I’ve always been a very high-functioning procrastinator. I’m not one to flake on a project or ignore a deadline, but I’ve always been the type of person who waits until the last minute to complete a task. Today me always puts off a task so tomorrow me, or Friday-night me, or Sunday-morning me, has to complete the task. The problem with that is that it’s always me who has to pick up the slack for early-in-the-week me who had much more time. It’s a very frustrating trait.
However, despite my entire life of procrastination, I’ve worked hard to improve my time management skills. Though I’m still a world-class procrastinator hiding in the body of someone with great time management skills, I’ve found a few ways to make up for my natural instinct to put things off until a later, much more stressful date.
In many cases, technology is the enemy when you’re trying to stay focused and motivated to stick to a schedule. Social media, online games, and countless distractions live within the technology we use. However, there are plenty of time management tools within technology as well. Calendar and task-timer apps have become great tools for me since my days as a student, but they still come in handy as a professional. There are apps to schedule time to work on a project each day, apps that help you stay off of social media, and apps to help you create a work schedule. Find which apps work for you, and allow them to help you manage your time and stay on task.
Wake Up Early
Starting your day in a positive way can have a big impact on how the rest of your day goes. This doesn’t mean you have to wake up super early each day, it just means you should wake up early enough that you’re not in a rush before work. Some people swear by working out in the morning, some like to sit with their coffee, and others need a shower to help them wake up. Successful entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson wakes up at 5:00 am to work out each day.
“I definitely can achieve twice as much by keeping fit,” he tells FourHourBodyPress.
Though I don’t workout at 5 a.m. every day, I try to wake up early enough that I’m not in a rush and I can start my day calmly and ready to be productive.
Schedule Your Breaks
When I was less-than productive and distracted all day long, I felt guilty taking any breaks. Taking time away from my computer made me feel more anxiety about the work I wasn’t completing. When I started scheduling my breaks, it helped me to avoid distractions during my work day, and to feel better about taking time during the day to walk away from work. Instead of reading an article when I was supposed to be working, or surfing social media, I put those things off and allowed myself to do them during my break instead. Especially for people who make their own schedules, like freelancers, scheduling breaks is a great way to balance a busy schedule. As it turns out, it helps with procrastination as well.
Write Things Down
This might seem obvious, but it turns out that making lists and keeping a schedule really helps to avoid procrastination. Who knew? In all seriousness, I always knew what had to be done, but I never made a plan for how I was going to do it. I started writing down my plan for each week and it helped me to stay committed to completing it. By making a plan to write 500 words two days a week, to edit one day a week, etc., I found a way to make my tasks more manageable, and a way to hold myself more accountable to complete them. Each day, week, or even month, write down your obligations and how you’re going to complete them.
Keep Your Goals in Sight
I joke about procrastinating, but it’s a real problem with real consequences in terms of my professional life and ongoing career. For a long time I had a plan to start looking for other work while I was still employed, which involved me doing the work to build a new resume and network within my professional niche, but I procrastinated on that as well. I remained stuck in a job that wasn’t doing anything for me professionally and left me feeling unfulfilled and burnt out, all because of my issues with procrastinating.
Keeping my goals in sight has been a helpful way to remind myself why I want to work on time management and productivity. Keeping an eye on my long term goals helped me to stay focused and motivated in the changes I was making to become more responsible with my time.
For me, it’s my phone, the television, and social media. These distractions were too tempting in my most unproductive years, and led to a lot of procrastination. In order to combat them, I had to be strict about allowing them into my life while I was working. Productivity apps really helped me to stay off my phone, and even off of social media, but I had to be serious about using them. I also had to be strict about working in the office, at a coffee shop, or in my office at home, not in the living room on my laptop. Identify your distractions, and work to eliminate them.
Small wins matter when you’re on the road to change bad behavior. Even one day where you’ve completed all of your tasks is a huge win when you’ve been a world-class procrastinator, so it’s important to reward those wins. There’s a psychology to this reward system that helps to maintain habits, so why not utilize them to help keep yourself on track? You might give yourself an extra break once you’ve completed everything, or allow yourself to buy a new planner. Whatever reward you choose for yourself is fine, as long as it’s not leading you to procrastinate again, which will turn your bad behavior into a treat.
I still have days where I slip back into my old habits of procrastination. Like I said, it’s my natural state of being, and I have to work hard to reverse it. I often feel like I’m masquerading as a highly organized person when I’m actually scatterbrained and unproductive. However, we’ve all gotta start somewhere. The biggest change is in really wanting to be better, and taking the steps to get there. The result has been less stress and more responsibility, which are both wins that help me to feel better about myself, overall. I’m a world-class procrastinator, so if I can do it, so can you.
Image Source: Pexels