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How to stop procrastinating

Elissa Farrow
April 24, 2013

In my last post I covered why we might procrastinate. For this post, we are looking at ways to stop procrastinating. Part of the process is practical, most of it is psychological: shrinking down tasks and the psychological size of tasks to something more manageable.

1. Start in the middle
Getting through projects we need to plan with the end in mind. Sometimes it might be hard to get started on a project at the beginning. If it is appropriate and low risk try jumping to the second or third step to ease into the water.

When writing a report, for example, the executive summary and introduction may be the most challenging. If you’re stuck, try jumping to the body of the report, outlining the bullets you want to cover first. Get that out of the way, and the introduction may come more easily.

2. Focus on the benefits
By taking your eye off the particular task and focusing on the happiness and success you’ll gain from completion, you can often keep yourself moving forward. For example, when filling out tax paperwork, think about what you will buy with the reimbursement, how fabulous you will look in that new dress.

3. Break down overwhelming projects into smaller tasks
I normally break down large, intimidating tasks into a series time-boxed steps, one hour, 30 minutes. Dedicate time each day; achieving one step at a time brings a feeling of achievement. For a children we use stickers on a chart on the fridge for smaller achievements that lead to a bigger reward. For an adult it might be that holiday you have been wanting to go on.

4. Make it visual
If the task is feeling psychologically overwhelming, sometimes putting it out of your mind and onto paper in the form of picture or a diagram or a Gantt chart helps. I found that having a picture of the finished product or a picture of the current product was often motivating. Recently after completing a house project I looked at the ‘before’ photos and then had a great sence of achievement looking at the evolution as the change occurred.

5. Have a trusted friend/colleague as a external conscience
They are the procrastinator buster, the person that can be like a coach to say in a positive way how the goal achievement is going. Sometimes people find it easier to achieve something if they know someone is keeping a kind check on the work.

6. Make it SMART: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Timely
Sometimes people procrastinate about things that are not achievable, are not timely or specific. Be as specific as you can, focus on what’s important and set some clear timelines.

7. Make it fun
The list of procrastination topics in the last blog were about things that people didn’t necessarily class as fun. Find ways to make the task positive, in the form of how it is achieved if possible, or in the form of what benefits it will bring. Like the music on for the housework, like the financial success from achieving a new higher paying job.

How do you deal with procrastination?

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Elissa Farrow
Elissa is a founder and lead consultant for About Your Transition and has extensive experience in strategic organisational adaptation design, facilitation and delivery. Elissa has supported organisations to define positive futures and then successfully transform to bring lasting benefits. She has proven adaptative capacity and can successfully transfer her skills to different contexts. In 2018, Elissa commenced her doctoral studies through the University of the Sunshine Coast. Her published research is exploring organisational adaptation to the evolving field of artificial intelligence using qualitative and participatory research methodologies. Elissa is an experienced board director and considered a thought leader in her field having won a number of national and local awards for contributing to Women in Project Management and for Change Management Research.
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