Anti-Procrastination Month ‘08: Day 16

Today's post is an article written by my new-found social media friend and colleague, Chris. Chris is an aspiring problogger, and from the looks of things will achieve his goal in no time. Check out his two blogs, Lifestyle Project and Lists for Life.

Scheduling to Beat Procrastination

The reason Cristina holds her excellent Anti-Procrastination Month each year is because she knows Procrastination is the ultimate productivity killer. When you're productive, you're making good progress against the necessary tasks you've assigned yourself. It feels great to tick those items off your to-do list!

However, the truth is, we put off lots of things because we just plain don't wanna do 'em. Of course we know we need to do them – we want to get them done. But we fill our time doing other things we like better, trying to convince ourselves they're important when in fact they're really not.

For example, recently I've been spending a lot of time learning about blogging and how to be a better blogger. I tell myself reading hundreds of blogs about blogging, or books about blogging or Googling blogging is a productive use of my time because I am learning about what I want to do. The fact is, sure this is useful, but a better use of my time would be to write more, which is what I tend to put off.

Don't wait for procrastination to go away…

We all procrastinate. If you think you'll find a magic formula to suddenly stop procrastinating you're very wrong (in fact if you're searching for that formula you're probably putting off something more important!).

In life there are lots of things we need to do, and lots of things we don't need to do.

There are lots of things we want to do and lots of things we don't want to do. When you're procrastinating, you're filing your time with things you'd rather be doing (want), but you're probably filling your time with things you don't need to do. This is procrastination killing your productivity.

What's causing you to procrastinate?

Do you procrastinate because you have too many things to do that you don't like doing? Maybe you're in the wrong job!. Would you procrastinate less if you actually wanted to do all of your to-dos? Spend some time thinking about the causes of your procrastination and how you can beat them.

  • Distractions
    Distractions are a common cause of procrastination. You're going to have to eliminate your distractions to get things done. If you're constantly interrupted by phone calls, emails, instant messages or Twitter updates, you can't be productive. You'll just keep putting things as the work keeps piling up. (As a side note, whilst writing this post I've had two phone calls and my other half asking me to do chores. Looks like turning off IM, Firefox and Twitter aren't fool-proof productivity boosters!).
  • Things we don't need to do
    If you're doing a lot of things you don't need to be doing, how many things are you putting off that you actually do need to do? This is a procrastination zone – beware! Try to stay away from here! Ask yourself constantly why you're doing what you're doing and what it's going to achieve in the bigger picture.
  • Things we want to do
    Are the things you want to do also things you need to do? Often, we're procrastinating by doing things we want to do that aren't necessary to avoid doing less enjoyable yet more important tasks. You don't need to do these things, you just want to. Now, don't give up all your hobbies and interests! Just do them when you're not supposed to be working!
  • Things we need to do, but don't want to
    This is procrastination at its purest level. You need to find a way to get these things done. And guess what? Sometimes you have to suck it up and ‘Just Do It!

A simple way to control procrastination

I'd like to propose a simple system to use the power of planning (or scheduling) your time to beat procrastination. By now you've identified there are things you need to do and things you want to do. Here's a way to do be productive by doing both. The system has two parts:

  1. Schedule the activities you're procrastinating (the things you NEED to do)So you've identified something you absolutely need to do no matter how bad you don't want to. Chances are this is the main type of activity you procrastinate. Flag this in your head, in your system and in your overall thought process as a priority activity.Have you ever noticed you go to loads of meetings at work that aren't necessary? But they're scheduled in your calendar so you make the commitment and go anyway. When the time is scheduled, you do it.So you have a tax return you really don't want to do. You think it's going to take you 2 hours. Chances are it'll probably take you double the time you think until you get used to this technique. So schedule an appointment with yourself to do your tax return. Put it in your calendar and commit to it. Become accountable to yourself. You find it disrespectful when people don't show up at meetings you've invited them to, right? Don't disrespect yourself by not showing up for this meeting with you! Get this task done!
  2. Allow yourself to procrastinate, but control it. Allow yourself procrastination time by scheduling it. Chances are you will still want to procrastinate, after all, you enjoy the activities you do while you're procrastinating.Take a step back and decide how much time per day, week or month you want to spend on these activities. You might think an hour a day is reasonable, but the five hours a day you're currently spending isn't exactly brilliant. Schedule yourself a realistic amount of time for the types of activities you do to procrastinate. Go on, put it right there on your calendar. Using this system, you're actually turning the things you do to procrastinate into productive work!

Go ahead and try scheduling your time wasters and see how it works for you as a way of controlling your procrastination.

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