Maybe you’re one of those people who dutifully acknowledges deadlines – who works at a slow and steady pace that ensures that everything is completed ahead of schedule, with a minimum amount of rushing and panic.
If you’re one of those people, you can stop reading now – this article isn’t for you!
Instead, this post is for the procrastinators, the slackers and for everybody else who sees deadlines rushing towards them and still feels powerless to act. If you have the sneaking suspicion that you could be doing better at managing your responsibilities, you need to take the following three steps:
Step #1 – Assess your priorities
One thing to keep in mind when it comes to killing procrastination is that it’s not always an indication that you’re lazy. In plenty of cases, the fact that you can’t get focused is your mind trying to tell you that you aren’t working on the right things.
Can’t seem to get motivated to get to the gym on a regular basis? Maybe the problem isn’t you – it’s the type of workout you’ve chosen to commit to. Struggling to do the work necessary to be considered for a big promotion? It could be your brain’s subconscious way of telling you that you’re pursuing the wrong job or field.
So whenever you find yourself slacking off, dig deeper to uncover the reasons for your lack of motivation. While you might not be able to change your situation to eliminate slacking off entirely, you may find certain instances in which you can circumvent procrastination by changing your priorities.
Step #2 – Set strict deadlines
Once you’ve weeded out any unnecessary procrastination triggers, it’s up to you to set strict deadlines for yourself.
According to Parkinson’s Law, a task expands to fill the amount of time allotted to it. If you have two hours to put together a 10-page report, you’ll find a way to get it done. But if you’re given two days to complete the same task, it won’t take the same two hours to complete. Instead, you’ll find that the project expands to fill the entire two days – leaving you slacking off until the last possible minute and feeling the stress of this work hanging over your head.
Fortunately, you can use this rule to your advantage. To avoid slacking off, break each of your projects – whether personal or professional – into smaller chunks. Then, assign a deadline to every chunk that you create. Make your deadlines as small as possible. Even if you know that you have more time that could be allotted to each chunk, creating a little bit of pressure by setting tight deadlines will give you the motivation needed to get things done.
If you find yourself disregarding your own deadlines, enlist the support of others. At work, promise your superiors that you’ll have certain milestones completed at set times in order to give yourself extra incentive to avoid slacking off. If your goals are related to personal activities, share them with a friend, a family member or a public blog to give yourself the impression that you’ll be letting others down if you fail to stick to your deadlines.
And if you really need some extra motivation, look into using a service like StickK, which will allow you to bet a certain amount of money on yourself for completing certain tasks. If you fail to meet the goals you set for yourself on the website, your money could wind up going to a charity you hate – creating the extra incentive needed to prevent procrastination.
Step #3 – Optimize your environment
After you’ve created deadlines that will prevent you from slacking off and enlisted the support of an accountability buddy, the last thing you’ll want to do is to dissect your environment for any triggers that could be preventing you from getting things done.
As an example, if you always struggle to make it to the gym because your workout clothes are upstairs and you always wind up parked on the couch before you can change, find a way to store your attire closer to the door.
If you consistently procrastinate on a reporting task at work because it takes too long to gather all the data you need, develop a new system that involves collecting information on the day before you need to create your reports.
Pay attention to your own unique rhythms as well. If you’re full of energy in the morning, but tend to need a nap by mid-afternoon, schedule your deadlines to coincide with your most focused periods. There’s no reason to fight against yourself when it comes to getting things done!
Really, there are always going to be ways to slack off and procrastination triggers that discourage you from living up to your full potential. While implementing these steps will go a long way towards preventing you from slacking off, only you can take responsibility for eliminating the excuses and bullshit that lead to devastating procrastination.