By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.
To avoid procrastination do the hardest thing first.
Having an unpleasant chore hanging over your head creates a lot of stress. Doing things that are unpleasant now for a future benefit tends to get put off. Putting off that unpleasant chore and dealing with what is hanging over your head uses up a lot of energy. You’re only going to have so much willpower and when it’s gone nothing gets accomplished. By doing the hard thing first, you make the rest of your day that much easier. Completing a task you didn’t want to do, can give you a feeling of accomplishment and make you feel extra productive. With that one big thing off your list, you can breeze through several smaller chores.
Increase your productivity by creating a second morning.
If you’re one of those people who is most productive first thing in the day, but your productivity drops off as the day progresses, consider breaking your day into two segments. When you come back from lunch or shortly after that, revise your to-do list. Crossing off the things you’ve already completed will give you a sense of accomplishment. Begin the second part of your day by tackling the remaining “hardest to do” task.
If a new challenging project has cropped up, you can get it out of the way while you still have some energy rather than carrying it over until a tomorrow which may never arrive. This two-part day will leave you with primarily smaller, easier to do things to tackle at the end of your day when your energy is running low.
To defeat procrastination, break difficult projects into chunks.
When we are faced with large projects, they seem overwhelming. It’s natural to procrastinate when you’re overwhelmed. Breaking a large project into smaller parts allows you to whittle that project down to a manageable size. Tackle the overwhelming the same way you would eat an elephant, one bite at a time.
Do a time challenge to reduce procrastination.
Your day can slip by in those short 10-minute intervals between other things. When you have 10 or 15 minutes left before the next thing you need to do, or place you need to go, set a time challenge. Don’t tell yourself you don’t have enough time. Ask yourself how much of this project can I get done in these 10 or 15 minutes, I have available to work on my project.
Increase your focus by reducing your distractions.
Close your email browser. Turn off your cell phone. Close the door to your office if you can. When I’m writing, I wear a pair of headphones playing relaxing background music. This keeps me from being distracted by conversations and sounds in the environment. If you’re only going to have 10 minutes to work on something, give it your full attention.
Perfection is the enemy of productivity.
Trying to do everything perfectly can result in you getting nothing accomplished. The illusion that you need to write a perfect book has kept many a would-be writer from ever finishing their book. Some things only need to be good enough. Productive writers know that you must start by producing a messy, imperfect, first draft before they have something to revise and edit. Ask yourself just how perfect this project needs to be. Invest your time and energy into the important things rather than trying to do less critical tasks perfectly.
Don’t wait until you can make time to do something.
The idea that you can “make time” to do something you have been putting off is a mirage. There’s no way to make any more time. Each week consists of 168 hours. If you want to be financially stable, you need a money budget. If you’re going to be productive, you need to budget your time. You may be able to borrow money, but you can’t borrow time and pay it back next week. Create a time budget. Invest a little of your time each day into getting something accomplished, and at the end of the week, you can see how small investments of time compound.
Focus on what you can do, not what you can’t do.
Focusing on how much you must do and how hard it will be to do it uses up a lot of time that could be better spent working on the tasks at hand. Narrow your vision to the one thing on your to-do list. Get as much done on that thing as you can, using the time and resources you have. If you tell yourself, you can’t do something you won’t be able to do it. Tell yourself you can do it and watch what can happen.
Avoid procrastination by making a public commitment.
Announce your projects to the world. Tell a friend. Tell your family. Tell someone at work. Once you’ve announced that you are going to do something positive, peer pressure will increase your motivation to get it done. When we tell ourselves what we are going to do, it’s easy to lie to yourself. When you have told someone else what you plan to do, there’s an extra incentive to get it done.
Plan a project-marathon.
If you’re the type of person who works best in chunks, block off an afternoon, or a day, and challenge yourself to see how much you can get done when you work on one thing and only that one thing for a set period. I sign up each year for NaNoWriMo (the national novel writing month contest.) I commit to trying to write a 50,000-word novel during the 30 days of November. Having that self-imposed deadline has resulted in my finishing novels three years in a row. These novels are first drafts and need a lot of revision but participating in these writing marathons gets something accomplished.
Why do you procrastinate?
Most people procrastinate because they have too many things on their to-do list. Why you procrastinate is not as important as learning how to put an end to the procrastination monster. Learn to say no. Scratch some things off that to-do list. Make it a point to decide what’s important and do that first. Once you’ve simplified your to-do list, apply some of the anti-procrastination tips in this blog post, and watch your productivity sore.
Staying connected with David Joel Miller
Seven David Joel Miller Books are available now!
My newest book is now available. It was my opportunity to try on a new genre. I’ve been working on this book for several years, but now seem like the right time to publish it.
Story Bureau is a thrilling Dystopian Post-Apocalyptic adventure in the Surviving the Apocalypse series.
Baldwin struggles to survive life in a post-apocalyptic world where the government controls everything.
As society collapses and his family gets plunged into poverty, Baldwin takes a job in the capital city, working for a government agency called the Story Bureau. He discovers the Story Bureau is not a benign news outlet but a sinister government plot to manipulate society.
Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.
Dark Family Secrets: Doris wants to get her life back, but small-town prejudice could shatter her dreams.
Casino Robbery Arthur Mitchell escapes the trauma of watching his girlfriend die. But the killers know he’s a witness and want him dead.
Planned Accidents The second Arthur Mitchell and Plutus mystery.
Letters from the Dead: The third in the Arthur Mitchell mystery series.
What would you do if you found a letter to a detective describing a crime and you knew the writer and detective were dead, and you could be next?
Sasquatch. Three things about us, you should know. One, we have seen the past. Two, we’re trapped there. Three, I don’t know if we’ll ever get back to our own time.
For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Author Page – David Joel Miller
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Thank you. I have tried some of the skills you have mentioned. Getting the most stressful task done first is my favorite. Other task seem to get done faster with the hardest one out of the way.
Glad to hear that this worked for you. Thanks for the comment.