“Tomorrow, I’ll start tomorrow.” You have resolve and motivation. You are ready to conquer the world, to accomplish your biggest career goals and attack your to-do list. But then it doesn’t happen. You leave the urgent email until tomorrow and your CV remains no more than a draft. Conclusion: You’re a procrastinator.
There’s no need to panic, however, as you’re not alone. According to Diane Ballonad Rolland, author of J’arrête de Procrastiner (No More Procrastination, 21 Days to Stop Putting Everything off until Tomorrow), procrastination has gone up by 300% to 400% over 40 years. We tend to put off everything we have to do. We’ve convinced ourselves that we work better under pressure at the last minute, or that we’ve got the time to do the work later. On the plus side, this means that we’re eternal optimists. As for the minus side, that can be dealt with. Welcome to the Jungle has eight simple tips to help you stop stalling.
1. Opt for the little by little technique
The project seems unmanageable and you’ve been putting it off for weeks. So yes, if you focus solely on the end, it can quickly get discouraging. But Rome wasn’t built in a day. By breaking down each big project into smaller tasks, you will progress little by little until you’re done. Your brain is better at performing tasks that it can see clearly, in a way that’s orderly and precise.
2. Dive in at the deep end
Stop telling yourself that it’s pointless to do “just” one little thing. Getting started is the hardest part. Once you do that, you’ve got the ball rolling. Don’t let your brain short-circuit your motivation with contrary thoughts that delay getting the job done. Use “starters”, small tasks that move the process forward. This could include preparing the heading of the e-mail or checking that a room is available the next day, for example. And definitely don’t say, “I don’t have the time”. Make the time! Often, the tasks that stress you out don’t take up that much time. You could spend more time figuring out how to avoid doing them than actually doing them.
3. Pick the right time
You can find the time, but make sure it is at the best time for you. The hardest tasks, the ones you tend to put off, should be tackled when you are at your most efficient and focused. Get to know yourself. Are you a morning person? Get the tough work done at the start of your day. If you don’t, these tasks will clutter up your mind and block you from doing other, simpler tasks. So get them over with as soon as possible.
4. Follow the two-minute rule
Do you feel like you’re not moving forward? Aim to do all the tasks that will take you less than two minutes to complete as you go along. That’s what David Allen, the American author and productivity coach, recommends in his book Getting Things Done.This will give you a feeling of satisfaction and encourage you to work your way down your to-do list without delay.
5. Work using the Pomodoro technique
Work in blocks of 20-25 minutes, broken up by short pauses to free your mind and stimulate intellectual activity. The Pomodoro technique takes this principle and, using a timer, sets up work cycles that promote intellectual agility. You’ll feel more efficient and you’ll procrastinate less. If you use Trello, you can even turn your Trello cards into Pomodoro tasks with tools such as Pomello. This technique will help you to put together great to-do lists and then to finish everything on them every day.
6. Make a reasonable to-do list
Wanting to do lots of things is good, but you have to be realistic. A to-do list that’s too long will only discourage you and more likely drive you to procrastinate. Try to keep track of the time you spend on each task to better see what you can achieve. Then at the end of the day, analyse the amount of time you had planned to spend on a task as against how much time you actually spent on it. Don’t worry about overestimating how much time each took. It will give you wiggle room. And of course, be patient with yourself. Today’s great professional achievements have taken years to produce.
7. Commit to it
Tasks that you’ve committed to doing for someone else are tasks that you’ll postpone less, especially if you know that your work will have an impact on someone else’s. As soon as you can, set up situations that force you to be accountable. Tell your team that you’re working on something new for next week, or tell your friends about a personal goal that you plan to achieve. This type of contract with yourself can help immensely.
8. Think about the reward
Allow yourself to feel pleased with any progress made on your to-do list. Your brain will take in the connection between achieving your tasks and the sense of satisfaction. This will push you to continue down this path. In most cases, people don’t put off tasks because they are overwhelmed, but because they have the wrong priorities. In the moment, they choose to do something else, something easier. If you start to tackle your to-do list by putting the above tips in place, knowing that you’ll get a sense of fulfillment from the process, you’ll have more fun doing it too.
“Your future is created by what you do today, not tomorrow.” - Robert T. Kiyosaki
Translated by Kalin Linsberg
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