Like many of you, my wife and I lead an incredibly busy life. I am balancing a full-time job with being a full-time student. If that isn’t enough, My wife and I have an active social life, we make time for fitness, and we each have part time work that fills in the rest of our calendar. With so much on our plate we are also habitual procrastinators. We will show up late to your party, and we will wait until the last minute to finish any task. So, how do we battle that urge to procrastinate? We have a couple of tricks. Here’s a quick rundown of the three that work the best for us.
- Break big projects into smaller tasks
This may seem obvious when you’re faced with a project that might take many hours or weeks to complete. For example, we all learn early on that if you have to write a research paper, that there is a process and so you can plan to do your research in the morning, and then write an outline in the afternoon, and then do the writing and editing the next day. You can do this with any goal, and you can break the tasks down as small as you need to. You can schedule them throughout the week and by the time your deadline has arrived, you’ll be able to look back and thank yourself that you don’t have to miss out on seeing Bastille play at the 9: 30 club!
- Break work into small time units and take breaks
But what about something that doesn’t have a well-defined process? Or what if you find the four hours of research to be too daunting? Can you commit to focusing on research for 15 minutes? Maybe 25? I like to commit myself to short intervals and then take a shorter break. Maybe I’ll work on this blog post for 20 minutes then take a ten-minute break. There is a famous technique called the Pomodoro Technique ® that employs this approach. Francesco Cirillo devised this exact prescription which calls for a 25 minute work period and then a 5-minute break. There are apps, timers, and plenty of advice for dealing with distractions and suggestions on what to do during your breaks. Check in your app store for a timer app that can help you keep track of your work effort using this method.
- Praise and reward yourself (*and others)
This one is obvious, almost. We can all look back on a big project and give ourselves a pat on the back and be proud of what we’ve accomplished. That comes naturally. But we’re not very good at rewarding ourselves for getting something 10% done. So after you’ve finished one small task in the bigger process or a couple of timed work periods, take a moment to admire your effort and then think about how you will reward yourself when your big project is complete. Be sure to avoid unhealthy rewards. Instead, make your reward something that you enjoy that won’t break the bank or your belt! If you are working with others, be sure to praise them in a meaningful way, too. When we tell our partners, team members, or bosses that we couldn’t have accomplished the task without their help, they will be happier to help the next time around.