By Jeff Davidson
If you put off engaging in activities and experiences that are truly meaningful for you over and over again, you will miss out on the magic and majesty of your life. And if you procrastinate on the job, you will not only make life frustrating, but also risk the chance of not achieving your potential.
Since you might tend to procrastinate more often than you care to admit, here are a variety of ideas to help you break through any self-imposed limits to getting started on your personal and professional pursuits:
- Share your deadlines with others to engender the support they may provide.
- Visualize yourself having completed the task you’re having trouble getting started on.
- Minimize the potential for disruption by safeguarding your workspace in advance.
- Offer yourself small rewards and reinforcement as you complete certain aspects of a challenging task.
- Set up rest or break times, so that the activity doesn’t seem so onerous.
For Only Five Minutes
If you’re having a hard time getting started, promise yourself that you’ll engage in the task for only five minutes. After five minutes, you have the option of stopping or continuing. Many times, once you get in motion, you’re more than willing to continue.
Schedule the less enjoyable tasks first. If you still can’t get started, however, start anywhere, even on something you enjoy doing, because that could be a spur for you to tackle a less enjoyable task.
Clear your desk of everything, except the materials related to the task at hand. The less visual distractions that you have, the greater the probability you can stay focused.
Enlist a partner, even for a few minutes, who can help you get started. It helps especially if you can find a trailblazer, someone who’s already had to tackle what you currently face.
Also, play one task off against another. If task A is terrible, but task B is worse, perhaps in this context, A doesn’t look so bad, and you can get started on it.
Give yourself a preview. If you have to tackle something on Monday that you’ve been putting off, it’s often helpful to briefly view the project on Friday, so that when you return to it on Monday you have some semblance of familiarity with the particulars.
This can also work during the middle of the week, before you leave for vacation, and anytime when there will be a few days or a few hours between when you preview the item and actually work on it.
Do Something, Anything!
If you make excuses or rationalize as to why you’re not getting started, you open up the door to doing it again and again. If you’re honest with yourself and acknowledge when you are procrastinating, then you’re that much closer to taking action. Even the smallest step taken toward working on a task or a long-term goal is far better than doing nothing.
Suppose you want to make a major job change entirely out of your field into something you’ve never attempted before. Rather than contemplating week after week, month after month, and even year after year of how it will be when you make the change, accomplish one small task in pursuit of your desired outcome starting now.
One person wanted to be a movie script writer but didn’t know how he would ever make the transition from his job as a foreman in a manufacturing plant. So, he initiated a three-year goal of leaving his job to become a full-time script writer.
During the interim, he established a daily goal of spending a minimum of 15 minutes working on scripts. Some evenings he was able to get two or three pages completed. Some evenings, he was only able to go as far as a paragraph.
He also attended script-writing seminars and workshops, reading articles and books on the topic, and even joining an association of script writers.
Some people find it useful to keep a time log to record exactly how they use their time in a given day or week, and determine how that aligns with the goals they’ve set for themselves.
A time log can be as simple as a two-column chart down the page that chronologically lists each activity and how much time you engage in it, as you proceed throughout a day.
Jeff Davidson, MBA, CMC, is principal, Breathing Space® Institute, Raleigh, North Carolina (www.BreathingSpace.com or Jeff@Breathingspace.com). An author and presenter on work-life balance, he holds the world’s only registered trademark from the United States Patent and Trademark Office as “The Work-Life Balance Expert.”®