As a small business owner with over 25 years of experience, I can attest to the fact that procrastination is one of the biggest enemies of success. It’s all too easy to put off important tasks, whether it’s because we’re feeling overwhelmed, unmotivated, or just plain lazy. But the longer we put things off, the harder they become, and before we know it, we’re in a state of perpetual catch-up.
The good news is that procrastination is a habit that can be broken. Here are five techniques that I’ve found to be particularly effective for overcoming procrastination:
1. Make a list.
Making a list is one of the simplest yet most effective ways to overcome procrastination. By writing down the tasks that you need to do, you’re able to see everything that needs to be done in one place, making it much easier to prioritize and take action. However, simply making a list is not enough, it is important to prioritize the items on the list in order to tackle the most important tasks first.
One way to prioritize items on your list is by using a scale of 1 to 5, where 1 represents the most important tasks, and 5 represents the least important tasks. This allows you to focus on the tasks that are most critical to the success of your business while still addressing the less important tasks in a timely manner. For example, if you have a deadline for a client proposal, that task should be given a 1, whereas if you have to update your business website, it should be given a 3.
When you prioritize your tasks in this way, it becomes much easier to focus on the most important tasks first, without getting bogged down by less important tasks. This is essential for small business owners, who often have a limited amount of time and resources to devote to their work. By prioritizing your tasks, you’ll be able to make the most of your time, and get more done in less time.
Another benefit of making a list and prioritizing tasks is that it allows you to track your progress. When you complete a task, you can check it off the list, which gives you a sense of accomplishment and motivation to keep going. This can be a powerful way to stay motivated, especially when you’re facing a long to-do list or a particularly challenging task.
2. Break it down.
Breaking down a task into manageable chunks is an effective way to overcome procrastination, especially when faced with a large or complex task that can feel overwhelming. By breaking the task down into smaller, more manageable parts, you’ll be able to focus on one task at a time, which can help you stay motivated and avoid getting overwhelmed.
One way to break down a task is to use the technique of chunking, which is the process of breaking a large task into smaller, more manageable parts. For example, if you’re working on a big report, you might start by outlining the main sections, then working on each section one at a time. By breaking things down in this way, you’ll be able to focus on one task at a time, which can help you stay motivated and avoid getting overwhelmed.
Breaking down a task into smaller chunks also helps with scheduling. When you have a big task that needs to be done, it can be hard to know where to start or when you’ll be able to finish it. By breaking the task down into smaller chunks, you’ll be able to schedule each part of the task into your calendar. This allows you to set specific deadlines for each chunk and work on them one at a time.
Furthermore, breaking down a task also allows you to measure progress and evaluate the time it takes to complete each chunk. This can help you to better estimate the time required to complete the whole task, which can assist in developing a more realistic schedule and avoid procrastination.
3. Use a timer.
Using a timer is an effective way to overcome procrastination, as it helps to keep you focused and on task. One popular technique that utilizes a timer is the Pomodoro Technique, where you set a timer for a specific amount of time (usually 25 minutes) and work on the task at hand for that duration. Once the timer goes off, you take a short break and start the timer again.
This technique is effective because it forces you to focus on the task at hand for a set period of time, which can be helpful for staying on task and avoiding distractions. Additionally, the timer helps you to set a deadline for completing a certain task, and the break time allows you to refresh your mind and come back to the task with renewed focus.
Many online websites have timers that you can use. Some of the popular ones are:
- Tomato-timer.com – This website provides a simple and easy-to-use timer that follows the Pomodoro Technique, with customizable settings for the work and break intervals.
- Clockify.me – This website provides a more advanced timer that includes features like task tracking and progress reporting, making it a great option for those who want to track their progress and analyze their productivity.
When using a timer, it’s important to schedule this time on your calendar, so you can make sure you’re dedicating the necessary time to the task at hand. This will help you stay on track and make sure you’re using your time effectively.
4. Eliminate distractions.
Eliminating distractions or changing your environment is an important step in overcoming procrastination. Distractions can come in many forms, from notifications on your phone to social media, email, and even other people. By eliminating these distractions, you’ll be able to focus on the task at hand and get more done in less time.
One way to eliminate distractions is to use the website Focus@Will. This website provides background music that has been scientifically designed to help you focus, with over 50 different music channels that cater to different focus needs. The music is designed to help you focus by increasing your attention span, reducing your reaction to distractions and improving your mood.
Another way to eliminate distractions is to change your environment. This might mean working in a different room, closing unnecessary browser tabs, or even working from a different location. Sometimes a change of scenery can help you focus and be more productive.
You can also try to create a designated workspace for yourself, free of distractions. This could mean a home office or a specific room, where you can close the door and work undisturbed. Additionally, using noise-canceling headphones or earplugs can be helpful in blocking out background noise and keeping you focused.
5. Reward yourself.
Rewarding yourself is an important aspect of overcoming procrastination and achieving your goals. When you set a goal, it’s important to have something to look forward to as a reward for reaching that goal. This can help to keep you motivated and give you something to work towards.
When it comes to rewarding yourself, it’s important to celebrate your successes, regardless of how big or small. This can mean treating yourself to a nice dinner, taking a relaxing bath, or watching your favorite show. These small rewards can help to keep you motivated, especially when you’re facing a long to-do list or a particularly challenging task.
It’s also important to remember that rewards do not have to be something materialistic or expensive. You can reward yourself with simple things like taking a walk, reading a book, or having a cup of coffee. It’s all about finding something that makes you happy and gives you a sense of accomplishment.
Another way to reward yourself is by taking time off – whether it’s a weekend getaway or a full-on vacation – it is important to take a break and celebrate your hard work. This can help to recharge your batteries and give you a fresh perspective on your work.
It’s also important to remember that rewarding yourself is not only limited to after achieving a goal, you can reward yourself for small milestones along the way. For example, if you have a big project that will take several months to complete, you can reward yourself for each phase of the project, such as completing the research phase or finishing a certain number of pages.
Procrastination is a common struggle for small business owners, but it doesn’t have to be a deal-breaker. By using the techniques I’ve outlined above, you’ll be able to overcome procrastination and get more done in less time. And remember, the key is to be consistent and persistent, the more you do it the more it becomes a habit. And hey, if all else fails, just remember: “the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago, the second-best time is now.”
So, don’t wait any longer, start making that to-do list, break it down, set a timer, eliminate distractions and reward yourself for a job well done. You got this!