In my last post on this amazing blog (Steve Laube requires me to say that at regular intervals), I opined about seven consequences of procrastination. You may not have gotten around to reading it yet, but I promised in that post to follow up with some helpful tips or techniques for preventing procrastination. So, without further ado or delay, here are some ideas:
Of course, right? But seriously, pray about your procrastination. Pray for deliverance from procrastination. Pray for those who might be affected if you procrastinate. And so on.
- Make a list.
Several of the comments on my previous post (“I’ve Put Off Writing This Blog Post Long Enough”) mentioned the value of making to-do lists and keeping them handy. (Thanks, Deb Gorman and Andrew Budek-Schmeisser.) I use a bullet journal to list my daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, and annual goals. (Yes, I am OCD; wanna make something of it?)
- Carry it over.
When you don’t accomplish something on your daily to-do list, copy it to the next day. And then the next. And the next. This is a good reason not to use a digital to-do app that does this for you, because the repetition and annoyance of repeatedly writing that same task can spur you to get it done, so you don’t have to keep writing it.
- Ask why.
Commenting on my previous post, Susan Brehmer said, “I review items left dangling on my to-do list and consider why I haven’t completed them yet. That often leads to a simple step to get started.”
- Exercise your faith.
Envision what it will be like when you complete the tasks you’ve been procrastinating. A deep sigh of relief? A sense of accomplishment? A break from the space it’s been taking up in your head? Renewed self-respect? You might go so far as to verbalize this: “When I finish ______, I’ll experience ____.”
- Break it down.
Are you procrastinating because the task ahead is intimidating? Too big? Too hard? Break it down into incremental steps, and place those steps in your schedule or to-do list. Remember, according to the old joke, that’s how you eat an elephant: “one bite at a time.”
- Bundle tasks.
Sarah Hamaker posted this comment on my previous blog post: “Bundling my least preferred tasks (like social media and marketing!) in blocks of time on a weekly or monthly calendar also allows me to both forget about those tasks and do them in a single block of time.” Pairing tasks you tend to procrastinate with those you enjoy (for instance, enlisting a friend to partner with in some of your least favorite tasks) can turn procrastination into anticrastination. (So sorry.)
- Schedule “sprints.”
Schedule a time and place for short bursts of focused attention on your most-pressing and/or most-often-procrastinated tasks. It’s easy to put off something when you have “all day” or “all week” to accomplish it; that can feel like a marathon. But if you tell yourself that you’re going to “sprint” for fifteen or thirty minutes in order to get Task A done, you might actually do it.
- Shut the door.
Never in history have we had more ways to allow ourselves to be distracted from the things we ought to do: phone calls, emails, text messages, Facebook, doorbells, YouTube, YouNameIt. But there are also ways to counter those things, by putting your phone on “Do Not Disturb” or “Airplane Mode,” for example. So take that thing you’ve been putting off, shut the door, silence everything, and don’t come out until the thing is done.
- Build in rewards.
If you’re as OCD as I am, checking off task after task (and thus moving them out of my limited brain space) is its own reward. If you’re not, promise yourself a commensurate reward for getting it done. A donut, perhaps. Okay, so it doesn’t have to be donuts. It could be a nap. A walk. A purchase. Even a sticker, just like in first grade.
I’m so glad to get this post written, I can’t even begin to describe it. So I won’t. Instead, I’ll check it off as “done” and head to the donut place.
Thank you. This is perfect help for me.
Lexington, SC WW
Amber Schamel Lemus
Thank you for these tips, Bob. They are helpful. And I so appreciate your addition of humor to an otherwise dreaded topic. 🙂 A great start to my day.
I love making lists and crossing things off!
I have a new post-it note on my desk.
“Will work for donuts” Stay tuned.
Sound a bit like a Scrum Master there Mr. Bob. Are you Agile(tm) certified? 🙂 I’ve long thought about how writing a manuscript is like any other development project, and applying Agile principles (scrums, product backlog, user stories, etc.) fit well with the writing process. What I like about using Agile in my writing is that it satisfies my need to be a “pantser”, while at the same time allowing me to “plot” out the overall book. Flexibility is key to writing compelling story. Sometimes it seems the story will take you where it needs to go. Enjoyed your post, as almost always sir. God’s blessings.
