Face it, all of us procrastinate at some point, about something, even professional organizers (shocking, but true). Have you ever found yourself sitting at your computer doing everything except the things you sat down to do? No, me neither! But if you have a ‘friend’ who has, let them know that they aren’t alone. In 2010 an American Time Use Survey was conducted by the US Department of Labor. This survey was turned into a handy (and fun) graph by CreditLoan.com that shows what we do in a 24hour period. According to the survey, we’re sleeping and chillin’ most of the time, so no wonder nothing gets done. There are lots of distractions out there keeping us from doing what we need to. For me, it’s Words With Friends. Every time I hear the sweet sound of Scrabble on my phone, I am drawn away from my work mid (oh, hold on, gotta play) sentence to play a word (and I don’t want to brag, but I’m pretty good!).
Whether at work or home, we put things off because they’re either undesirable or too big/confusing to tackle. And just because we put things off does not mean we’re slackers (ok, some people are). We’re busy, and the busier we are the more things get put off. I have even been procrastinating about writing this blog because I wasn’t sure what I wanted to write about (and then it hit me, like a can of spaghetti O’s falling off the top shelf of the pantry). There are things we should be doing that we just don’t want to do. That’s never going to change, but the way we deal with it can. It’s all about dividing things into manageable chunks and then jumping in. Here’s how:
1. Write everything down: Whether you like pen and paper to-do lists, or electronic ones, find a system that works, and use it. Write down everything you need to do in detail. I suggest keeping separate lists for categories (work, home, calls, emails) and assign due dates to your items (realistic one’s). Keeping your to-do list in your head is a sure way to make it a to-don’t list (that sounded funnier in my head, but oh well).
2. Decide to get started: This is often the hardest one, but the most necessary. Setting a goal to get something done helps you achieve it because you don’t want to let you down (do you?).
3. Get rid of distractions: Silence your phone (and Words With Friends), turn off the TV, put headphones on if there are others around, close everything on your computer other than what you need to do, and turn off email alerts. Make a decision not to allow anything interfere with the task at hand. If you find maintaining this difficult, set a timer (for a realistic time frame – no, 5 minutes doesn’t count) and take a break when it goes off.
4. Pick an item on your list: Some people say to pick the hardest/worst things first, but I disagree. I think doing the easy/fun things should be first, so you can cross them off quickly and build momentum for the hard things. Crossing things off your list will make you feel accomplished and you’ll want to maintain that feeling.
5. Take it one step at a time: If a project is big, breaking it up into manageable pieces will help get it done and keep you from getting overwhelmed. Eat the elephant one bite at a time (thanks Bill Hogan. Don’t take this literally!).
6. Be accountable to someone: Sometimes holding yourself to tasks doesn’t work because no one will know (or be mad at you) if you don’t get it done, so why try? Making someone else hold you accountable gives you a nudge to get it done so you don’t let the other person down (and so they don’t call you a slacker).
7. Stop being such a perfectionist: Some people think that everything has to be done perfectly (yep, this would be me), and if it can’t be perfect then there’s no reason to do it. Give yourself a break. That doesn’t mean knowingly doing a bad job; it just means doing the best you can with what you have (time, money, resources).
The point of all of this is that you can get done what you need to with a little structure. If you commit to the process you are bound to be and feel accomplished in the end.
Ok now that you’ve procrastinated by reading this, get to work!!