I've recently started some kind of personal challenge that consists on setting up goals at the beginning of the week, of things I've been procrastinating on since forever (for example do a backup of all the computer files), the kind that you always say "I'll do it tomorrow" but then you never do because you keep leaving them for later (in other words: procrastination). This is the third week that I'm doing the challenge, and I have to say that it really works for me! I'm slowly finding ways that help me being more productive, and I'm glad to actually have things done instead of pushing them for later.
Here are some tips that really work for me, when it comes to stop procrastinating and actually get things done:
- Start with a to do list. It seems obvious, but in many occasions I had planned things just in my head, thinking that I'd remember them, and then since they weren't written anywhere I kept ignoring them. If you can, make the list public somewhere, or share it with somebody, because sharing it will "force you" to actually work on all those goals. One of the risks of falling into procrastination is the lack of motivation. To stay motivated, keep in mind that there's nothing more satisfying that crossing things off your to do list. Every time you finish something, and you can cross it off, you'll fill a little your bag of motivation, which means that you have to keep achieving goals to keep going. You'll get surprised of all the things you accomplish, that were pushed aside since forever!
- All the things in the to do list need to have two characteristics: a) they have to be specific and b) they have to be close in time. If they're not specific, you won't know when you've finally managed to do them (for instance, if I say: "this week I'll organize some drawers of the apartment", the word "some" can mean two or six. How do I know when I can cross the thing from the list then? Instead is better to say "this week I'll organize the desk drawers", in that way I'll know when I can cross it off the list: when all the drawers of the desk are organized.
- The more things you want to have done, the less free time you need to have. I know that this sounds like a contradiction (more things to do mean less free time to do other things), but have you ever realized how, the days you have a long "to do list", at the end you always manage to do more than the days you have off (for instance on holidays)? How many times we've had to prepare for an exam, and still we manage to clean the apartment, go shopping, and run some errands while we prepare for it? While on holidays or days off you might wake up thinking "today I'll clean the bathroom", and you can't even find half an hour for it, and if you do, you end up losing the whole morning with it. This is because when you get into "active mood" your system finds it harder to relax that when you're in "relaxed mood". So remember: the more you fit into your day (which doesn't mean being stressed, there's a middle point for everything), the more time you'll find to do things.
- For every complicated goal you add to your to do list, you need to add an easier one, and for each easy goal you add, you need a complicated one. This is easy to understand: if you only set up easy goals, you'll end up getting bored with the to do lists and you'll stop doing things (and procrastination will come back). If all the goals you add are too complicated you'll give up because you'll get frustrated. Try to find a middle point: add something you've been procrastinating on since forever, and then to balance add something that needs to be done but that you know it's going to be pretty simple.
- Renew your goals constantly, because is the only way to get things done and actually advance. Why people usually give up on New Year goals? Because after a month of having them "in mind", they totally forget about them, it just becomes normal to ignore them. On the other side, if you make weekly goals, for instance, you know that those goals are there for a short period of time, and after a week they need to be done. What happens if you don't finish them in a week? Nothing, but you have to add them to the list of next week. It doesn't matter what kind of goal it is, at some point you'll get tired of seeing it on the list and you'll want to get rid of it: so you'll have it done :)