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Stop procrastinating: practical ways to become a starter-finisher

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More than three quarters (79%) of everywomanNetwork members describe themselves as self-saboteurs, with one in four admitting they frequently engage in behaviour that interferes with their long-standing goals.

“The tell-tale signs of [of self-sabotage] are when plans grind to a halt for no rational reason. The skill, ability and desire is there, but something stops you moving forward,” says

Procrastination is one of the most common forms of defeatist behaviour, and can strike even the most motivated and ambitious individuals. So how can you resist the urge to put off what you must not, and ensure you avoid the stress of eleventh hour panic and missed goals?

1. MICRO-MANAGE YOURSELF

“How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.”

Take that important task that’s been languishing on the bottom of your to-do list for weeks and spend a few minutes breaking it down into as many smaller tasks as possible. For instance, a full day task like ‘write a report on the results of last year’s e-comms successes’ becomes: ‘Download e-comms stats from Q1’ (then Q2, 3 and so on); ‘Send an email seeking volunteers to summarise results of each quarter’; ‘Hold a quick meeting to divide up work’; ‘Write up the analysis of my quarter’; ‘Read through volunteers’ analyses’; ‘Collate the report’; ‘Proofread the report’. You can see how, psychologically, the task starts to look much less all consuming.

 

2. KILL YOUR TIME THIEVES

KILL YOUR TIME THIEVES

If procrastination is a recurring trend in your working life, start paying attention to all the little time-wasting activities that add up to a significant chunk of your day. Use time-tracking apps to get a clearer understanding of how you’re spending your desktop time and, if necessary, use blocking devices like SelfControl to self-impose limitations on how much time you spend on social media or particular websites. You can download a template for identifying your time thieves in the everywomanNetwork workbook Managing your time.

 

3. RELIGHT YOUR FIRE

If you’re struggling to get going on a personal goal that deep down matters to you a great deal, get reacquainted with whatever motivated you to take it on in the first place. Re-trace your mental steps to tap into the mindset that originally sparked your ambition. Think about what inspired you – if you first conceived of the notion during a stroll in the park, go for a walk and reclaim your vision; if you were fuelled by a conversation with a friend, reach out to that same person and ask if you can chat through what might be stopping you moving forward.  

 

4. FIND A BUDDY

FIND A BUDDY 

 

“Accountability breeds response-ability.”
Stephen Covey, US Businessman

With all the willpower in the world, sometimes the biggest driver for getting something done is the expectation of a third party. Ask your partner, a friend or a mentor to hold you accountable for achieving a task by a specific date. Choose someone you know will stick to whatever parameters you agree upfront, e.g. weekly check-ins to track progress. You could even draw on the support of your entire virtual network, Tweeting or sharing on LinkedIn your intention and asking your followers and connections to send motivational comments, challenge your progress and congratulate you for goal-completion.

 

5. ACKNOWLEDGE THAT THE PERFECT TIME DOESN’T EXIST

The fastest way to break the cycle of perfectionism is to give up the idea of doing it perfectly - indeed to embrace uncertainty and imperfection.
Arianna Huffington, Huffington Post Founder

There are lots of great virtues to perfectionism – thoroughness, a methodical approach, a high-quality finished product. But there are pitfalls too – notably, analysis paralysis, whereby you spend so long waiting for the perfect time, mindset or some other set of circumstances to conspire, that nothing ever gets done. If there’s an element of perfectionism lurking behind your tendency to procrastinate, it’s time to deal with it (now, not when the timing’s right). Take our quiz to diagnose where you sit on the perfectionism scale and how you can move forward.

 

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