Procrastination is one of the main reasons we don’t perform to our full potential. It is a comfortable human habit that is not easy to break. But if you allow procrastination to become deeply entrenched, it can wreck your personal effectiveness and, in turn, the effectiveness of your organisation. Here are a dozen simple techniques that people have successfully used over the years to beat procrastination. Through application, you can discover which will work best for you…
2. The divide-and-conquer strategy
If you are procrastinating because of the sheer awesomeness of a task, the key is to break it up into smaller, more manageable components. Once you start accumulating small victories, you’ll be well on your way. Edwin Bliss advocates this strategy, calling it the ‘Salami Technique’, by which you slice up the task like a salami. Alan Lakein prefers the ‘Swiss Cheese Method’, which punches small holes in a big job.
3. The killer-punch plan
The divide-and-conquer strategy won’t work if your problem is that you keep putting off a single task like returning a phone call, firing a worker, or writing a thank-you note. The killer punch is needed for a specific task that can only be accomplished in one hit. There is only one solution: get it off your plate immediately. Act now.
4. The ten-minute treatment
Take the task you’ve been procrastinating over and resolve to spend ten minutes a day on it. After your first ten whole-hearted minutes, reconsider. If you put it aside until tomorrow, OK. Probably, however, you’ll realise that the job isn’t so dreadful; you’ll have gained enough momentum to go beyond the planned ten minutes.
5. The bribe-yourself technique
Promise yourself a reward for getting a job done by a certain deadline. Bribe yourself with new clothes, a night out, or a walk along the beach. But don’t cheat yourself by accepting your bribe before you’ve finished for that will only reinforce your procrastination.
6. The post-a-sign strategy
Display a small or large sign at work or home with a message to remind you of the job to be done (preferably where it will annoy your colleague or spouse so that they can pressure you as well). Such a reminder will make the ‘out of sight, out of mind’ principle harder to operate.
7. The do-nothing method
Do nothing for 15 minutes – nothing but stare at and think about the job at hand. According to Alan Lakein, ‘you should become very uneasy – and after 10 minutes, you’ll fire and be off and running’.
8. The see-it-all-done approach
We procrastinate when we cannot foresee achievement. Calano and Salzman in ‘CareerTracking’ recommend this exercise if you’re having trouble getting started:
Close your eyes and relax… Imagine that you have just finished your project, done a terrific job, and are basking in the good feeling of having achieved another goal. In your vision, focus on every process you went through to complete the task: the details, the hang-ups, the breakthroughs. Concentrate particularly on the elation of realising your reward.
Such visualisation, they say, makes any task seem less intimidating.
9. The lock-away technique
Perhaps, as a busy manager, you simply need to isolate yourself from interruption for a couple of hours to get a difficult job done. If that’s the case, tell people about your problem and lock yourself away from others for the required period.
10. The monitoring manoeuvre
For those lengthy and seemingly overwhelming tasks, take a colleague into your confidence – not to do the job for you but to have a trusted friend to talk over the task with, to provide support, to check on progress, and to nudge you gently, and often, towards the deadline.
11. The go-public tactic
Motivate yourself negatively by committing yourself publicly to a deadline – to avoid embarrassment, you’ll get the job done, or lose face. And if you want either an incentive for reaching your goal or a penalty for falling short, make a $10 lottery ticket wager with a colleague.
12. The peak performance time routine
Do your toughest jobs at that time of day when you are most alert, rested, and energised. Or choose an unusual time for you – e.g. set the alarm for 4.30 a.m. and work for an hour drafting that difficult letter you keep putting off.