Defeating Procrastination: Stop Putting Off Until Tomorrow What You Can Do Right Now

Are you a procrastinator? If you tend to put things off until they can’t possibly be put off a moment longer, then the label might fit. If your motto is, “I work best under pressure,” then yes, you probably have a bit of a procrastination problem. Entrepreneurs and small business owners are particularly prone to putting things off, because there are just so many things to do, many of the equally important. When piles of paperwork or deadlines are staring you in the face, it’s very tempting to tune them out by trying to beat your best score on Bejeweled Blitz or stalking your old high school sweetheart on Facebook. Unfortunately, these activities, as you know, are not going to take the pressure off for more than the time you devote to them.

The good news is that the tendency to procrastinate can be overcome, and it doesn’t even have to be all that painful. Here are some tips on taking control of your time, knocking out whatever it is you have to do, and being able to relax without guilt:

  • Just pick something and do it. You have a to-do list a mile long and you haven’t started anything yet. Choose the one thing that looks the most appealing and promise yourself that you’ll work on it diligently for 15 minutes. By then, you’ll have made at least a little bit of headway and the momentum should help you continue, either until it’s done or until you reach a natural stopping point. Being able to cross one thing off of your list just might give you the perspective to keep working, preferably on something important.

  • Split big projects into smaller pieces. If you have a big deadline looming, you might want to shut down and not think about it. You already know that this is going to lead to major panic the day before it’s due. Instead of trying to eat an elephant in one gulp, follow the advice in the old saying and take one bite at a time. Divide your elephant into as many smaller parts as seems reasonable, then vow to finish one or two per day until your project is done.

  • Use the pomodoro technique. Pomodoro is the Italian word for tomato, and this technique is so named because the kitchen timer used by the developer of the technique, Francesco Cirillo, was shaped like a tomato. The basic premise is this: Set a timer for 25 minutes. Work with intense focus until the timer dings. Set it for five minutes and take a break during this time. Get a drink, stretch your legs, play a round of Papa Pear Saga, or whatever. Once that timer dings again, though, get back to work for another 25 minutes. After four “pomodori,” or cycles of work and play, you get to take a half hour break. Do one two-hour cycle in the morning and one in the afternoon, and see how much headway you can make!

  • Wake up again in the mid-afternoon. Many of us hit a slump an hour or two after lunch. The end of the day is so close, you can taste it, and yet it’s so far away. Instead of frittering away your last couple of hours at work, refresh yourself. Get a soda, coffee or whatever beverage you choose, stretch, and consider this your second wake-up. You have two or three hours left of your day, so make the most of them! Assess what you’ve done so far and figure out what you should do in order to feel good about what you will accomplish by the end of the day.

  • Disable your distractions. Some distractions, like a sick child home from school and spending the day with you, can’t really be avoided. Others, however, like a steady stream of emails or Instagram notifications, can be. Disable notifications on your phone. If you’re really hard-core into social media, you might need to temporarily block the sites that draw you in. There are plenty of free productivity apps and websites, such as Cold Turkey or Focal Filter. With today’s unlimited access to hundreds or thousands of things more interesting than whatever it is you’re supposed to be doing, don’t feel bad about having to use technology to keep you in check.

Procrastination is something that all of us have to deal with occasionally, and that some of us have to deal with on a regular basis. Are you a procrastinator? What are some of your best tips for breaking out of the cycle of putting things off until tomorrow?