Stop Thinking, Start Doing: five ways to beat procrastination.

I love procrastinating. I reckon I could do it all day if I tried really hard. My favourite type of procrastination is research. If I am reading something that relates to a current writing project or something like blogging then I can kid myself that what I am doing is worthwhile. It doesn’t matter if I am reading my 100th article on how to drive traffic to your blog which says basically the same as the other 99 articles or if I’m reading my tenth article for a writing which only required two sources, if I can call it research then I can pretend it is important.

My second favourite form of procrastination is social media and emails. Again, the key is that I can pretend they are important. If I don’t check them regularly I might miss out on an important message or a potential new project. Then again I might just miss out on yet another viral photo of a dog in costume.

Of course what I should really be doing is focusing on the writing which will pay the bills and so my resolution is to stop procrastinating, start getting things done and hopefully as a result get to bed earlier.

Never put off until tomorrow what you can do the day after tomorrow. Mark Twain

But first, I intend to delay a little further and write my top five tips for beating procrastination.

  1. Write first research later: I’m not saying you should not do any research, but in some cases especially if you already know a little about the subject it can help to just start writing, get the bulk of the piece down on the computer screen and then research to fill in the gaps. For example, I could add some links here to other people talking about beating procrastination or books about time management. I could go off now and look for them, but the chances are I would get sidetracked and this blog post will languish unfinished for hours. Alternatively I could finish the post and then add the links in when the job is done.
  2. Try a productivity aid: I use one of these a lot of the time when I am writing, especially if it is a longer piece which I know will take me a while. The one I use is called the Pomodoro technique which works on the basis that people work better in concentrated short bursts followed by breaks. The technique’s standard setting is a 25 minute work period followed by a 5 minute break with a longer break after every fourth work period but you can adjust to suit. You can use this Pomodoro technique website or just use an alarm clock. If you really have trouble switching off the Internet you can get programmes which will block certain sites for a specified time, taking away your temptation.
  3. Reward yourself: I think one of the reasons I procrastinate is because I worry that I won’t get any time to relax after I have done the work, so I try to do that bit first. The Pomodoro technique is great for me because it incorporates breaks so I don’t feel overwhelmed. Unless I am really on a roll I make sure I do stop for the break and do something fun. Make sure you go back to work when the time is up though. If your change in work practices means you finish the job earlier then reward yourself. My goal is to get more sleeping time and more time to read the blogs I enjoy in a relaxed fashion.
  4. Set goals: Setting goals can keep you on track and help you manage your time. I have a couple of clients with on-going projects so I do not always have specific deadlines. It is easy to put this work and things like personal blogs off until another day because they don’t have  tight deadlines, but doing this risks having to rush in the end. To combat this I set my own personal deadlines and try to meet targets throughout the month. Use a project management programme or a simple paper diary or wall planner to keep on top of things. Telling other people your goals can help to make you accountable.
  5. Learn to let go: I would never claim to be the best writer in the world but I get hardly any revision requests from clients, have plenty of repeat business and have received lots of positive feedback. Despite this I am always worried that my writing is not up to scratch and procrastinate a lot before finally sending it to the client, wanting to change something or imagining a spelling error here or double checking some research there. I would never want to be complacent but I think learning to let go and worry less about the work I am submitting would probably help me.

So there they are, my top five tips. Now all I need to do is follow my own advice and my productivity will go through the roof.

Do you have any tried and tested ways to beat procrastination? Share them with me – I promise not to procrastinate and won’t read them until I have finished my scheduled tasks.

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2 thoughts on “Stop Thinking, Start Doing: five ways to beat procrastination.

  1. shoes says:

    At the risk of leaving a comment that will encourage procrastination, I think that is a fine list for beating the beast. I am currently kidding myself into thinking I am productive while I am playing catch-up on days worth of blogs to read because I just put a load of laundry in the washing machine. I am not reading blogs so much as doing laundry, right? 🙂

  2. […] if I’m honest playing around with all these gadgets did appeal to the procrastinator in me (see this post for more on procrastination). But the focused and efficient voice in my head, which I have been trying to listen to more, […]

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