Kill Procrastination in Six Steps

Were you ever that kid who found herself up late the night before a big assignment was due, working feverishly to complete the project that could make or break your grade? Of course you were. You’ve likely found yourself up tight on a deadline as an adult, too. We have all embraced our inner procrastinator at one point or another. Here’s the good news. You’re not alone. It’s human nature to put off tasks that we don’t enjoy or that intimidate us in some way. Here’s the better news: there’s something you can do about it.

1. Not in the mood? Do it anyway.

“I’m just not in the mood to deal with writing the proposal today. I’ll do it when I’m more focused.” Sound familiar? Here’s the thing: You may never be in the mood to write this proposal. Don’t wait for inspiration to strike. Just jump in.

2. Think bite-sized.

Overwhelm can trigger procrastination. If the to-do list is too long, the demands too many and the time too short, finding a place to start can be difficult. Step back. Prioritize your tasks. If there’s an urgent “must-do-now” item, begin with that. If you have some flexibility, however, pick a task you can complete quickly and with ease. You can build momentum for the bigger tasks by checking off the simpler must-do’s first.

3. Laser focus and then relax.

We like to think we are go-go-go types, but the truth is, we aren’t. None of us are. We’re designed for ebbs and flows. Recognize and honor that. Block out time to work and time to recoup. Give yourself an hour of good, focused energy on a particular project or task. Then take a break. Grab a cup of joe, switch to a more menial task like scanning your email, or just get up and stretch.

4. Throw down the gauntlet.

Sometimes we need that hard line in the sand to propel us forward. Set deadlines for yourself. Break your big projects into small pieces and assign a timeline to each of them. Create daily goals.

5. Quell the voice of perfection.

The need to get it right on the button can stall us before we even get out of the gate. Give up the idea of perfect. Aim for real and fantastic instead. Remember, you can’t edit and hone your final version if you don’t start roughing out the first draft.

6. A little mood music will do you good.

There are some songs that simply propel a body forward. If you ever set out to walk and found yourself picking up the pace to a decent jog as soon as Adele began to belt out “Rolling in the Deep,” you know the motivational impact of the power ballad. Your work is no different. You may not need a good bass beat to get your project rolling, but creating the right atmosphere is key. Turn off what distracts and turn up what helps motivate and focus.