At the time of this writing I feel like the king of procrastination. I can’t imagine any way to get better at it. One of my most common ways to procrastinate is doing tasks. Yeah, you might ask yourself how is doing tasks procrastination, but it is. For example, instead of brainstorming ideas for a new project or business, I do the dishes, reorganize my drawers, untangle my home media cables, and so forth. Other times, when I want to start programming a project idea, I instead dive into my Emacs configuration file and try to “polish” my tools with the pretext of having better tools to code. Then, by the end of the day, I try to figure out other tasks or chores I need to do to excuse myself from not doing the more meaningful things. It has gotten so bad, that I can’t tell apart the meaningful things to do from the procrastinating chores anymore.
- If I want to stop procrastinating, I read a book or web articles about procrastination instead of actually doing something.
- If I want to organize my tasks, I read about Org mode instead of writing down things and figure out their order or priorities later.
- If I want to prioritize items, I start thinking that maybe I should think about possible business ideas.
- If I want to work on business ideas I browse for inspiring conference videos instead of doing something that can inspire others (and be me the one in those talks).
The story changes in details but the big picture is always the same. At the end of the day, I end up with nothing done but very inspired and well informed.
That said, now what’s the cure? Well, not all tips apply to everyone. As I procrastinated writing this blog post, I searched for “tips to stop procrastinating” and ended up with a lot of info that didn’t work for me, but got me started thinking on what does work for me.
So here’s what works for me:
- Make a to-do list
Having a list to cross out is great for focusing. Of course you have to stop putting off making that list, but once you do it, you know what needs to be done. The book Getting Things Done recommends reserving one day to write down your list for the next week and review the past week’s progress.
- Divide and Conquer
Break big projects into small tasks. You can’t build a mountain in one day.
- Don’t wait for the best conditions
For almost all situations, there is no “best conditions” to wait for. The time is running and the time to get started is now.
- Information diet
Avoid constantly checking social media sites, RSS feeds, Reddit, reading non-work related email or any other type of messaging system. Take a task on your list and don’t do anything else until it is done. Then you can reward yourself with some distraction…I mean, “inspiring content”.
- Peer pressure
Put yourself accountable for the tasks at hand. Be it by publicly announcing what you will do, or only share it with a friend or colleague. Peer pressure and public “shame” are effective motivation tools.
Well, I don’t want to distract you from your chores any longer. I think sharing these 5 tips is enough for you to get started and for me to remember them anytime I read this post again while procrastinating.
If you have some time to spare, what works for you to stop procrastination?