Friday, October 19, 2012

Steps to Overcoming Procrastination

For many years of my life, I was a procrastinator. I always found new, creative ways to not get stuff done. You might say, I put the "pro" in procrastination. I was good. But no more. After much soul-searching, deliberation, a few brainstorming sessions and a good search on the Internet — The Source Of All Truth — I have defeated procrastination. I hope by sharing my secrets I can help many of you to say, "Get thee behind me, procrastination."
I have put together a list of five things that will help even the most procrastinating of the procrastinators get passed this obstacle.

1. Make a list and do the least desirable things first — Putting a to-do list together each day is a valuable tool in overcoming procrastination. I usually put my to-do list together each night, as I reflect back on what I accomplished that day. After you compile the list of things to do, prioritize the list into things that "must get done" and things you would "like to get done."

Today's to-do list for me looks like this: wake up, shave, exercise, write another award-winning column, change shirts, take a walk, brainstorm, clip toenails (mine, not others), wash the car, fix the cabinet door hinge, nap, and find a new recipe for margaritas.

After taking a quick look at this list, I see right away what my top priorities are: waking up and finding that recipe for margaritas. I would also like to get a nap in but there may not be time. Everything else is definitely falls in the "would like to get done" category.

Now that I know the things that "must get done today," I do the one or two items that seem to be the least desirable. For me, that is waking up.

I have found over the years, that waking up, while being a challenge, is paramount in overcoming procrastination. Even though you, technically, can't procrastinate while you sleep, it seems like most procrastination takes place during waking hours. So, I always put waking up at the top of my to-do list. After that, I work through my next task: finding that recipe for margaritas. But before I do, I may need that nap, which brings me to another important point: sometimes taking a few minutes to re-prioritize makes all the difference in the world. 

2. Check e-mail just twice a day — Over the past decade or so, e-mail communication has become my preferred method for doing business. I probably send and receive nearly 15 to 20 e-mails every day. To make sure that e-mail doesn't  dominate my time, I only check my e-mail two, possibly three, times each day.

Just this morning, after checking my to-do list, I went to my computer and checked the daily "Dilbert" cartoon (it was pretty funny, by the way). After that quick stop, I went to my Google Reader and checked out the 40 or so blogs I follow on a regular basis (that usually takes about two hours). When that was done, I do my regular routine of checking e-mails. Today, I had three e-mails from some company trying to get me to buy something called, "Viagara" and two e-mails from my best friend's sister's daughter's third cousin, who thought I might want to check out the latest cat video from Youtube, which she described as a "hoot." I also sent two e-mails out to several close associates, who I thought might also get a "hoot" from the cat videos. After that, I am done with checking e-mail until this afternoon.

3. Shut down Internet browser and close out of all social media sites — Facebook, Twitter and Instagram have become some of the biggest time-wasters on the Internet — The Source Of All Truth. If you are not careful, you can spend several hours a day finding out what your friend had for lunch, receiving invites to play Farmville, or discovering that President Obama is not a U.S. citizen, because he was born in Nebraska.

The best thing to do is limit yourself to just three or four hours on social media sites. One exception would be if something important is going on in the world — like the Kardashians having a baby or Lindsay Lohan getting arrested for making a cat video. If something important is going on, I find it is a good idea to check Facebook and Twitter a bit more often (try every seven minutes).

4. Reward yourself when tasks are completed — Whenever I check off a task from my to-do list, I usually reward myself with a Twinkie or some other tasty treat. As soon as I woke up this morning, I opened one of the Twinkies from the box sitting on my bedside table. I deserved it.

5. Focus on one task at a time — Regardless of how good you think you are at multi-tasking, you probably aren't. Our brains are wired to focus on one thing at a time. So, pick your priorities on your to-do list, focus on what task, and find yourself getting more stuff done each day.

I hope this list helps you as much as it has helped me. If not, send me your e-mail address and I'll forward this cute video of a cat trying to eat a Twinkie. It's a hoot.

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