I was going to sit down and write a really awesome article about procrastination. But then I realized that I hadn’t checked my e-mail in at least an hour, so I thought I’d do that instead. After I replied to all the forwards and clicked on all the YouTube links, I looked down and noticed that I was still in my pajamas. So I hopped in the shower and then discovered I was down to one clean towel. I threw in a load of laundry, and thought I’d better do a few dishes too.
Then I sat down again to write that article, and remembered that I hadn’t checked on Café World for at least three hours. After I served up all the food, visited my friends and left them servings of dumplings - and moved up a level in Delicious Chocolate Cake - I realized it was time to start making dinner.
This is starting to sound like “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie,” isn’t it? While my little scenario is fiction, it is meant to prove a point—we all live busy lives, and it can sometimes become impossible to get all those little things done that we need to do, and even harder when motivation is a missing factor.
I’m by no means the authority on all things procrastination-related. I get distracted by anything and everything and … squirrel! But I have learned a few tips and tricks along the way that I’d like to share with you.
Make one day of the week your errand day, and see if you can schedule all your stops in one trip. I like to hit the post office, bank, copy center, and library in one trip instead of making four separate runs. True, it takes me longer to do those errands, but compare two hours once a week to an hour at a time, several times a week.
2. I like to break my tasks up into days of the week. For instance, back when I was a Cub Scout leader, I’d do all my Scout planning on Wednesday. I’d read through the book, see what I needed to do to prepare, put those things on my errand list, and then not think about it again until the next Wednesday. This kept me from worrying about it all week long. I assigned my other responsibilities to other days in the week.
3. If there’s a particularly odious task you must perform, like a difficult phone call you need to make, write down on your calendar the day and time you’re going to do it, and then hold yourself to it. When the clock strikes that hour, just grab the phone. Don’t let yourself think it through—you have an appointment to keep.
4. We all have those daily tasks to perform that we just hate doing—set up a reward system for yourself. One of the most effective ways I ever found to make myself exercise was to decide I couldn’t check my e-mail until I done at least twenty minutes on the Healthrider. Because I love checking my e-mail, this was an effective tool for me.
5. You can save your rewards for later, too. I’m a big Netflix junkie, and some nights I’ll tell myself that if I get certain things done during the day, I can curl up with a Netflix movie that night. Bribery works on kids—and it works on grown-ups, too!
6. Sometimes we procrastinate because we don’t have uninterrupted time to accomplish the task. Trade babysitting with a neighbor and use that time to knock down your to-do list. Or if you’re at work, see if you can delegate another task to an employee while you finish up, or trade projects with a co-worker. You can also talk to your spouse and agree on a time for you to sit down, without distraction, to polish it off.
7. As you go down your to-do list, rank them in order of importance, with 1 representing those things that must get done now. We often spend time taking care of things that rank a 2 or 4 or 9 while neglecting the things that rank 1, and then regret the lack of time to finish everything up. By organizing your tasks according to importance, you’ll always get the most crucial things done first. And if that’s all you’ve been able to get to in the course of the day, at least you accomplished the most important thing.
Of course, you’ll want to find the methods that work for you, but one thing remains constant: we all like to be recognized for our hard work. As long as you feel rewarded for doing those hard tasks, you’ll be more likely to get them done, and then you’ll feel more personal satisfaction. That’s a reward in and of itself - but if it's not enough to motivate you, throw some chocolate into the mix ...