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Elizabeth Tipper

Elizabeth Tipper

December 18, 2014

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6 Tips to Stop Procrastinating

I confess, I am a chronic procrastinator. I never miss a deadline or let anyone down, but my path to the finish line meanders constantly. While this often means I have an impeccably clean office and am never late on a thank you note, I should also probably be banned from email altogether if I fill out one more survey about myself.

Though procrastinating can have several good side effects (all the little, unimportant things get done), it is not the greatest way to work. Putting off tasks that inevitably need to be finished causes guilt and stress to pile up. Just like sitting down to the whole box of cookies leads to guilt, so does blowing off work to go shopping or to talk on the phone. Think of breaking your procrastination habits the same way you would go on a diet.

Look At The Little Picture
Instead of being overwhelmed by the incredible task ahead of you, break a big job into several small steps. Feeling overwhelmed can lead to avoidance instead of enabling you to start the task. Put twenty minutes on a timer (I use the microwave) and commit to working hard for those minutes. You will be amazed how much you can get done in a short amount of committed time. And once you start, it is so much easier to continue.

Set Realistic Goals
Don’t plan to be done with a project far ahead of time. Instead, overestimate the amount of time that each step and each task is going to take. Thinking and planning pessimistically will only encourage you as you finish ahead of schedule.

Reward Yourself
Treat yourself like the dog. If you do something good, reward yourself for it. If you get through a twenty-minute work session, allow yourself five minutes to scour the salacious celebrity gossip online. If you have something to look forward to, you’re more likely to be able to start work again. If you finish a big, dreaded project (like your taxes), go get a massage, or treat yourself to lunch at a favorite restaurant.

Lie To Yourself
Many people procrastinate because they believe that they work best under pressure. These adrenaline junkies end up finishing minutes under deadlines, meaning that their work doesn’t benefit from the second edit or extra time it should. Start lying to yourself about deadlines. Set your personal deadline for a couple of days before the official deadline and work toward that one.

Don’t Overdo The Planning
Once you’ve decided to stop your bad procrastination habits, don’t go out to buy tons of organizers and calendars and to trade in your phone for a Treo. Spending all the time and money it will take for all of these tools is a form of procrastination in and of itself. Having a few basic plans in place is all you need. After all, implementing the plan is the most important thing.

Learn To Be Honest With Yourself
Yes, you would work better if your office was clean, but cleaning it when you have a deadline in two hours is basic procrastination. Taking three hours to draw your plan of attack is also delaying the necessary. Once you learn to identify when you’re putting things off, you can work toward changing your behavior.