Procrastination can be a major problem, just like Regina George. Joseph Ferrari, Ph.D., a social psychologist at DePaul and author of ‘Still Procrastinating? The No-Regrets Guide to Getting It Done’, comments that everyone procrastinates at some point in their lives – but for 20% of people it’s such an issue that therapy is recommended to resolve the situation. Fortunately, there are effective strategies available to break this bad habit and get back on track!
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1. Make a ta-da list.
“When you’re feeling really overwhelmed, it’s helpful to keep track of things you’ve done. Create a column on your to-do list where you can compile everything you’ve done on a project to reach a goal, even little things. As the list gets longer, you’re able to look at it and see how much you’re working, even if the end result still hasn’t shown up for itself yet. Ta-da!” —Vicki Salemi, career expert and author of Big Career in the Big City
2. Establish milestones.
“Make sure you have a clear deadline for anything you are working on, then work backward to map out the small steps you need to take to really accomplish and exceed this goal. Put checkpoints on a digital calendar with pop-up reminders for when and what you had identified should have been accomplished by that point. Pacing tasks helps you not feel overwhelmed because the work is now in bite-sized, manageable steps. Also, visualization increases your sense of accountability to a goal and keeps it top of mind.” —Joan Kuhl, a Millennial career expert and founder of Why Millennials Matter
3. Rise early.
“Take advantage of the longer days and especially of the early daylight by getting out of bed 30 minutes earlier than usual and starting work sooner. There will be fewer interruptions from calls and colleagues, so you can use those first 30 minutes to focus on your most challenging and important projects. Your brain will be fresh, and the focus time will reap high-value results!” —Eva Wisnik, New York-based career expert and founder of Wisnik Career Enterprises
4. Live by the “under 10 minutes” rule.
“If a task arrives in your queue and it can be completed in less than 10 minutes, take care of it right away. Small assignments are the most vulnerable to being buried in the workflow. Of course, the ‘Under 10 Minutes Rule’ is only effective if you leave some wiggle room in your schedule. If you have back-to-back meetings or multiple assignments that require heavy lifting every day, you just won’t have time for anything else. Therefore, you should assume that you’ll spend at least an hour per workday dealing with these small tasks and budget accordingly. In my mailbox, as soon as a task has been attended to, the corresponding messages are removed and placed in an appropriate folder. Thanks to the ‘Under 10 Minutes’ Rule, my inbox is nearly always empty. I don’t lose things due to clutter, I don’t get overwhelmed by all of the things I have to do, and my level of responsiveness is second to none.” —Alexandra Levit, career expert, and writer at The Fast Track
5. Take control of your to-do list with detailed direction and oversight.
“When you don’t want to get started, write down really small tasks in sequential order, then choose one and just dive in. You will feel accomplished as you plow through it. Run with momentum as you swiftly leap from task to task. It’ll help motivate you to take on the bigger ones, and hopefully, they won’t feel so big anymore. I’m also a big fan of keeping handwritten to-do lists in general. Putting pen to paper resonates much more than typing, and when you cross something off, it doesn’t just vanish like it does if you’re online and you delete it from your checklist.” —Salemi
6. Create a revised timeline.
“Offer yourself incentives to get things done early instead of only punishing yourself if it’s done lately. Bring in the social aspect of having your friends hold you accountable. Set something up with them, like they’ll treat you to your favorite drink if you make your new, early due date. If you don’t, you don’t get to meet up with them and if possible, they put it on your tab. It’s both an incentive and a consequence.” —Ferrari
7. Gamify your work system.
“Warmer weather tends to green-light summer slacking. Before you open your favorite blogs or read the news, look at your to-do list and work on your first task until you can cross it off. Afterward, treat yourself to five minutes of Instagram scrolling, checking Tumblr posts, or having a quick chat with your coworker. Set an actual alarm on your phone so you know when reward time is over and it’s on to the next project. —Jill Jacinto, career expert, Associate Director of Editorial and Communications for WORKS
8. Connect with a close friend.
“Share your big goals with a friend or someone who really supports you. The act of proclaiming your vision publicly can put some fire behind your motivation to get it done. Be there for this person for one of their goals too so that you become Battle Buddies who keep each other on track and excited about each other’s progress.” —Kuhl
9. Have a 3:00 p.m. check-in.
“Pick one day a week when you want to leave early or on time. Knowing you want to get out to spend the day exercising outside or meeting friends for drinks to soak in the warm weather will be a great motivator. To ensure your timely departure, schedule a 3:00 p.m. check-in on your computer. Stop to assess what still has to get done for you to leave early and do it! It’s easy to forget these priorities until 15 minutes before you plan on leaving, and then you get stuck at work late.” —Wisnik
10. Start with the hardest part.
“Start your day with the task you least want to do. Even if it’s just setting aside an hour to tackle one step of a larger project, facing and working on what you least want to do unleashes a tremendous amount of energy. Too often, we spend our time on easy tasks and say that we are so busy we cannot get to the major project. We might answer phone calls, read emails, have lunch—anything that we find simple and are emotionally prepared to do—rather than face the task that we really have to do.” —Jody Michael, Executive Coach, career coach, and founder of Jody Michael Associates
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