10 Ways to Avoid Procrastination
How to set and achieve goals like a total boss!
There’s no denying it – self-motivation is one of the hardest parts of running your own business. With no one to crack the whip, it can be really easy to fall into a procrastination black hole… and once you’re in that hole it can be damn hard to climb back out.
For the last 7 years I have been working as a freelance graphic designer. Before that I had a job that required me to work remotely most of the time. And before that I had a full time day job and taught at TAFE at night – which meant a whole bunch of after hours work writing lesson plans and marking. So while self-motivation might not have been something I was born with, it is definitely something I have needed throughout my career.
So what do you do when you need to get stuff done but instead you’re just stuffing around? This is my method for fighting the faff.
1. Make a list.
Everyone knows that, right? That’s because it is absolutely the only place to start if you’re dealing with a procrastination problem. Know what needs to be done and you have an idea of the scale of the job at hand. Now, if you are a serial putter-offer, this can be the point where it all gets a bit much and you hit Netflix instead. But push on – it gets better from here, I promise.
2. Break it down.
Sometimes knowing the scale of the job feels like a part of the problem, I get that. But the remote is safely stashed on the coffee table and you made it to step 2 – so the hardest part is behind you! Now take your to-do list and break it down into separate tasks – and be specific. Look at each item on your list and work out what things need to happen before that item can be ticked off.
3. Prioritise tasks.
Yeah, I know, I just added even more things to your to-do list. But they don’t all have to be done in the next 5 minutes, so you will definitely have time to check Facebook later and go to your kid’s assembly, it’s all good. Take a look at the tasks on your list and prioritise them. Start by working out which tasks are deadline based – do these first. Then identify the high value tasks – anything that will make you money. If you can bill for it or sell it, make it a priority. If it will save you money, make it a priority. If it needs doing but isn’t time sensitive or billable, it can go further down the list.
This is the key right here. A list of goals is absolutely nothing without deadlines. They are the difference between the ‘gunnah’ and the doer. And make your deadlines realistic – don’t set yourself up to fail! Breaking your list down into actionable tasks helps heaps with this, allowing you to make estimates on how long it will take you to achieve each part of the goal. Prioritising your tasks helps you here too, because you can identify any tasks that rely on the completion of other tasks before they can happen. Now you are goal setting like a total boss!
Just start. Work out where to start – and push yourself to take the first step. Once you’re on your way, it all gets that little bit easier, and one you start ticking things off that list, it gets better still!
6. Say it out loud.
Loud and proud! Talking about your tasks is a great way of affirming your goals, and it’s also a surprisingly good way to keep yourself on track. As long as you actually work on your tasks – no one wants to be that ‘all talk no action’ guy!
7. Team up!
If you need to. When getting started is proving just all too hard, use your network. Not necessarily by outsourcing your tasks, but more as a support base. Just talking to a trusted friend or colleague about your goals can be a fantastic motivator, but you might also find you score loads of helpful advice while you’re at it! If you find your own circle lacking in other business people to talk to, there are a myriad of online groups providing support and advice for small business owners.
8. Don’t wait for things to be perfect.
Analysis paralysis can kill off even the most carefully crafted to-do list, and be just as damaging as jumping in too soon. Things will evolve and change as you build your business, with lessons learned and roads travelled all playing their part in plotting your course. Leave room for this evolution. Just begin and the rest will come.
9. Review regularly.
Check in with your to-do list regularly. Let it know you care. Often we make a bold start and then shift our goals to the back burner… permanently. Priorities change, deadlines get shifted and new tasks arise all the time – and so the list must adapt. Adding a review of your to-do list to your calendar at regular intervals – for example every quarter – is a great way to keep the goals from getting dusty.
10. Reward yourself.
Why not? Achieved a goal? Completed a task? Knocked the whole list off? Congratulate yourself, you did it! Kick back, find that remote, and revel in the power of procrastination elimination!
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