Mark Twain once said ‘Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you for the rest of the day’.
As horrific as that sounds, he was actually talking about tackling tasks head-on and not putting off until tomorrow all those jobs that you don’t want to do today.
It’s human nature to procrastinate – if we have a looming deadline or a Big Scary Task™ to do, we find distractions, excuses and a million and one other things to do in order to delay the inevitable. Finally, when we can’t put it off any longer, we curse ourselves for not starting sooner and bash out a half-hearted job in a panic-fuelled haze.
So if you know that procrastinating makes you feel bad, sad and downright lazy, what are the best ways to avoid it?
1. Eliminate distractions. The internet can be a real time-hoover, but by using programmes like Freedom you can restrict online distractions with a single click. If you have a specific writing task to do and need to focus, Dark Room can turn your computer into a simple word processing unit. Finally, if you respond best to being shamed into action, RescueTime tracks how long you have spent on specific websites and emails you a summary report every day (and trust me, you waste more time than you think!).
2. Break tasks down into chunks. If facing one insurmountable piece of work fills you with dread, break it down into its component parts and set individual timescales for each. If you are putting off writing a blog, for example, chunk it down into the tasks involved e.g. ‘Create outline structure’, ‘Proofread final draft’ etc. Focus on smaller, more achievable goals until you’ve finally slain the beast.
3. Get out of the house/office. A few minutes’ fresh air or sunshine can work wonders for motivation levels after hours of being mired in a pit of procrastination.
4. Use the Pomodoro technique. It’s a time-management method whereby tasks are broken down into 25 minute blocks of focused activity (followed by short breaks) using a timer – sounds like hell for the multi-taskers amongst us, but it actually increases productivity and is also fantastic for your mental health and work/life balance.
5. If all else fails and you really cannot bear to do The Thing That Cannot Be Done, outsource it to a professional. Free up your valuable time to do the things you truly care about and hire a Freelance PA / Virtual Assistant to get the job done in half the time and for half the cost of doing it yourself. If the task isn’t something a VA can do (we draw the line at mowing the lawn and picking your mother-in-law up from bingo) you can bet they can find you someone who does.
So there you have it – five of my top tips to help you get off the sofa and on the go. However, I’ll leave the best advice to a teacher I had in high school who once told me sternly, after another late homework submission, ‘Just do the damned assignment and relax’.
And if you can’t, hire someone who can.
About the Author
Gemma is a Freelance PA and Virtual Assistant with over 10 years’ experience as an Executive Assistant within FTSE 250 businesses. She has worked extensively with C-Suite and Board-Level Directors across a variety of functions, and specialises in working with business owners, consultants and entrepreneurs who need to find more hours in the day.
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