During a recent press conference, President Obama mentioned how his daughters, Sasha and Malia, finish their homework a day in advance. I’ll bet that on occasion, they finish long before that. I’m thrilled that his daughters are learning how not to procrastinate.
Here’s help for those of you who still wait until the last minute, thinking you do your best work when you’re under pressure.
Give yourself enough time to do it right.
You can replace the habit of procrastinating with the habit of doing the work. To break the habit, you’ll have to get as creative in coming up with ideas of how to get the work done as you are in thinking of reasons not to do it. Planning ahead and getting everything you need to complete the job, including acquiring the right skills, will help.
Why You Procrastinate
Are you the best person to do the work? Do you possess the right skills to do the work well? It is common to procrastinate about things that you lack the confidence to do. If it’s not as hard as chemical engineering to improve your skills, take some classes and read some books.
Do you have everything you need? In addition to having the right skills, you might also need some tools, supplies, etc. Make a plan and list everything you need so you won’t have an excuse to stop later.
Can you look at the task differently? Instead of looking at a project as one huge job and being overwhelmed by it, break it up into smaller projects and set deadlines for each phase. Setting deadlines, even when you’re working on a project alone, gives you a goal to work toward. Make a commitment to yourself or someone else to review the work by a certain date. This will help you get started and will keep you motivated.
Could technology make the job easier? Computer software has been written to perform magic. If you learn how to use whatever software you touch every day, you’ll complete your work much more quickly.
Do you like doing that type of work? You may not like every (or any) aspect of the job you have to do, but you should still do your best. When it’s something you don’t like but have to do, don’t spend your valuable time agonizing over it. Develop a better way to get it done, then schedule time on your calendar to get it done and off your mind. If you do things you dread doing first thing that morning, the rest of your day gets better.
Do you need to get organized? Organize everything so you can find it the instant you need it. No clutter on the desk means you’ll think more clearly with laser focus. And you’ll save hours every day!
If your eyes always see a mess, your mind will become one.
Do you have enough to do? When you don’t have enough challenging work to do, you’ll become bored and won’t want to do anything. Not one thing. A busy person working on the right things the right way gets things done.
Now is a good time to examine your work and how you go about doing it. If procrastinating gives you a rush, you’re going to have to find something else to get excited about. The work needs to get done, and it needs to be done right. Giving yourself sufficient time to do your best work will lead to greater success with less stress.