Updated: Dec 10, 2019
I remember in college I’d stall and delay writing term papers until the very last minute. Almost always, once that first paragraph was typed the rest of the paper would flow easily. The crazy thing about that was all the unnecessary time and energy I spent feeling worried, anxious, guilty, and frustrated about the project. The anticipation of doing the work was much worse than the actual doing of the work. This is true of many, many things—just getting started is the hardest part.
There are a variety of reasons we procrastinate and we can be very creative in the ways we find to do it. To change this habit you must explore your personal roadblocks to unpleasant tasks so you can begin to alter your behavior. Attitude makes such a difference in getting things done. Focusing on the future—what will be better after the task is completed, looking for the positive aspects of the job, and recognizing the greater unpleasantness of delaying the work can help you forge ahead.
Beyond the psychological aspects of procrastination, here are some practical tips to help you move forward:
· Break the project down into bite-sized, manageable pieces to reduce your feeling of overwhelm
· Instead of simply writing a to-do list, define a time and schedule it on your calendar for exactly when you will work on each item
· Commit to 20 minutes per day to focus on the project—sometimes you’ll find yourself choosing to stick with the job longer
· Move with speed—set a timer and see how much you can accomplish before it dings
· Give up perfectionism; good enough and done is better than perfectly not done
· Do the most unpleasant portion of the job first—get it over with and avoid the build-up of dread
· Create a pleasant work environment—light a candle, play music, dance while you work, open the window to breathe fresh air
· Take time out to pet your cat, play with your dog, or take a walk around the block—then get back to work
· Get help—either someone to directly help you with the task or just a friend to keep you company while you do it
Remember, where you start is much less important than just the fact that you do start. So what first step are you going to take today?