So far in our quest to beat procrastination I have shared the “Five-Minute Rule” to help us get started with tasks we avoid as well as some strategies to challenge our thoughts and beliefs that undermine us when it comes to specific tasks. In this entry, I’d like to share some practical strategies that I often share with my clients. I use these tactics myself to try to stay on top of things.
First, I strongly recommend a regular daily routine. For me, the backbone of the daily routine is the sleep schedule. It doesn’t really matter if you are a “Night Owl” or if you are “Up with the chickens.” Just do your best to keep a regular schedule. For most of us, daily work keeps us on a regular routine. For others who might be on disability or retired, following a regular sleep / wake cycle that allows you a full night’s sleep will help you stick to a daily routine.
As much as possible, avoid pushing the “snooze” button in the morning. If you find this difficult to resist, put the alarm on the other side of the room so you have to get up to shut it off. Then make your bed and immediately start your morning routine.
Once you have settled your sleep schedule, consider what activities need to be completed in a typical day for you. Some tasks happen at the same time each day, or on the same day(s) of the week. The key for these tasks is not to allow other, less important items, crowd them out. Make it a regular habit to complete these tasks when they arise, with only rare exceptions to this rule.
Other tasks are “out of the ordinary.” They are completed at unpredictable intervals. When these tasks pop up, the best thing to do is to just get them done to get them out of the way. For example, if your printer suddenly needs to have its toner cartridge replaced, just do it. The same goes for emptying the garbage. While it is possible to put these tasks off, at some point these delayed tasks will become more urgent.
Watch out for tasks that carry over from day to day. If one specific task keeps getting shoved to the back of the line, ask yourself if the “Five-Minute Rule” might be helpful. It may also help to ask if you are “Awfulizing” about the task, and therefore avoiding it. One unpleasant task I routinely find myself avoiding is emptying my shredder. For some reason, every time I do this I end up with confetti on my office floor. My dread of vacuuming the floor is what prompts me to procrastinate here.
Finally, be nice to yourself when you don’t live up to your expectations. Nobody is perfect, and all of us will succumb to procrastination at some point. Remind yourself that you are human and that you can pick up and try again.