I totally get it. You have big thoughts of what you want to get done for the day. Then your friend calls, so you talk for awhile. After that, you check Facebook for a few minutes. You get hungry, and decide to watch an episode of your favorite show while eating a snack. And pretty soon the day is gone with you wondering, “What did I even do today?”
We all have the same 24 hours in each day, yet some people seem to get a lot done and others seem to really struggle to get anything accomplished. When you really want to get things done, you’ll need to overcome procrastination.
Here are 10 mini-hacks to overcome procrastination.
1. Set goals.
If you really want to accomplish big things, set goals. And don’t just think about the goals. Actually get your dreams out of your head and onto paper. Write down your goals. And make them as specific as possible.
There was an amazing study conducted on Harvard MBA graduates in the ’70s. Students were asked, “Have you set clear, written goals for your future and made plans to accomplish them?” Only 3% had written goals and plans. Ten years later, the group was interviewed again. The results? The 3% of the students who had clear, written goals were earning, on average, ten times as much as the other 97% of the class combined!
Whether or not your goal is to make a lot of money, writing down your goals has been shown to help people get things done. When you write down specific, measurable goals, you will have something objective to work toward. For example, instead of writing “I will write a book,” write “By December 31st, I will write a 20 page children’s book and submit it to 5 publishers.”
2. Break your goals down into tiny, doable chunks.
When you have big goals, it’s easy to get overwhelmed and procrastinate moving toward the goal. For this problem, I recommend breaking each of your big goals down into miniature goals. You don’t have to accomplish everything today. You just need to take one small step toward your goal. Using the children’s book example, you could make a tiny goal of writing 2 sentences per day.
3. Each night, write out your schedule for the following day.
If you want to be more productive, you’ll need to tell your time where to go. Planning out your schedule is incredibly helpful. It helps you maximize every hour you are awake. It’s very easy to get distracted by the many time-suckers that bombard you daily. Writing your schedule down will help you get things done!
4. Set deadlines for yourself.
Have you ever wondered why you can make your house immaculately clean when someone calls and says they’ll stop by in 15 minutes, or how hard you can cram for an exam you have the next morning? The answer lies in Parkinson’s Law. Parkinson’s Law says work expands to fill the time available for its completion. Therefore, the less time you have to complete a task, the more you’ll increase your effort. When you’re writing out your daily schedule, take advantage of Parkinson’s Law. Give yourself deadlines to accomplish tasks. Knowing you have a deadline will light a fire in you and help you get things done. One experiment discovered external deadlines (deadlines imposed on you by others) are even more beneficial that deadlines you set for yourself. Either way, having deadlines will help you move toward your goals.
5. Eat the frog.
One of my favorite quotes is by Mark Twain: “Eat a live frog first thing every morning, and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.” If there is a task you intentionally procrastinate because you loathe it or it’s overwhelming, this is your frog. Eat it right away in the morning and move on.
6. Minimize distractions.
We’ve all tried to get things done while our smartphones buzz frequently. It doesn’t work. Remember the friend who called you at the beginning of this article, and one distraction led to another, and pretty soon your day was gone? One study showed that it takes an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to get back to a task after an interruption. That’s a long time! When you really want to concentrate on something, unplug, focus, and get to work.
7. Combine a task you don’t like with something enjoyable.
Do you procrastinate exercising but love having lunch with friends? Instead of the lunch date, meet your friends for an early morning tennis match. Not only will you get your workout accomplished, you’ll also get the social time you enjoy.
7. Learn to say “No.”
When your day is filled with things you dread doing, you’re likely to procrastinate. Say “no” when possible to obligations you dislike. Filling your schedule with your priorities and passions will energize you. Choose to live your life, not someone else’s, by saying “yes” only to activities that line up with your values.
8. Automate tasks whenever possible.
Relying on simply motivation to get you through your day isn’t a wise idea. Automating tasks is the key. The more you automate, the less opportunities you’ll have to procrastinate. This has really helped me. One trick I’ve tricked is going to bed in clean workout clothes with my shoes and music ready at the door. When I wake up, I’m already dressed to go running.
9. Tell a friend.
Tell an accountability partner what you’re procrastinating doing, and ask for encouragement. Better yet, tell them you’ll meet them for a fun night out but only after you get your task done.
10. Treat yourself well.
Giving yourself the proper dose of exercise and fueling your body with healthy foods can help you feel your best. When you feel well, you have more energy to get things done. Also, treating your body well can boost your self-confidence, which is needed to tackle the projects you fear instead of procrastinating them.
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