Thursday, 19 February 2009

Quit Wasting Time: How to Avoid Procrastination, Part Two

Images thanks to D Sharon Pruitt

Yesterday, as you’ll remember, I talked about the issue of procrastination – where the habit comes from and why it’s best avoided but, really, that’s no help to you without an action plan, is it? We all know we should be more productive, what we need to think about is how we can go about it. Well, you’re in luck! Here are some tips to keep in mind. (Perhaps you could print them out as a record to refer to if and when you find yourself struggling.)

Time is of the essence. If you allow yourself more time, you’re able to get more done; it’s that simple, but how do we buy more time? Train yourself to get up earlier, even if it’s just one hour, two mornings a week. That’s 8 hours extra time a month, 4 full days a year and 320 days in the average lifetime! That’s a pretty big chunk of spare time you’ve given yourself with minimal effort. Promise yourself that this week on _day and _day you will get up one hour earlier and each time fully utilise that hour to complete tasks you’ve been putting off. You’ll have a great day with it out of the way, I promise. Don’t make this a horribly regimented task, because this is a sure-fire way of not doing it; think of that hour as a gift to yourself; the present of productivity. Bounce out of bed with a smile thinking ‘Weyhey! Watch out world, I’m achieving things!’ If you can’t face doing mundane tasks first thing, then don’t. Do something amazing, enjoyable and empowering. Go for a run, read that book you’ve been trying to find the time to start or get to planning an incredible project with notes in a journal; just make it something you’ll love.

Be Good to Yourself. Don’t grab for time where you know you shouldn’t and try to justify it to yourself. For example, an evening spent cramming for an exam is not an excuse for an evening spent cramming your face with junk food instead of preparing a proper meal. Time spent on your health is time equally as well spent as time being productive.

Monitor Your Progress. It’s important to track your general progress daily rather than just having a few set goals for the month or year because, if you’re really set to achieve things (or even go above and beyond) daily tracking is the way to do it. Make a written record of the things you want to achieve each day, but be careful not to overwhelm yourself, between three or five viable tasks should be plenty. You can do something small everyday to work towards your bigger goals and a day is an achievement all its own.

A good tip I’ve heard is to plan your day the night before: just before going to sleep jot down the things you want to do the following day with a rough schedule for yourself. Before sleep is a prime time to get organised because once you have planted the aim to achieve these things in your subconscious, the idea is on its way to becoming a fixture in your minds mental to-do list. Your brain will have all night to mull over and confirm these things as necessary actions and they will subsequently feel very natural and correct to your brain when you attempt them the next day, rather than feeling like a total drag, clever eh? These final moments of your day are also a good time to review what you’ve already achieved and congratulate yourself. This support is vital, as is the acceptance of small failings along the way. Don’t digress or imagine you’re worthless if you stumble now and again; in the words of Madonna - its human nature - and the real genius lies in moving forward and succeeding regardless.

A Room of One’s Own. A designated space for acting productively means you are far more likely to actually get productive, it’s all about the psychology. Setting yourself on your bed with your laptop won’t always yield the results that perhaps sitting at a desk to work would. I’m not assuming you have the luxury of an office (I certainly don’t!) but if you do, that’s brilliant. Otherwise, a small desk that’s kept clear is a must, or head to the library; if you’ve got no distraction other than the murmur of other people behaving productively then you’re on to a winner! See my tips on Creating a Sanctuary for more.

Get into the NOW Habit. Learn to do things almost immediately or as soon as possible when they arise. This is very much about habit and the more you make the effort to do it the more it will become everyday practice. If you have an important letter to write, bank account to set up, dentist appointment to make or something equally as dull, just do it, right then. Do you have something like that? GO! Do it, right now. How refreshing is that? It’s not complex; it’s just a kick up the arse. Make yourself do the task in the instant that it becomes of importance because the more you put it off, the more it irritates you, bogs up your life with insignificant issues and edges towards the realm of things that will never get done. Like I said, this is a habit and the more effort you make to do it now the easier it will become, until it is eventually second nature.

Know Your Weaknesses. Are you an internet bunny like me? Going offline and writing out daily documents on paper instead of your laptop will avoid the all engulfing distraction of the World Wide Web. If you’re an evening surfer then set a time that works for you every evening to get off the computer. This also helps if you’re aiming to get earlier nights; we all know how the hours can slip away when we’re on the internet, and before you know it it’s 1am and you haven’t even thought about going to bed. Remember that it’s likely to take you another hour or so after going offline before you actually find yourself about to go to sleep, what with changing, teeth-brushing and preparing for the following day. If you want to be asleep by 11 you need to get offline by 10 at the latest. Equally, anything else you’re aware of that may hinder your productivity (like an annoyingly dramatic friend you constantly have on the phone, or your boss always pegging you as the one to call to pick up shifts) needs to be recognised and dealt with sooner rather than later.

Are you a recovering time-waster? What stops you from procrastinating? Stand up and share with us!

P.S. If you liked this two part article, you'll probably enjoy Who Else Wants a Better Work Ethic?


Leia said...

Your best article yet!

Voila Megan said...

Thanks Leia! ♥

Martin - TheUniversityBlog said...

I agree with Leia. Top work.

Especially like your advice to get up earlier once or twice a week. I was a big fan of super-early Sundays. Everyone else sleeping, so getting up around 6am meant I had hours of time before anybody else got up. Always got most of my work done then...even if it'd been a heavy Saturday night!

Jacinta said...

I wish I could fave posts like this. Definitely something I need to use.

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