We all do it. We put off that dreaded task for five more minutes, then for thirty minutes, then for another hour, until it doesn’t get done at all. And the worst part is we still weren’t able to enjoy our day. We spend so much time stressing over that looming task that it deprives us from actually being able to focus on other tasks.
Why do we do it? We know it never ends well. The problem is that the cycle can feel nearly impossible to break. We get so caught up in the cycle of procrastination that we almost forget how to effectively tackle hard tasks.
Here are five tips for nipping procrastination in the bud and taking back control over your daily life.
- Tackle the most difficult task first. You’re probably thinking “Duh, I already knew that.” But you may not have realized that there’s scientific backing for this suggestion. We only have a limited supply of willpower. Once it’s been used up for the day, chances of us tackling hard tasks are pretty slim. Dive into your hardest task when your energy level is at its highest. This will ensure the best results.
When we push the hard tasks to the end of the day, it takes a toll on our energy all day long. In the end, stressing for hours over the task we’re procrastinating negatively affects all the other tasks on our list.
So next time you’re scheduling the items on your list, make sure to start out with worst one. It may not necessarily be the largest, but it should be the one you’re dreading the most. By accomplishing it so early in the day, you will feel energized and productive. You’ll know the rest of the day is all downhill and cruise through the list with remarkable speed.
- Divide the task into smaller tasks. We tend to get overwhelmed when a giant project looms ahead of us. We don’t know where to start or what to do first. Keep in mind that forests are made up of individual trees. Though you may not be able to take down a whole forest at once, you could certainly start with one tree (or even a branch).
If you need to organize your entire kitchen, start by working on just one cupboard. Organizing one cupboard is much more feasible than trying to get everything done in one swoop. Make a commitment to complete a small step each day, and you’ll find the task becoming less and less daunting with each new task that you accomplish.
- Set a mid-day alarm. There’s nothing more guilt-inducing than ending a day and realizing you haven’t accomplished a single task. We can avoid this rut by setting an alarm on our phone to ring everyday around 1 p.m. When the ringer goes off, assess how many things on your list have been attended to.
Re-plan your schedule for the remainder of the afternoon and shift it around to take care of the most important item first. If necessary, you can indulge in a second cup of coffee to jumpstart your “second morning.” By doing this, you will avoid going to bed at night mulling over all the things you didn’t get done.
- Dedicate yourself for a small period of time. To stimulate productivity, there’s an old trick of setting a timer for ten minutes. By frantically racing the clock for that short period, you’ll likely find you become engrossed in yours tasks and continue working.
The feeling of dread that has been on your mind will quickly be replaced with a sense of pride and satisfaction. Seeing what you can accomplish in ten minutes when you put your mind to it is quite motivating.
- Schedule your tasks on the calendar. Creating a game plan will help you move past the initial paralysis you feel. Instead of just writing the tasks down in a to-do list, take it a step further and identify when and how you’ll accomplish it.
For example, plan to go to the grocery store at 4:00 p.m. and start cooking dinner promptly at 4:30. By clearing up the anticipatory stress, you’ll avoid a large part of the dread that holds you back. Creating the plan is half the battle!
Though it feels impossible, you have it in you to accomplish everything that you need to every single day. With a fresh perspective, a little prodding, and a detailed plan, you’ll be well on your way to ending the procrastination cycle once and for all.