We all procrastinate to some degree, putting off tasks because there is something aversive about what we have to do, or would rather be doing something else. When procrastination stands in the way of our being effective however, it can cause serious problems at work, in our social lives, and with how confident we feel in our abilities. Below are some steps that, when implemented, may help you do the things you need to get done. These interventions come from the Cognitive Behavioral Therapy protocol for procrastination.
Identify Small Goals
Creating small goals can help to reduce feelings of being overwhelmed by large projects. A project that will take a full week of work is much easier to avoid than a task that can be completed in 20 minutes. These small tasks accumulate, ultimately turning into a completed project. Many people report that just setting a goal to work on something for 10 minutes makes it easier to sit down and do it. Even better, most people report that 10 minutes easily turns into several hours of focused work.
Create a Prioritized To Do List
One thing that gets in people’s way when it comes to completing tasks is finishing lower priority items at the expenses of more important tasks. Most people juggle numerous responsibilities, making it necessary to put some off. A to-do list separated into three categories, “urgent,” “moderately important,” and “put off until later” can help you make an informed choice on what things to put off and when, rather than finishing the easier things first.
Use Your Natural Patterns to Your Advantage
If you are more alert in the mornings, schedule more difficult tasks in the mornings. Do you feel more desire to interact with people after lunch? Schedule lunch meetings or phone calls then. Is there a time of day you prefer to be quiet and withdraw into yourself? That may be a good time for organizing your desk or filing system. Chances are if you don’t like doing a particular task at a certain time, you are more likely to put it off.
Complete Quick Tasks Immediately
Instead of waiting for a client to leave to email them a document, do it while the client is there. This applies to quick phone calls, filing, and small data entry tasks. If you add smaller tasks to your To Do list, they have a way of adding up and becoming overwhelming.
Increase the Pressure
Use an egg timer or an alarm on your phone to limit yourself to a certain amount of time to complete a task. If you’re the type of person who can spend 30 minutes editing a document for which 15 minutes would be adequate, this strategy can be helpful. It may make some people anxious, but the feeling of working against a deadline can serve to increase the contingencies moving you toward completion of the task.
Because procrastination is often a habit created over years and decades, it can be difficult to reverse on your own. Working with a cognitive behavioral therapist is the most effective way of ending your procrastination habits. There are cognitive behavioral treatments for procrastination than can be completed in as few as four to ten individual therapy sessions. Click here for more information about cognitive behavioral therapy for procrastination and completing goals.
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