How to stop procrastinating

How to stop procrastinating

By Stephanie Soh 11/06/12

You’re capable of working hard, so what’s stopping you? Facebook, Twitter, Draw Something and pictures of dogs wearing human clothes, that’s what. Here’s Stephanie Soh’s guide to vanquishing your time-wasting demons, and stop procrastinating…

Be time-specific

Success coach Michael Heppell believes that our hazy concept of time is responsible for our lack of commitment. “We say things like, ‘Oh yeah, I’ll get back to you in a couple of hours.’ Why not say ‘Give me one hour and 30 minutes,’ or ‘I’ll meet you at 4.15pm’? When you start putting specifics on time, time becomes much more important.” Meanwhile, Simon Whaley, author of The Postively Productive Writer, emphasises the importance of giving yourself a deadline: “It gives you something to focus on,” he says. “If you have no deadline to finish your creative piece by, then there’s no incentive to actually sit down and make a start.” 

Break it down

“Often we procrastinate because the job that needs doing is too big, or feels like a lot of work,” says Simon Whaley. “The trick is to break it down into more manageable, bite-size chunks.” He uses the example of writing a short story to illustrate this technique: “If you sit down to write a 5,000-word story then the task will overwhelm you. You will procrastinate because you’ll be trying to write the perfect first word, followed by the perfect first sentence, followed by the perfect first paragraph. Perfection is created during editing, but you can’t edit a blank page – you need to write something. Break down the task: think about a plot, or the basic premise. Don’t think, ‘I have 30 minutes, I’d better write the first 500-words.’ Just think, ‘What's my story about?’ You can worry about characters and writing your story for the next session.”

Leave yourself wanting more

Todd Henry, founder of Accidental Creative, a company that helps people unlock their creative potential, advocates an innovative way to keep your ideas flowing.“One of the tricks that I teach artists I work with is: don’t work until you’ve exhausted every thought you have,” he says. “If you have nothing in your head then your mind’s going to look for something to distract itself. Work until you feel like, ‘There’s a certain amount I’ve accomplished today, but I still have a few things I’d like to do.’ Save those ideas and use them the next day. Because if you have a starting point – an easy, no-brainer starting point for your work – it’s going to be a lot easier to continue your momentum.”

Realise the consequences

We all know that good things happen when we meet deadlines, finish early and generally get things done. So why do we go to such lengths of put off our work? Michael Heppell believes that “People will do more to avoid pain than they will to gain pleasure. They’ll put work off until the point of pain, and that’s when they’ll suddenly take action.” 

What we need to do is make ourselves fully aware of the negative consequences of procrastination: “Write a list of the benefits of getting busy with what you want to do, but also a list of the pain if you don’t do it,” advises Michael. “And don’t just note one or two things, write down 10 or 15 things: what people might think about you, what it might cost you, your stress levels, your health, what it might mean to your relationship, having to stay behind at work... Big things, little things, get them all on. And by capturing it on paper, you’ll be much more inclined to do something, rather than just think about it.”


Read more How to articles.

Image: work work..... by FLEECIRCUS, available under a CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 license.

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