Module Eight: Tools to Fight Procrastination

Procrastination is one of the leading causes of disorganization. As we’ve seen before, we can often make excuses to do it later to find various reasons why something can be put off until later. But once we’ve compiled our giant to-do list and have decided what tasks should be done first our next step, or steps, is to fight against procrastination and just do them. With the right tools and good habits, you’ll be able to say goodbye to procrastination sooner, rather than later.

Eat That Frog!

As Mark Twain says, “Eat a live frog every morning, and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.”

We all have that task we dread doing, whether it’s at home doing the dishes or at work sending our email reports. Our normal plan of action is to put it off while completing various other tasks. Then when it’s time to complete this unpleasant task, we either find a way to put it off or don’t tackle it with full force. But Eat That Frog is a concept that says we should “eat the frog” first, or rather do our least favourite tasks first, and fully complete them before moving onto another project. When this job is out of the way, we spend the rest of our time completing more favourable tasks and revel in knowing that you don’t have to return to the first one.

Eat That Frog Guideline:

  • The Frog – Identify your most important task first.
  • Complete this task first before you move on to anything else.
  • Eat the Frog – Continue with this task until it is completed.

Remove Distractions

Even after you have set your mind to completing a task and checking it off of your to-do list, the smallest distraction can make you lose focus and stop working. They can occur at home or at work, and oftentimes we do not even register them as a distraction. When you are preparing to start a project or task, look around and evaluate what is in the area that could distract you. Turn off personal cell phones or devices or put a sign on your door asking for silence and to not disturb. Ensure everything you will need is organized with your workflow to reduce the need to get up and leave your area. When we eliminate these distractions that can make us lose our focus, we will see an increase and production and spend less time trying to complete the same project.

Give Yourself a Reward

Rewards are a great way to keep ourselves motivated. After all, who doesn’t want to earn a little treat after a job well done? The key is to only reward good behaviour, such as finishing a small task or completing a whole project. If we jump to the reward too soon, we are only rewarding our negative behaviour and are not helping to reduce procrastination. Start with small rewards when working on something, such as taking a break or getting something to snack on. We can reward ourselves with a bigger prize when the entire job is finished, such as going out with friends or doing something fun that we enjoy more.

Tips:

  • Only give rewards for work done, not work promised.
  • Start with small rewards before working up to bigger ones.
  • Keep a visual reminder of what you’ve accomplished.

Break Up Large Tasks

Sometimes we think we have less to do because we have fewer items on our lists, only to realize they are larger than we realized and could become overwhelming. When we feel defeated by these larger tasks, they can lead to further procrastination. Instead, take this one large task and break it into smaller, more manageable tasks that can be completed more easily. If you have a 20-page slideshow due at work, break the project into separate page tasks, completing one or two at a time until it is all completed. If you have decided to clean out your entire garage, start by retrieving all of your donated items or clearing out trash items. When one task is done, you can move on to the next one until the entire job is done. Don’t forget to take periodic breaks and stop to re-evaluate your progress.

Case Study

April has decided to use her day off to clean out her messy attic and hopefully reorganize the storage items she has in there. She left her cell phone downstairs and made a shortlist of everything that would need to be done in there in order for it to be finished. She groaned when she realized she would need to sweep and dust the entire area in order to help clean out all of the dirt. April decided she would do this task first so she could go ahead and get it over with. When she finished, she divided up the rest of the work in smaller, quicker tasks, such as removing boxes and cleaning out any trash items. After she had worked for a few hours and had completed several tasks on her list, she took a short break and got a snack. When she came back, she felt more energized was able to finish the entire attic by the end of the day.