and makes it harder for you to procrastinate.
- Be accountable to someone. I’m terrible about writing when I don’t have a hard deadline. I’ll put articles off for weeks, which turns into months, if I don’t have a due date. As a former newspaper reporter though, a deadline means business to me. Give yourself a deadline for tasks, and let someone know. If I don’t have a deadline for a writing assignment, it’s best for me to give myself one, and then tell the editor when to expect it, so I know it’s my reputation on the line if I put off writing it.
- If a task takes less than five minutes, just do it now. Don’t put off the little things. If it takes two minutes to take out the trash, don’t wait until later — do it now. If it takes five minutes to pop in the gas station to fill up your car, do it now, before you’re running late and the car is on E. If it takes five minutes to put a load in the washing machine, just do it. Taking a few minutes here and there to take care of those little tasks will save you big headaches later.
- Set aside an hour a week to take care of those nagging unfinished tasks that may take a little longer. You can get a lot done in a hour, especially if you do it every week. If you spend an hour Friday catching up on bill paying, dropping off donations or returning library books, or even working on a decluttering project, you can make great headway on those tasks that never seem to get done. Before you know it, you’ll be caught up on all those tasks you’ve been putting off for months!
What tips do you have for killing the procrastination habit?