Procrastination is a curious phenomenon, and I sometimes wonder if it's exclusive to humans. We have such fantastic energy and abilities, coupled with an almost boundless enthusiasm for exploration and knowledge.
So why do we waste so much of our time worrying about doing what we're best at? Not only that, but we seem to go out of our way to do anything but what we should be doing. Whether it's web surfing, TV watching or just shuffling papers, we've all done it.
Here's five quick and easy things you can do to beat your procrastination. They may not be enough to cure it entirely, but they'll help you get over the initial hump.
Create a work friendly environment
Remove distractions from where you'll be working before you start. Turn the TV and radio off, close your internet browser and your IM clients. Get everything you'll need for the task ahead, and lay it out in front of you. Make sure there's plenty of light, and that you're comfortable. Nothing makes work harder than an uncomfortable chair or a messy desk.
Make a short list
Making a big list of what needs doing is helpful at times, but when you're battling with procrastination it can end up being de-motivating instead. Take an index card or small piece of paper, and list THREE things that you can accomplish in the day that will make a difference. It's tempting to pick something big, but it's important to start small. Even if it's just "tidy desk" or "send email to X about project Y", it's something you can work on.
Completing tasks is the best way of busting down the walls put up by procrastination, so think of them as a warm up before a work out. Once you feel more energetic and confident, move on to bigger jobs.
Start a timer
When I sit down to work on a task, I start a 30 minute timer. Then I start working. It doesn't matter if the quality of writing is good or bad, as long as I do something. By having the timer in front of me, I'm reminded to focus on the job at hand. Once the timer is up, I'm done.
It's often the case that I want to keep working even when the timer has finished, so it's great for making progress on tasks I've been putting off.
Monitor your time
I've written about keeping a time log in the past, and they're a good way to help you focus. When you know what you do is going to be written down, it's a little encouragement to do something worthwhile.
RescueTime is a handy tool for Windows that automatically logs what you're doing on the computer and lets you view statistics. After a week of use, you'll be able to see what your biggest distractions are. Be warned, it can be a little sobering to find out just how much time is wasted during the day.
All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. When you force yourself to work, you can reinforce the idea that work it's bad. Make sure you reward yourself, whether it's a movie, a meal or reading a book in the sunshine. Smile when you're working, to remind yourself that once you're finished you can do something enjoyable. Don't think of the task as a barrier keeping you from what you want, but as a journey to take to your reward.