There are many reasons why we procrastinate. Perhaps we are faced with the unpleasant task of breaking bad news to someone. Sometimes a project is so large that we simply don’t know where to start and so we don’t. Perhaps the task that needs to be completed is boring and generates absolutely no feelings of passion or enthusiasm. And sometimes there are so many distractions around us that we simply cannot focus the way we need to.
Your ability to select and then act on, important tasks is a critical skill. So how do you do that? Here are some tactics that have helped me tackle my projects:
- Tackle the hardest (or most dreaded) task first: In his book, “Eat that Frog”, Brian Tracy states “If the worst thing you do each morning is to eat a live frog, you can go through the day with the satisfaction of knowing that that is probably the worst thing that is going to happen to you all day long!” The longer we put off the boring or challenging, but necessary task, the more it weighs on our mind. We are not able to fully focus on what we are working on so simple tasks take longer and may not be done to the quality required. Get the tough tasks done first so that you can fully focus on other items on your to-do list.
- Chop it up: Large projects can be overwhelming. Sometimes we just don’t know where to start and so we don’t. Instead of looking at the whole, break the large project into small, actionable steps. Identify step one, then step two, then step three and tackle one step at a time. The sense of accomplishment from completing each step is itself a motivator to take on the next one.
- Set deadlines: When we have all the time in the world to complete a project, that’s probably how long it’s going to take. Assign deadlines to projects. Be realistic when setting those deadlines. Scheduling 24 hours’ worth of work in 12 hour time period is self-defeating.
- Remove distractions: Spider Solitaire, Facebook, Twitter, co-workers dropping in for chats … all of those time wasters keep you from starting or completing a project. Remove the distractions or schedule time to enjoy them.
- Reward Yourself: Sometimes the reward is the sense of satisfaction at having completed a difficult or dreaded task. I personally love the real sense of satisfaction I get when I physically cross an item off my whiteboard or in my daily journal.
What are some things that you do to keep on top of the important projects or tasks, instead of just being busy?
(This is an update of a blog originally posted in April 2012. Every once in a while, I need to take a step back and remind myself of these steps!)