Is there a job on your to-do list that pops up again and again, which you simply can’t bring yourself to complete? We all have them and unfortunately, there is usually no escaping them.
Whether it’s a report you should’ve written weeks ago, a difficult conversation you need to have with a colleague or simply a stack of emails that need actioning – these tasks may seem small and menial to outsiders, but to the beholder, they can appear impossible to complete.
In her book How to Manage Your Mammoth: The Procrastinator’s Guide to Getting Things Done, Wendy Jago offers her winning techniques for using small steps to accomplish your goals.
Here are just a few of the simple but effective strategies she discusses:
1. Explore the real underlying obstacle blocking you
What is really stopping you from completing the task at hand? While on the surface you may plead lack of time or resources, it may also be a mental block – perhaps you are afraid of not performing the job well enough or of what others may think. If there is an underlying emotional or mental block, working through this issue may be all it takes to get things moving.
2. Set yourself small goals and take bite-sized action
Large projects or tasks don’t need to be accomplished in one go. By breaking down the task into tiny pieces and setting yourself small, easy-to-achieve goals, the task won’t seem so daunting. For example, instead of clearing your entire inbox in one day, make a commitment to clear and action five emails every day. Or if it’s a report, set aside one hour every day to whittle away at it.
3. Don’t let your choices turn into burden-heavy obligations
Many people who procrastinate describe the feeling as “being trapped” or experiencing a “burden”. This feeling of disempowerment and obligation certainly doesn’t help when you’re procrastinating. It’s important to remind yourself that every action is a choice – feeling that you are free to choose and have in fact chosen to complete this task, can help remove this feeling of entrapment and burden.
4. Reward yourself for any progress on the task
Any progress you make on your most hated chore, even the smallest advancement, is worth a pat on the back. Research shows that people who are praised for their work are more productive. Obviously, small improvements may not be worthy of celebration, but they are worth acknowledging to yourself and used as motivation for further improvement.
5. Discover your own personal work rhythm
You’ll find that at certain times of the day you feel more alert and productive. These peaks and dips in your energy levels are all part of your natural circadian and ultradian rhythms, which determine your patterns of action, rest and human performance. You need to work in harmony with your energy levels. Don’t force yourself to work when levels are low – make the most of time when levels are high.
Usually, the longer you procrastinate, the harder it is to take action. What was once a small irritating chore can easily turn into a seemingly heavy, burdensome assignment that grows in size and weight every day. Don’t let your to-do list take over! Use the tips above to help you take action.