5 strategies to counter procrastination

We all like to procrastinate; especially when it comes to annoying, boring, complicated, or just unpleasant tasks. Unfortunately, the work just won’t do itself! No matter how much time you give it, you still need to do it in the end – and procrastinating can make a problem worse if you’re unlucky. So rather than make more problems for yourself, the most effective solution is to find out why you procrastinate, and prevent yourself from succumbing to the urge with these 5 useful strategies. Which of the following statements apply to you?

1. I don’t have enough time!

This is a popular excuse almost everyone will have used from time to time. So what to do? Ask yourself what exactly is stopping you from tackling this task Where possible, try to delegate other jobs that are getting in your way. Maybe you can even find someone reliable to do the original task for you! If you really don’t have the time to complete an unpleasant but vital task, you need to either make time for it or delegate, so you can finally tick it off your To Do list. Sometimes it can be helpful to allocate a specific time for the task on your calendar – to make an appointment with the task. It’s not always just a matter of not having time, after all. Is your other work really so urgent or important? Categorising tasks according to the Eisenhower or BCG Matrix will help you make an objective evaluation. This will lower your risk of setting false priorities.

Top Tip: If you often find yourself with too little time on your hands, there are two possible reasons: too many tasks or too little productivity. It is difficult to admit to the latter, but once you have done so, you can find ways to solve the problem. Phone interruptions, for example, can cost you more in productivity than you might think. Even if you have only spoken with a caller for 2 minutes, you will need another 10-15 minutes before you can concentrate again fully on your previous task. So if your phone rings 6 times a day, you may be losing 1-1 ½ hours in terms of productivity. What could you accomplish if this time wasn’t being wasted? A telephone service to delegate your calls to, then, is a stepping stone to dramatically higher productivity.

2. I hate doing this task…

A lot of advice suggests not to do any jobs you don’t like; but this is hardly a realistic idea. There will always be tasks you dislike and that you can’t delegate. What helps in this situation is to simplify, shorten, and downscale tasks – or at least to drop the perfectionism. Be prepared to be happy with an 80% solution rather than not tackling the issue at all.

3. This job is just too big!

Break the task down into single, manageable chunks. Each chunk should take you about 30 minutes to complete. Start with the easiest task to get your foot in the door. Once you have managed this first step, it will be considerably easier for you to continue and complete the task.

4. I don’t feel like doing it / This isn’t important enough to bother with…

The Eisenhower Matrix is your friend again in this situation. Be honest with yourself and about the task: what is the worst that would happen if you didn’t finish it? Might this actually be a task that is “neither urgent nor important”? But don’t forget to check why you put the item on your To Do list in the first place. There was probably a good reason, and you should only cancel the task if your reason has changed or no longer applies.

5. I don’t know how to go about this task…

This seems like a good reason to avoid a task. “I have no idea how and what to do, so of course I can’t do it.” Well, it isn’t quite so simple, of course. The simplest solution here would be to find someone knowledgeable in that field and to delegate or swap the task with them. If this isn’t possible, you can at least seek advice and support from someone who has the necessary know-how. If you face this situation frequently, it would also be a good idea to view the situation strategically and invest in seminars and workshops until you have gained the necessary knowledge.

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