I've been trying to write this article for hours.
Actually, if I'm honest, I've been trying to write it for DAYS!
But every time I sit down to put proverbial pen to paper it goes something like this:
Stare at flashing cursor, check social media accounts, check online news, stare at flashing cursor, make a coffee, write a title, delete it and stare at flashing cursor, go for walk, refresh social media to see what I've missed in the last 14 minutes, find myself on cousin's mother-in-law's dog's page, stare at flashing cursor, have a nap.
And that can be quite a typical morning for me. It's not because I'm not full of inspiration (I am), it's not because I can't pump words out with the best of them (I can), the reason it takes me so long to get anything done is that I'm a master at the art of procrastination.
And, my procrastinating friends; I'm not alone!
Why do we Procrastinate?
While the word procrastination drums up images of people who will do anything to get out of working; procrastination is not necessarily the behaviour of a lazy person.
Psychology offers many reasons why some people are prone to the fine art, (which is how I like to refer to it!) of procrastination. These range from stress and anxiety, to lack of confidence, to basic lack of time management.
But, regardless of the reasons why people procrastinate, there's no doubt that being in the habit of putting tasks off until the very last minute can add a destructive element to your productivity. If your business or venture relies on you being present and correct, this can also be detrimental to your success.
Fortunately, like most habits; with a little due care and attention, most procrastinators can learn to overcome their compulsions to sit and do anything but the task at hand.
Here are a few tried and tested ways to overcome procrastination in favour of increased productivity which will help you run a better business and become more successful.
Wait right there; I'll share them with you once I've checked my social media pages, and then cleaned out my fridge…
How do I Overcome Procrastination?
1) Make a list.
Yes, that old chestnut!
To-do lists are great, but if you're an authority on task avoidance, your list is going to be so much more than a regular to-do list of that (somewhat annoying!) person who just gets things done!
Start with the obvious step of writing everything down that you have to do, and then colour code it into priority order – red, green and amber. Red for the urgent or larger tasks through to green for the smaller or less critical tasks.
Having a visual on what needs to be done will inevitably create urgency surrounding the upcoming deadlines which will leave you with no choice but to get moving. On the flipside of this, if you've bene working at full capacity all day but you still have more time in the office, you can quickly pick a couple of smaller tasks from your green list to assist your productivity.
Lists also increase your motivation to do more. As you start ticking things off, you get into a flow which spurs you on to keep going.
2) Break down your tasks.
When faced with writing a 5,000-word article, the sheer enormity of this assignment can be daunting enough to keep you loitering on the edge of making a start, and you naturally jump straight into something meaningless.
Break tasks down like a fraction so you can clearly see all the elements you need to work on to bring the project to completion. While this might make your original list appear longer, the list contains much more friendly duties such as ‘one-hour research' which cause less overwhelm at the thought of getting underway.
Now your huge, daunting task is a bunch of smaller more friendly jobs which, as you know, all roll into one once you get started.
3) Understand WHY you're doing something.
For some people, it's not enough to know that something needs to be done and connecting their procrastinating brain with the WHY makes it much easier to get stuck in.
Connecting your tasks with a bigger picture and realising the impact that not doing something has on your business or the people around makes humans much more likely to take action.
Don't look at the pending application as a bunch of questions, see it as the source of income that it could potentially turn into, and associate your actions with that. If you're not quite sure why you're doing something, ask the question. And if you can't get an answer ask yourself an even more important question; do you need to be doing it at all?
4) Lose the perfectionism.
Now I know this is easier said than done but when you're running a business you want everything you produce to be perfect, that's logical and completely understandable. Instead of working out how to make a start on producing the best work you've ever created; look at your current task as a first draft. This will make it much easier for you to pick up the pen knowing that you're not diving straight into your first product and you don't need to get it just right first time.
5) Use an app.
If you're looking for comfort, I can tell you that procrastination isn't a rare problem; in fact, it's such a common quandary that techies across the world are tapping into resources to help get us moving faster to increase our productivity.
Apps designed to increase productivity are flooding the market by the bucket load. Here are a few of that come highly recommended.
Cunningly titled, because that's really all we're trying to achieve; Finish is an automated way to prioritise your to-do list. You can customise your list and prioritise your tasks by the deadline so that as jobs become urgent, you receive a whole bunch of notifications.
While Finish has the potential to cause more of a distraction, it keeps all your tasks at the forefront of your mind which makes it easier just to do them rather than ignore them!
Procraster is a reward based app which keeps you moving by allowing you to treat yourself when you've reached set milestones.
You let it know the tasks you're' stuck in and choose why you're stuck (examples such as 'it's too hard', 'I don't understand the question' etc), and this responds with some practical advice to get you through and the option to set a reward once the task is complete.
It comes with pre-loaded rewards such as ‘coffee break' and ‘social media break', but you can also choose your own depending on your proven ways to incentivize yourself.
When you've been doing the same thing for a long time, you might not even be aware of how much time you spend procrastinating. RealizD tracks how much time you use your iPhone and iPad so you can get a visual on a problem that you may not have even realised existed! Want to know why there aren't enough hours in the day? See how long you spend on your phone and analyze whether that time can be spent better elsewhere.
6) Assess your skills.
If you spend a long time avoiding specific tasks, it's time to assess whether your skills are up to scratch. Do you put things off because they're simply out of your scope of your skill set? If this is the case, your productivity levels will soar by taking advantage of the thousands of freelance professionals who are ready and waiting to help you out.
For a low cost you have access to thousands of every professional you can imagine; copywriters, bloggers, designers, marketers and more. With no commitment to paying wages on an ongoing basis, it is extremely beneficial for you to take advantage of those experts in the field you're struggling in, and allow yourself to focus where your strengths lie.
If you're struggling with procrastination, don't worry; you're not alone! But instead of giving in to burning the midnight oil when you're left with no choice but to meet a less than welcoming deadline, try these few tips to improve productivity which will undoubtedly improve the success of your business.