I am taking two weeks off from blogging. Enjoy this article from the archive! This article was originally published on 25 October 2007.
There are many different ways that you can use to beat procrastination. In fact, whole books have been written about ways to get going. Here are the 5 techniques I use most often to get me going:
Permission to Fail
A lot of my procrastination is rooted in perfectionism. I don’t want to do something imperfectly so I never do it at all. I get around this by writing out permission for me to fail at something, or I write out a description of how I could complete this task really poorly. Then I attempt to do just that. For example, if I am writing a newsletter article and can’t seem to get started, I give myself the assignment to write out everything in run on sentences or in a mind dump. Then I can go back and work with the material on a second go-around.
In the case that I am putting off something really important, I apply the frog principles from Eat That Frog!: 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time (BK Life). I know that if I have to eat an ugly frog, it doesn’t pay to sit and stare at it first. So I just dig in. I have internalized this message so completely that I cannot think of an example from my life off-hand. A fictional example: let’s say you have a sink full of dirty dishes that need to be washed. They are already starting to smell bad. If you keep avoiding them, it will turn into a worse job. If you dig in, it won’t take as long as you think.
A counterpoint to getting around this situation is to not let it occur in the first place. This is applying another frog principle: you eat an ugly frog one bite at a time. If I keep up with a task, it will never get to the point where it becomes a big job. If I keep the bathrooms clean on a daily basis, I never have to spend an entire day cleaning them.
If I am avoiding a task consistently, sometimes it is because I subconsciously recognize that I don’t need to do it at all. If that is the case, I delete it.
Sometimes I start procrastinating simply because there are things more interesting going on. I get sidetracked easily, particularly from tasks I don’t have a lot of enthusiasm for. (Example: give me the choice of mowing the lawn or talking to a neighbor, and I will pick the neighbor) I find that removing all distractions will help me get started. I have had some very productive writing sessions by taking my computer to a place where there is no Internet access!
The comparison method is a new one for me, and comes from Mark Forster. When I have a whole list of things I can’t get moving on, I take them in pairs and do the easiest one first. Then I take the one I didn’t do and compare it to the next item on the list and do the easiest of that pair. This really has helped get me un-stuck in the past weeks.
Photo by arquera