This month, I wrote a giant to-do list. I split it up into two sections – one for tasks that needed to get done ASAP and the other side for tasks that could get done sometime this month.
I was on track with being productive and crossing things off during the first week. However, I ended up misplacing my handwritten list and that was that. I still vaguely remember some of the things on it, but it wasn’t really a good idea to begin with.
This made me think, why do people create to-do lists? It’s often because they procrastinate and feel they wouldn’t get the work done otherwise. When you run a business, procrastination can cost you a lot of time and money. If you want to overcome procrastination, don’t make a paper list like I did.
Try these things instead.
List Out What’s Distracting You
Are you pushing things off because you’re distracted, don’t want to do them, or a combination of both? Distractions can really slow us down and even derail the whole day. It’s important to get a hold on them and to do that, you have to identify where your distractions are stemming from.
Start keeping a running log of what distracts you every time you sit down to do work. Are you looking at your phone, social media, or do you feel tempted to talk to others? Do you look at the news, obsessively check email, or answer notifications as soon as they pop up?
Once you have all your distractions recorded, you’ll know exactly what’s slowing you down. From there, you can opt to close your email when you’re working on important projects, put your phone on airplane mode, or block social media sites for a few hours per day.
You can also schedule in time to indulge in distractions when appropriate. I like to take short breaks to indulge in distractions after I’ve completed my most important task for the day. Otherwise, I create a distraction-free zone so to enable me to get things done on time.
Find Out What’s Causing the Pain
Often times, we procrastinate because we don’t want to do something. As humans, we’re wired to move toward what brings us pleasure and away from what brings us pain.
Over the past few weeks, I’ve been procrastinating on a project that involves me reshooting a webinar. I realize I’ve been putting it off because the task is going to be huge. My human nature would probably prefer to do something easier so I’ve been procrastinating on getting it done.
Once you can identify what’s causing the pain and leading to the pushback, you can game plan how to face it and overcome it. Think of procrastination as temporary gratification, because that’s exactly what it is.
You may feel temporarily at ease because you’re able to push off a task, but in the long run, this could cause you to feel more stressed and overwhelmed in the future. When I made my big to-do list, I realize it had grown because I’d procrastinated so much over the past few weeks.
Schedule It Out
Once you’ve identified what you’ve been procrastinating on and have accepted the pain or pushback it’s been causing you to feel, it’s time to get it on the schedule. My major mistake with writing out a to-do list is that I didn’t give myself any hard deadlines.
Sure, I say maybe I’d have certain things done by the end of the week or the end of the month, but that wasn’t good enough. It’s important to get tasks on your calendar so you have a better chance of completing them.
If you block out time to do something and give your undivided attention to it, it’s harder to procrastinate on that task. Take a look at your calendar, and schedule a specific time and day to work on things you’ve been pushing off for so long.
Break It Up
Some tasks won’t look so intimidating once you break them up. For example, my webinar doesn’t have to be redone in one day. I can block out an hour or two to re-edit my slides on one day, then I can use another day to set up the landing page and all the technology. I can then choose a separate day to practice my presentation.
By breaking huge tasks up, you’ll make them seem more manageable which can help eliminate that pain aspect that comes with most tough but necessary tasks.
Since you’ll be scheduling everything, you’ll know exactly when the work will be complete and this can give you reassurance knowing you won’t be working on tough tasks forever.
Batch Tasks or Outsource
If you have small tasks that you’ve been pushing off, overcome procrastination by batching the work up. This is probably the only time when your list will come in handy.
Record 3 to 5 little tasks you need to do and estimate how long it will take you. Then, block out time and get to work. This method was extremely helpful for some of the small tasks I was procrastinating on like sending emails, making phone calls, etc.
If you honestly don’t feel like you have time to do to the work, outsource it to someone on your team. Odds are, it probably won’t cost much as it won’t take your team member that much time. I once outsourced a task that was taking me over an hour and my virtual assistant took care of it in 15 minutes.
Sometimes, the work we push off or struggle to complete just isn’t worth the mental strain when you can outsource it.
Start in the Morning
This is one of the easiest ways to overcome procrastination in your business. Whether you’re a morning person or not, your brain is usually fresh and your body is energized after a night’s sleep.
If you’re a coffee drinker, you’re probably well wired and ready to go in the morning. Take advantage of this time by completing one thing you’ve been procrastinating on. If it’s a larger project, you can take at least an hour to start it.
Procrastination may offer temporary relief, but it isn’t fun in the long run. It can waste precious, time energy, resources, and money. Plus, your business won’t progress as fast as it could.
Use these tips to overcome procrastination the next time you feel like your to-do list is piling up.
Choncé Maddox is a professional writer who recently left her job in the web design industry to produce killer content and manage her own writing business full time. She is passionate about helping entrepreneurs be more productive and create a life they love by doing fulfilling work. On the side, she runs a podcast and blogs about getting out of debt at MyDebtEpiphany.com.