Tips from the Trenches: Fending Off Procrastination

No matter how good you’re doing on your quest for supreme efficiency, some days you’ll run into the ugly wall of procrastination. For this “Tips from the Trenches” post, I asked some experts and fellow Twitter users to share their tips for battling procrastination and “not-in-the-mood-itis.”

Laura Fitton@pistachio — Laura Fitton

“One of my tips is to try to understand why I’m procrastinating. Sometimes it’s because my gut is telling me the task is the wrong thing to do. In general I’ve always restlessly sought out my ‘right’ work. Stuff I’m so driven and compelled to do that procrastination is a non-issue. That way I can even plow through the boring parts of it. But I do procrastinate when writing. Trying to understand why and reduce my fears helps.”

It’s true that something may be holding you back. Maybe you fear you won’t do well. Maybe you don’t like the assignment. Maybe you’re feeling down and really need something else to help you before you can plunge in. Maybe you didn’t do a good job the first time around, and fear you won’t be able to fix it the next time.

Rochelle Veturis @RochelleVeturis – Rochelle Veturis

“1) Pump up the caffeine. Iced coffees are refreshing and healthy when taken with non-fat milk. 2) Vent to your tweeps, and ask for ideas. The encouragement is invaluable and I’ve gotten my best ideas from them. 3) Jumping jacks, a short walk or stretch. Motion creates emotion. 4) Change it up — film a video, write a different kind of blog post. This one is fool proof. You’ve got to shake things up or even the most creative folks and be starved by the doldrums. 5) Connect with media/clients via LinkedIn. Send a neat article and take your unproductiveness and turn it into a new, possible opportunity. Plus, media/client relations is always time well spent.”

Can’t. Talk. Now. Ex … er… cis … ing. A good workout makes you feel like you can take on the world, or at least a tiny part.

Chris Guillebeau@chrisguillebeau – Chris Guillebeau

“Sometimes I give in to it, to be quite honest. But otherwise… To combat ‘not-in-mood-syndrome,’ I’ll use a variety of methods, including using the carrot-and-stick approach on myself, i.e., no lunch until I finish this thing I’ve been putting off. I also try to use the GTD two-minute rule (if you can do it in two minutes or less, don’t put it off). Lastly, I try to focus on the long-term view. Most of the time if I need to do something, I know it will be in my best interest to do it and I’ll be happier if I just suck it up.”

Some days we have to admit that procrastination has defeated us. It defeated me last weekend, so I resorted to laundry and Zuma’s Revenge.” When this happens, maybe you can get something else done that’s not related to work. Exercise? Laundry? Playing video games (hey, it’s eye-hand coordination exercising)?

Jason Falls@JasonFalls – Jason Falls

“The best thing you can do is plan and work ahead. If something is due on Friday, work a little on it Monday, then Tuesday. The more intimidating the task, the more lead time you should allow yourself. Working a little at a time cuts down the intimidation factor. I would also say that the best motivator I have to blow through the procrastination bug is knowing if I miss the deadline or the work isn’t as good as it could be because I put it off, I have no-one to blame but myself. If you have much pride at all, that can get you through it.”

That’s why I work well when I don’t wait until the last minute. Some people thrive on the last minute rush while it kills others. Know yourself and your working style. When you understand how you work, you can prepare and plan.

Christina Katz@thewritermama — Christina Katz

“How do I battle procrastination? One word: deadlines. When something is happening or due on a particular date, I have to get it done. I have to plan ahead. I have to think it through. Without deadlines, nothing would ever happen around here. Not one thing. I have been teaching email classes since 2004 and what’s the one thing that helps my writing students improve that they rave about? The simple deadline.”

Reminds me of the quote by Douglas Adams, “I love deadlines. I especially like the whooshing sound they make as they go flying by.” Most of us don’t like that sound, so we get it done.

Chris Garrett@chrisgarrett – Chris Garrett

“My main procrastination issue is ‘analysis paralysis,’ it’s something I struggle with and talk about a lot. Some people are goal-driven, others are more motivated by avoiding pain. I get over procrastination by focusing on the consequences of not doing something. If there are no clear consequences then I set up a situation where there will be. For example I will call a friend and tell her what my actions are and that she should pull me up if I haven’t done what I set out to do.

“Another example is to say ‘If I do not do this then I will donate $100 to this charity’ (or an amount greater than you would donate anyway). Other people I work with prefer to set up a treat, ‘If I do this then I get to buy myself a new Wii game,’ and so on. My best results though have come from arranging an ‘accountability partner,’ we hold each other accountable and make sure we do not allow excuses!”

Bribe ourselves, eh? Sounds good!

Scott Sigler@scottsigler — Scott Sigler

“I work with a production partner so I have someone to whom I’m accountable.  If I slack off, I’m wasting not just my time, but theirs too. Helps keep me focused on the task at hand.”

Even if you don’t have a business partner, try to find someone to be your motivation partner. Plenty of people working alone and would like to team up with others to help push each other.

Char James-Tanny@CharJTF — Char James-Tanny

“Give into it for an hour. Play games, walk, make a phone call, cook, bake. When hour is up, do something related to work.”

Maybe your mind and body long to play. Let them have their fun time and maybe they’ll cooperate when your hour is up. Playing can put you in a good mood and a good mood equals motivation.

How do you deal with procrastination? Don’t put it off; leave a comment now!