Here are thirteen tips that can help you push through those times were you find yourself avoiding the things that you want to get done.
1. Find Meaning– We don’t usually have problems accomplishing the tasks that we really want to do, so try connect deeper meaning to the task at hand. For me this will take the form of gaining perspective. Realizing that wasting time trying not to do some task is keeping my from doing the things that I truly enjoy. Maybe the task means a lot to someone else, maybe it affects other areas of you life, maybe it will grow your character. For example, doing the dishes might make you wife very happy, or cleaning up a bedroom will give you restful sleep and energy for the rest of your life.
2. Rewards – Treat yourself to something special when the task is complete. Head for ice cream after you cut the lawn, or maybe buy a new tool after you clean out the garage. It may not seem like much, but it can really help our motivation. One caveat is to make sure the reward is appropriate for the task.
3. Realize your tendencies – Take note of the type of tasks that you procrastinate and the things that you do to procrastinate. Just being aware of your pattern will help you see the procrastination coming and help you create the structure to deal with yourself. Awareness will also help to attack our procrastination head on.
4. Create a time budget or plan – Managed time is less likely to encounter procrastination. Having already made conscious and active decisions about how you are going to spend you time, can really help fuel your motivation. For me structuring my time helps me feel more in control instead of the tasks controlling me. Not being in control is one thing that leads to procrastination. With a plan in place it becomes easier to see were you are going, and that vision can push you through the wall.
5. Create a deadline – Seems obvious, but I often found myself floundering in a task as the hours just roll by. By setting a deadline, and sticking to it, we create built in motivation. Decide that you will have the vacumming done by 7, or that you need to have a book read by Thursday at midnight. Avoid vagueness, since it will only afford us the ability to rationalize moving or missing the deadline.
6. Don’t do it/be lazy – Take stock and see why you are actually doing a task. Does it really need to be done? Can you do it in a more efficient way? Be creative. A fellow blogger Scott Young had a nice post on ‘being lazy’.
7. Create Accountability – It is amazing how much accountability can do for our desire. People in AA find accountability one of the mainstays to getting over an addiction, and it can help avoid procrastination too. Anyone who is married has a good idea of how accountability can shape our behavior. Ask a friend to ‘check up’ on you. The embarrassment of being caught not doing the task can be a motivator. Sometime even a To Do list can provide enough accountability to move us to action.
9. Break it up – Large tasks are often overwhelming and energy killers. One of the toughest parts is usually just starting a large task. Once we break through that barrier we start to flow. Break the activity up into smaller milestones that are easily accomplished and start it the first one. The idea of a 20 page research paper is daunting, but take some time to break it up into smaller parts like research X, create an outline, write part 1 of the outline, and so on.
10. Visualize – Someone next to you brings in a scrumptious piece of chocolate cake. Your mouth waters and without realizing you are subconsciously picturing yourself eating chocolate cake. A day later while grocery shopping, you pass the bakery section and throw a chocolate cake in the cart. We are not all wired the same way, but the idea is clear; the mind can be a powerful tool for accomplishing your goals. Visualize not only the act of doing the tasks, but also the completion, reward, and even the satisfaction you will gain from completing it. Try it, it does have some science behind it.
11. Delegate/Outsource – This one is the new fad. Don’t like to clean, hire someone else to do it. Maybe a neighborhood teenager would be interested in cutting your lawn for a reasonable price. If you find yourself struggling to motivate yourself, be creative and find ways to offload the activity. I have noticed that if I delegate, I am even more willing to ‘help out’, because I am helping someone else now and not doing the task myself. This could even include a task trade. Maybe your wife would rather cut the lawn in exchange for some other thing that she wants done. The great thing about outsourcing is that it will free up some large chunks of time in your life. The downside is usually the cost.
12. Involve Others – This is different then accountability. Having others around creates social energy that can motivate and energize us to action. Find a friend to go out walking to burn a few calories, or to head to the gym with you. Is your son or daughter interesting in learning how to change the oil on the car. Maybe if they are good they will be able to do it themselves after a few tries.
13. Make it Fun – Finally, find interesting ways to spice up your mundane and/or tough tasks. If it takes using the hamper as a basketball hoop to pick up some clothes, so be it. For me, I will often make tasks competitive. Can I run to the store and pick up msoe milk faster than the 8 minutes I took last time(without speeding!)? I am not sure, but it certainly gives me something motivate me to action and accomplish as fast as possible. A bonus making it fun is bringing a smile to my face. Even as I sit here I am laughing at the silliness of some of things I have done in the past!
-The Happy Rock