I'm sitting here at my computer desk at 3:29 AM, writing the beginning of a blog post for which I don't even have a topic yet. Sometimes I just want to write, without necessarily having a reason, argument, or even a goal. I just want to write, dammit. And yet, as I type this, I know full-well what the problem is, and right now writing seems to be as good an answer as any. You see, I am writing to avoid something difficult. I am actively ducking something work-related that is outside of my comfort zone, and that, quite frankly, I really don't want to work on, even though it is due in 10 hours, and I need to sleep somewhere in there.
Somehow, through a lifetime of being gifted at test-taking and getting A's on last-minute college essays, I have trained my instincts to think that procrastination is good, and that putting things off that really need to be done leads to success. For the first 20ish years of my time on this earth, that strategy worked fine--until I became employed by someone whose values system around planning and "GTD" was the exact opposite of mine. This boss made a habit of planning things the same day she found out they would happen. She liked charts, schedules, diagrams, calendars, and a whole bunch of other organizational and time management devices that I just didn't want to have to hassle with. Needless to say, this professional relationship eventually fizzled. Although I (mostly) eventually got my act together, every so often I still find myself in my current situation, wasting away the wee hours writing, noodling on my guitar, chain-watching YouTube videos, and seeking out an array of podcasts on a topic for which I already have way too many. Luckily, I've acquired some great tools to get myself past this barrier or procrastination.
Here are the 3 most useful ways I've found to break the procrastination barrier:
- Manage your time with a schedule. Yeah, yeah, this is the copout answer. But hey, it works. Seriously, if you make a habit of keeping a calendar and daily schedule on which you set aside specific times of the day for specific projects, you are far more likely to not get unexpectedly caught up browsing LOLcats for 3 hours.
- Ask yourself why you are avoiding a task. What is it about writing those quarterly reviews that has you dodging it? Why are you so anxious about having the "Let's see other people" conversation with someone you're just not feeling it with? Getting real with yourself about your issues with a task can help you overcome the procrastination barrier.
- Give yourself 10 minutes to keep procrastinating--but only 10 minutes. Sometimes it helps to step back from the situation, take a breath, and admit that you are avoiding doing something that needs to be done. And you know what? Sometimes that's okay. So give yourself a little time to waste, but be very strict about when that break ends and it's time to get the ball rolling again.
Here is an awesomepage full of articles on procrastination at Psychology Today. What tricks have you found that help motivate you to get going and kick the procrastination bug?