I have been meaning to write an article on how to stop procrastinating for some time now, but I just kept putting it off and putting it off. Okay, bad joke, I admit, but the sad truth is that I am prone to procrastinating things I really don’t care too much about doing. As well as things I really want to do, but can’t find the time for. As well things I really want to do and can find the time for but just don’t know how to do.
Okay, now I’m just procrastinating. Get down to it! Write this article. There are millions-nay, billions-of people waiting to find out if the title of this article-how to stop procrastinating-really reflects the content. Can one actually stop being a procrastinator?
The answer is yes. But it takes effort. The first step in stopping your tendency toward procrastination is to quit lying to yourself. Anytime that you are tempted to say to yourself things like “I’ll take care of that later” or “I’ll have more time to do that tomorrow” just stop yourself. Realize that you’re just making an excuse and that deep down inside you know you probably won’t do it later or even tomorrow. Instead, break with tradition and do something really radical: Do it now! Right that minute. Whatever it is you were about to put off. For God’s sake, you aren’t Scarlett O’Hara. She lived before nuclear bombs and terrorists attacks and NSA spying and illegal searches that could have you jail. For you tomorrow isn’t necessarily another day.
Many times procrastination stems from being overwhelmed by the scope of a project. When this happens anxiety overcomes us and we get scared into thinking that we just can’t do it; we can’t possibly complete it, and even if we do it won’t be as good as we know it could be. In order to stop procrastinating in these situations, simply turn that one huge project into several smaller projects. Did you know that if you wrote just 300 words a day-every day-you would have a completed novel by the end of the year? Can you really write a 350 page novel? Maybe not. But just about anyone can write a lousy 300 words a day, right?
You want to know one of the easiest ways to stop procrastinating? Turn off the TV. Shut down the computer. Buy an answering machine. Distraction is the secret lover that slips into the bedroom in the middle of the night and plants deep soulful kisses on procrastination. How many times have you put off doing something because your attention was riveted to the flickering images on the television? And I’m not even talking about your favorite shows. If you’re the type who leaves the TV on all day, you can’t help but get distracted even by something you don’t care about. You know why that episode of Who’s the Boss is so fascinating to you now when you’ve never paid any attention to it before? Because if you watch it to the end to find out if Tony Danza and Judith Light really are going to get it on in Alyssa Milano’s closet that means you don’t have to do that thing that you know you really should do. If there’s something that absolutely has to be done-like writing a term paper-then call up your friends and tell them you are out of action until they hear from you. Don’t let distractions increase your ability to procrastinate.
Make a list. Hey, everybody loves lists, right? We all love Dave’s nightly top ten list. We all read articles published on Associated Content that list the top ten this or the top ten that. Well guess what? Making a list is a terrific way to overcome procrastination. Make a to-do list of everything that needs to be done each day and don’t do anything else until everything on that list is done. After a few weeks of this, you won’t even need to make a list anymore. Did you know that studies have found that you only have to do something twenty days to make it a habit, but you only have to stop doing it for four days to break a habit? There may be no better way to stop procrastinating than to simply make a habit of doing things as soon as you know they need to be done. Obviously, if what needs to be done is going to take several days or weeks, you certainly can’t expect to finish them, but that brings us to our last tip on how to stop procrastinating.
Do what you can as fast as you can. Getting even a small part of a job done is better than getting none of it done and having accomplished part of your goal will help spur you toward completing it. To help with this, set realistic goals. A realistic goal would be something you can complete in a short time. Don’t look at the big picture. Have you ever seen one of those pictures that are made up of thousands of smaller pictures? That’s what your goal should look like. Setting a small, realistic and doable goal will lead you to the next small, realistic and doable goal and before you know you’re all done and ready to move onto the next.