Thanks, Bob, for this post. Very timely and applicable. I’ve found myself procrastinating because nothing I submit is accepted, and I question whether I’m any good at this writing thing!! So, in my discouragement, I procrastinate. Why bother? I think. It won’t be accepted anyway!! But this is Satan, I’m sure. And he’s oh so hard to ignore sometimes. So thank you for this post!! Blessings! Denise
Thanks, Bob. These are all great ideas. I have a mantra that will not allow me peace until I get it done. And for the record this was long before Nike… “Do it now. ” I have my list of mantras that help me stay on task, such as, “Phone, med, keys; stop, think, breathe; and slow down.” Having these in my head help me gain in-the-moment awareness and purposeful mindfulness. My prompt reply is the fruit… Blessings!
I enjoyed reading this! I love your sense of humor and laughed several times…good way to begin the day.
I felt a bit bothered at first that all of these points had the #1 attached. But then the “old gray cells” kicked in, and I figured the repeated number was because each one are their own priority depending on the situation. Good show, Bob!
I look forward to applying some of these things, or should I say reapplying. I fell away from making lists, and now know it’s time to get back to what helps me be most productive.
I just noticed that in the copy I read from my email, every number was the same …1. But on here, the numbers are consecutive. Who knows, maybe I was supposed to read it from my email! Good stuff either way.
First: I love your writing style. It keeps me reading. I think humor is an absolute necessity in anything I write, and I’m a lucky duck because my client agrees.
I’m a long-time procrastinator, thriving (?) on deadlines. I appreciate this list of helpful hints—number 1 really hit home.
Do not hurry, but don’t wait
for shiny thing to catch your eye;
when you let your heart procrastinate,
you’re one step closer to Goodbye.
Please, friend, take the offered hand,
set aside your prideful schemes
before your love will leave this land
and be only seen in dreams.
Take the long walk in the evening,
linger in the coffee-bar,
for our plans are self-deceiving,
and that enticing golden star
we follow through each hard-won mile
is outshone by love’s warm smile.
You made me tear up, Andrew. I appreciate the reminders you give to cherish the life we have. God bless you, brother.
Susan, thank you.
Buried the best friend I ever had, just yesterday.
After procrastinating over not posting on my website or sending out my quarterly newsletter, I’m now making a “list” per your suggestion. Hard stuff? Nope. Just plain old procrastination. I’d rather be working on my novel. I must prioritize and get it done, then breathe a sigh of relief until it’s time to do it again. Why put it off when it only takes a few minutes? I have no idea other than the obvious, procrastination. Haha!
After conceiving what I’ve thought were more than decent plots for stories and writing fairly steadily on them, I backed off, thinking that there was no market for what I was writing. I’ve let ideas not quite die–just languish without nourishment–not even Hospice palliative care. So thank you, Bob, for offering renewed hope that I don’t need to wait until the culture around me changes– to at least offer my focus-perspective.
Very helpful! I do have a question, Bob. Why is each point numbered Number 1?
Sheri Dean Parmelee, Ph.D.
Bob, thank you for sharing the importance of not putting things off (I struggle spelling that other word). I have a daily list but also use a month-at-a-glance calendar to keep better track of things. If I don’t want to do something one day, I circle it and put it on for the next day. After a few days of moving the task or doing it, I strike it off my list and say “forget it!” Life is too short.
Thanks, Bo,b for the practical reminders.
Oops! Thanks, Bob, for the practical reminders.
Now we need a reminder to always reread comments before sending. (duh)
Ha, ha, love it! Yes, I had a friend introduce me to the idea of a 1-day per page diary used as a to do list (rather than for appointments) years ago and I still use it today. Like you said, there’s nothing like having to rewrite the same item over and over again to motivate you to actually get it done. And the satisfaction when it’s crossed off! I love how it forms a record of what I have achieved in the past as well.