From Procrastination to Productivity

Procrastination steals valuable time and erodes productivity at work. It can hurt your personal life as well. When you wait until the last minute to finish critical tasks, you often end up taking work home on the weekend.

So why do we procrastinate? Some seek immediate gratification—when they put things off, they reduce their present stress. Other professionals actually use procrastination for the adrenaline rush. They contend they work better under stress and love the excitement of a tough deadline. Often, delay simply stems from laziness or boredom. And let’s not forget the perfectionists whose standards may actually undermine productivity.

Whether procrastination is a way of life for you or an occasional bad habit, you can learn to work more effectively.

Break it down. Think of complicated or time-consuming projects as a series of smaller tasks. Tackling the smaller tasks, you gain momentum and a sense of gratification that propel you forward.

Break through. When your energy flags, the ideas just aren’t coming, and you feel overwhelmed, don’t give up. Start again with a small or very simple task to regain your momentum.

Celebrate milestones. If you feel tired or lazy, or you’re just not interested in the task, find a way to make the process more interesting. Reward yourself for achieving milestones in the project. Go out for special lunches with co-workers, instead of eating at your desk, for example.

Set a date to decide. Often, people delay when they can’t make up their minds. Set a deadline for making a decision and list the criteria for making it.

Remember that nobody’s perfect. If perfectionism is holding you back, ask for clarification of the project’s goals. You may find that 80% effort for you is 100% for someone else. For example, don’t spend hours on a detailed cost analysis when a rough estimate is all the client needs.

Eliminate distractions. Organize your work environment for work: close the door, get the clutter off your desk. Organize your time—schedule time for important work separate from administrative work. If you work at home, make sure your family respects your boundaries and leave domestic chores for personal time.

As you move from procrastination to productivity, be patient. Procrastination is a habit and, like all habits, it takes time to break.

“Procrastination and worry are the twin thieves that will try to rob you of your brilliance, but even the smallest action will drive them from your camp.” - Gil Atkinson, businessman and inventor

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