Do you constantly feel like there’s not enough time in the day to get everything done? And do you find yourself putting some things off? Then you’re not alone. However tempting it is to try and pack as much into your schedule as possible, it’s important to realize that you can’t do everything. What’s important is that you get the most important things done, the rest will just have to wait or be done by someone else. And to do this, you need to learn how to stop procrastinating and doing things that aren’t important so that you can finally get those all-important things done sooner rather than later.
If you’re more selective about what you spend your time on, you’ll not only get more done but you’ll be focused on actions that have the most impact on your success.
Here are 10 simple ways to stop procrastinating so that you can get more of the important things done and be more productive.
1.Plan and prioritize
Every evening the last thing you should do is to plan for the following day and set the top goals and priorities. This way you don’t waste time, trying to find out what needs to be done in the morning and you can be taking action from the minute you start the day.
Make sure to include the priority of each action that needs to be taken, making it clear what the very first item will be so you don’t waste time. Focus on doing the things that will have the biggest impact or those that will move you closer to your goals.
2. Gather your resources and consider potential setbacks first
One of the often underestimated ways to stop procrastinating is to make sure you have everything you need to hand before you start tackling tasks.
If you’ll be needing someone’s help or input, let them know and get the time booked in advance so that once you get started, you can complete tasks as quickly as possible.
This is the same for information and any other resources. You don’t want to stop tasks when you’re in the flow because it will take valuable time to get back in the zone. And that’s when you’re likely to get distracted.
3. Remove distractions
Distractions, distractions… It’s so easy to get distracted. Whether that’s speaking to a colleague, getting pulled into an impromptu meeting, taking a phone call, or checking social media. The list goes on. Removing distractions is one of the simplest ways to stop procrastinating. Remove as many distractions as possible.
Turn off email and mobile alerts, put phones on airplane mode, and remove yourself by going to a quiet room if necessary so you can give your mind the best environment for focus.
By keeping your desk tidy with only what you need for the task at hand you won’t drift onto other things.
4. Create a schedule
Writing lists is great. It makes it clear what needs to be done and it definitely feels good when items get checked off the list. But sometimes a to-do list just isn’t enough. If you find that you aren’t making good progress with your to-do list because of procrastination, it might be time to implement a stricter schedule.
Creating and sticking to a schedule is another great way to stop procrastination. This doesn’t have to mean every hour of the day is accounted for, since this isn’t realistic and will only end up backfiring.
However, sometimes, we procrastinate because we think we have more time than we do. Without the visual of a planner or a schedule, we mentally push projects into time slots that we don’t actually have.
Confining tasks to an agreed set period of time will not only ensure that you really do have the time for them around other activities you’ve commuted to but seeing a visible endpoint will give you more motivation to get started.
Remember, tasks will expand to the time you allow, and this also means that if you don’t set a specific time to start a task, this time could stretch out inevitably, if you never get started!
One lesson I’ve learned only too well when it comes to scheduling is to make sure you leave flexible space for the unexpected things that might crop up.
And be sure to set realistic timeframes for tasks – better to set a realistic timescale and get the job done than setting barely enough time ( to make yourself feel better) only to find you’re left pushing things back yet again.
5. Break things down
One of the biggest culprits when it comes to procrastination is that we can feel overwhelmed by seemingly insurmountable tasks before ever getting started. Trying to tackle tasks that are too big in one go without breaking them down will likely lead to procrastination. To avoid this, break down big tasks into smaller pieces and tackle them chunk by chunk.
6. Cut down your focused time
Do you have a large task to complete that requires a lot of focus?
You might want to consider not just focusing, but also unfocusing. This might sound strange, but your brain can only handle so much. Trying to stay focused for long periods of time can have negative effects due to fatigue. According to an article in Harvard Business Review, “excessive focus exhausts the focus circuits in your brain. It can drain your energy and make you lose self-control. “
When this happens, you make poor decisions, become less collaborative, and you can be more impulsive and less helpful.
Avoid these negative effects of prolonged focus by working in shorter bursts of time, interspersed with short breaks.
Another reason you might want to break up focus time with unfocused time is the default mode network.
The Default Mode Network
The default mode network is the name given to a group of regions in the brain which is fairly inactive when we’re engaged in focused tasks but become very active when we’re not focusing or doing tasks that require our attention. What’s more when the default mode network ( DMN) is highly active this is when we’re daydreaming, recalling memories, envisioning the future, monitoring the environment, thinking about the intentions of others, and other such things.
So, given that the DNM kicks your memory recall and imagination into gear, some time spent not focusing might just be what you need to help you find new solutions and remember previous information that could help you with the task at hand.
Watch the video below for more on the DNM.
7. Force a deadline
You’ve got a piece of work you’ve been putting off, then suddenly out of nowhere you get the impetus to get it done! And fast! Sound familiar. This is what happens to many of us when we have a deadline looming. Suddenly we just get on with it and get it done. So why not use this in your favor as a way to stop procrastinating. Why not create your own deadlines?
You’re probably thinking, “But I’ve already passed the last 3 deadlines I set for myself!”, but did you give yourself a real reason to get the task completed.
Perhaps you didn’t make the deadline firm enough. Maybe you have some event that you want to attend, or you have plans with friends, why not make these contingents on getting what you need to do completed.
8. Get accountability and leverage
Still, procrastinating? Then one of the ways to stop procrastinating that’s proven to be very powerful is to get accountability and leverage on yourself. However, you do it. Simply put you need to hold yourself accountable and have ramifications for not getting things done.
I once heard about someone who committed to giving away an amount of money, every time he failed to follow through, and he had promised this money to someone he knew wouldn’t let him off the hook. As you can imagine, with money on the line, it was a lot more compelling to accomplish what he planned.
While this might sound extreme- it can be very effective.
If you’re not feeling flush, another great way to get accountability is to let someone know when you’ll be completing something. For example, if you have a presentation or speech to prepare, why not commit to a date and time when you will present to them, even before you get started on putting it together. This way, you have accountability AND an enforced deadline!
Our time can easily be taken up with things that aren’t important. These are the types of activities that need to get done, but really don’t move us any closer to the goals we’re trying to achieve long-term. These can be admin-related tasks or things like sorting your inbox.
Small tasks with seemingly quick wins allow us to get that satisfying tick on our to-do list. In reality, they’re a distraction from what we really should be doing, and recognizing this is key when trying to find ways to stop procrastinating.
So next time you find yourself running out of time or feeling overwhelmed by your workload, ask yourself:
- Does this all have to be done now?
- Does this all have to be done by me?
- What is the impact of this not getting done?
You might just find that you cut your list in half, making it much less daunting to get started.
Finally on the list of ways to stop procrastinating…
10. Set a meaningful reward
Finally, if you’re trying to find a simple way to stop procrastinating, why not try an old classic. They say you attract more bees with honey. Perhaps you’ve tried using the stick and it’s just not effective. Sometimes you just need to know there’s a reward at stake. Whether it’s allowing yourself to watch something on Netflix, having a big old slice of cake, or having some alone time – why not motivate yourself to get going with the simple yet powerful act of rewarding yourself, whatever that means for you.
Do you use any of these methods to stop procrastinating and to motivate yourself? maybe you’ve got other suggestions that aren’t listed? Let us know in the comments!
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