I am a world-class procrastinator. If there were awards or black belt levels of expert procrastinators, I'd be the Bruce Lee of procrastination. I'm just that good.
One time I heard that 80% of what you worry about never comes to pass. So all that worrying was wasted time and effort. That theory carries over in that, if you can put off 80% of your tasks, eventually most of them won't need to be done or will be done by someone else. Sounds pretty good, right? Unfortunately, it doesn't actually work that way and can cause quite a few additional problems along the way.
So I had to get better. Being self-employed mandates you must be more productive and self-motivated to succeed. It didn't happen overnight but over the years I've become, what I call, a "productive procrastinator."
Like many, I still procrastinate in many areas. So this is not advice because I have it all figured out. This is advice because I, myself, struggle with these exact things. So here are a couple areas I find particularly challenging and what to do about it:
1) Don't check email first thing in the morning
I must admit this is very, very difficult. If we have our phones with us, we have email with us. Doesn't matter where we are at or what time of day. And it makes it even more difficult since we like to check other phone apps first thing in the morning.
- When I turn off the morning alarm on my phone, I am tempted to check email.
- When I check the weather forecast, I am tempted to check email.
- When I listen to a podcast each morning, I am tempted to check email.
The more we depend on our phones, the more tempting it is to check email. I even negotiate with myself that I'm only going to check but not act on any of the emails. And it's usually a downhill spiral after that. I'll see one thing I want to do "real quickly" and then another and another. You know what I mean, it's happened to you too.
What to do:
Not every job permits this, but on some level we can all commit to a NO EMAIL rule before a certain time each day. My rule is 9:00 am. Sometimes if I'm having a particularly good start to the day, it may be OK to check it at 8:30 am. But if we can focus on other high priority tasks BEFORE we let email dictate our day, we can get a jump start on the items we are procrastinating. Email is a big excuse for why we have not "had the time" to get around to it.
2) Eat that frog
We all have that annoying task we avoid any way we can. It may be checking email, making phone calls, walking around, it doesn't really matter. We make up excuses to avoid it.
The idea behind this is that when you tackle the big, hairy, ugly thing you most hate to do; and do it first thing in the morning, you will feel so relieved and have a huge sense of accomplishment. You will feel like a champ the rest of the day and be able to tackle anything that comes your way.
What to do:
Ask yourself: What's my frog? You must do this the day before or during your morning routine BEFORE you get your day started. It works best if you have your "frog" scheduled to begin at a specific time, say 8:30 am. This could be a larger project and it may take a few days to "eat your frog." Or, your "frog" might change every day.
3) Have a morning routine
This is an area where I'm getting much better. This would differ for everyone but would certainly include the morning hygiene and breakfast ritual. It's what you do before, after and during this time that can either prepare you for the day or create additional chaos. With a plan, the day begins smoothly without your spouse standing over top of you yelling "CLEAR" and jolting you awake with 1000 volts. We've all started a day like that and realize it's not the best way to kick off a productive mindset.
A consistent daily routine allows time to your mind to begin working on your day at a "creative" pace. You may exercise, run, walk, read, listen to music or podcasts, watch the news...any of which can help you get your game face on.
What to do:
First, give yourself plenty of time. Pick some activities that not only prepare you for the day, but you enjoy and look forward to them. Personally, I like listening to my favorite podcasts. This gets my mind thinking creatively and is very enjoyable. Start small and keep it simple. Stay consistent and add to or experiment with other activities and see how they affect the start of your day and overall productivity.
What are your thoughts on productivity and procrastination? Struggles with email? Either being overwhelmed by it or the "impossibility" of avoiding email first thing in the morning? Do you "eat a frog" regularly or have a morning routine?