In the previous week, I talked about the various reasons that we tend to procrastinate and one of those reasons is that people don’t know how and where to start.
From this week, I will start providing you with some simple but effective ways to bypass this habit, to get things done, or else, to procrastinate on procrastination 🙂
Don’t know where to start
One of the most common reasons that people tend to avoid starting a task is that they don’t know how and where to start.
You see, each task or goal involves a number of steps and although these may seem obvious and clear inside our head, if we don’t externalise them, if we don’t put them on paper, we will keep on not knowing our first action.
Let’s take, for example, that you want to go running after work, so you become fitter. When it’s time to go out and run, your mind goes:
“To run, I have to find my trainers and comfy clothes, I need to search for an uplifting playlist, upload it to my mp3 player, I have to dig out and clean my water bottle. Plus, I have to do that… and that… and that…”.
…and you keep on finding excuses till the number of subtasks blocks your view from the actual point, that is, to go out and run.
The funny this is that most of these subtasks can take only a few seconds to complete, but by focusing mainly on the high number of them, we become anxious.
And to make things worse, if instead of having to do all these tasks, we can gift ourself right now with a warm and tasty dinner that our partner just prepared, we choose that. After all, this option has only one task: to sit down and eat!
Break down your task
In a nutshell, set aside some time to break down your task, create a concrete plan and stick to it. But let me give you a few more details here.
The process that I personally and my coaching clients use goes like this:
- Write down on paper all the action steps.
- Prioritise them.
- Eliminate the unnecessary steps.
- Take the steps!
1. Write down your steps
By externalising your action steps and put them on paper, you can visually have everything that needs to be done in front of you.
That way, your mind frees up and you can use your mental capacity to work on the task, instead of worrying if you’ve forgotten anything.
2. Important things first
Always start with what is most important. If you spend your time on things that could be ignored, soon you will feel drained; you will feel busy, but not productive.
Here, you will become clear on what is needed, so if you can only take a single step towards your goal today, that one will be the most important.
3. Eliminate the unnecessary
After prioritising the list of the action steps that you have on the paper in front of you, identify the ones that are not necessary for the completion of the task. These will be the ones at the bottom of your list, so remove what is not needed.
4. Action time!
And now, it’s the time that you will go out to the world and you work on your task! Now is the moment that you can prove to yourself that you are not a procrastinator and you can get things done!
So, start from the most important action step (that is the top one) and when completed, move to the next item in your list.
But let me give you some extra tips here for better results.
Allocate undistracted time
You see, our mind needs time to settle down and become focused, so every time that we are distracted (even for 5 seconds), we need extra time to concentrate back to our task.
And to fight this, I use the Pomodoro Technique, which has really helped me to become more efficient and productive – here it’s how it works.
Break down your task (or individual actions steps) in 30 minutes blocks. Work on them for 25 minutes WITHOUT distractions (no social media, no checking emails, no going to the toilet, etc) and for 5 minutes you take a break.
There is room for experimentation here, as you can adjust the time – for example, you could work without distractions for 55 minutes and then take a 5 minutes break. The break is important though, so don’t neglect it.
You can read more here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pomodoro_Technique
Do you remember the little star stickers that your teacher was giving you in Prime school, every time you did your homework?
The idea is similar here. Reward yourself with star stickers, with a piece of chocolate, with a massage treatment, with acknowledging that you did a good job!
Whatever it’s your prefered reward, don’t forget to do it.
Coaching questions for motivation
I know that there are times that we are not super keep on working on some tasks. After all, who wants to spend their evening on paying the bills? Who wants to waste their Sunday morning cleaning the house?
However, these are important, so here are a few questions that you could ask yourself to motivate you when things start to feel like a chore.
How will I fell if I DON’T do this task?
How will I feel when I COMPLETE this task?
WHY is this important?
That was all! This is the process that has helped me and a lot more people to become more productive, but most importantly to stop procrastinating.
And guys, if you are a bit confused about why you avoid your tasks, you can always refer back to my previous post on procrastination.