Here’s the scenario, a client gives you a large job and more than enough time to easily get it done and have time to spare. Then you just can’t seem to get started. You tell yourself it’s ok because you still have plenty of time to get it done. You start doing mental math figuring out how much time you have left to get it done and justifying starting it later and later. The next thing you know it’s the night before it’s due and you are frantically typing away at your computer trying to get it done.
If you are a procrastinator this is an all too familiar experience for you. You started off having all the time in the world to get done, but now you are in hurry-up mode beating yourself up for starting so late. In high school, I was voted procrastinator of the year, so I know a thing or two about procrastination and, more importantly, how to fight against it. These six tricks have helped me in my struggle with procrastination and they can help you too.
Break Your Tasks Up
One of the reasons people end up putting off a task is because it seems so daunting. When you have a big project ahead of you it can be intimidating and you put it off because you just don’t know where to start. That’s why I break very large project into small manageable chunks. I might make my first task just to write a captivating headline, then an intriguing first sentence, and so on and so on until the job is done. Breaking it up into smaller tasks make it less intimidating. Writing one paragraph at a time, or even one sentence, is far less intimidating than tackling one big project all at once. Break a task up into it’s absolute smallest tasks and work on them one at a time.
Eat the Frog
Sometimes the only reason you are procrastinating is because there is one part of the project you are working on that is just too darn hard. Mark Twain had the right idea when he said “If the first thing you do each morning is to eat a live frog, you can go through the day with the satisfaction of knowing that that is probably the worst thing that is going to happen to you all day long.” Basically what he was saying is that if you get the toughest part of your job out of the way first, the rest of the work will seem like a breeze. Force yourself to buckle down and eat your frog and the rest of the project will flow smoothly.
Work Five on, Five Off
A common practice to battle your procrastination is to work in small chunks, giving yourself regular breaks in between. All you have to do is work five minutes at a time, then you can give yourself an equal five minute break. To be fair you won’t accomplish much in five minutes, and that’s the point. The idea is that by only holding yourself accountable for working five minutes at a time you will start building momentum. Once you start working you will quit taking your breaks and get some actual work done. Just starting is the hardest part for a procrastinator, this is an easy way to trick yourself into getting started. Rather than telling yourself you are going to sit down and do the work all at once all you have to do is get up the energy for five minutes.
There is a reason parents use bribery as a way to get their kids to do what they want, it’s really effective. You can use it on yourself to get your work done quickly. Set yourself a goal and when you meet that goal reward yourself with something you enjoy. Maybe you will give yourself your favorite snack after writing so many words, or play a half hour of your favorite video game after doing an hour of research. There has to be some personal accountability on your part to not just have your reward before the work is done. If you can find a friend or loved one to hold you accountable it will work even better. Have them hold onto your reward and have them only give it to you when you can prove to them you have completed the work.
Set Your Own Deadline
If you can’t help but procrastinate then maybe you need to set a new deadline. Set your own self imposed deadline that is earlier than the one your client set for you. That way when you wait until the last minute to get the work done you still have it done before it is actually due. You will have to find a way to hold yourself accountable to that deadline, however. One punishment I use to do that is to fine myself if the work doesn’t get done. If I can’t prove to my fiance that I finished the assignment by my self-imposed deadline she take out ten dollars from our shared bank account to buy herself something frivolous. So, I can get my work done before my new deadline or my wallet can get a little lighter.
Give In To Procrastination
When I was in high school I was informed that me and a friend were both finalists for the class procrastinator senior superlative. The problem was the other kid never actually turned in his work. A procrastinator does get done, they just get it done at the last minute. For someone who isn’t one, being a procrastinator may look the same as being lazy. But I learned long ago that sometimes I am just going to procrastinate and no amount of tips or tricks will change that, it’s just who I am. It works for me, that stress of working at the last minute to turn something in has resulted in some of the most inspired work I have ever done. Procrastination is only a problem when you take shortcuts and turn in shoddy work. But, if you simply put everything off until the last minute but still do all the work, and do it well, then don’t let other people make you think it’s a character flaw. You are a procrastinator and sometimes you just need to own it.
Procrastination can seem like it is nearly impossible to overcome, but it doesn’t have to be. By using the tips above you can start to manage it and make your work a little less stressful. Getting your work done sooner gives you more time to edit and polish as well as take on more jobs altogether. Don’t let procrastination hold you back from being a better more successful writer.
How do you stop yourself from procrastinating? Let us know in the comments below. You know, when you get around to it or whatever.