The report’s good, but not good enough. You should have started it a week ago, but put it off. Friday afternoon, you panicked. You killed a perfectly good weekend to get everything finished by the Monday morning due date. If you want to break the “put it off until nearly too late” habit, try these five strategies.
1. Decide you’ll start projects when you need to start them — even if you don’t “feel ready”
Procrastinators hesitate to begin projects until they “feel ready.” Unfortunately, you may not feel ready until long after you should have started. The antidote? When you commit to a project, assign a “D” (no more delay) date. When that date arrives, start the project, even if your only action is to develop a project outline. Once you start, take it from there.
2. Chunk down large projects
What if you just can’t start? We often delay starting large projects because they seem overwhelming. Once begun, most projects transform from daunting into doable. Tackle a back-burnered project by chunking it into pieces, and complete any one of them.
3. Challenge yourself
If you still can’t bring yourself to start a project, organize the resources you’ll need. Once you have all the materials stacked on your desk, challenge yourself: What’s holding you back? If you answer, “I can’t get started,” ask, “how come?”
If you answer, “what if I don’t do a good job?” decide you’ll evaluate what you’ve done once you have something to look at.
4. Create an advance deadline
Sometimes, all you need to get started is one good push. If you find this true, create an advance deadline for making a commitment. As an example, let your boss or a client know you’ll email the finished project within the hour — and then go!
5. Be honest with yourself
If you’re one of those individuals who claim you “work better under pressure,” ask yourself if you’re telling the truth. I recently reviewed a project turned in by a man who “did his best work under deadline.” I liked his ideas, but found his writing poorly organized and filled with misspellings and grammar goofs.
Reading his report reminded me of the poetry that college friends showed me in the early ’70s — the kind they wrote when they’d taken LSD or smoked grass — poetry they’d thought wonderful at the time but that looked disjointed the next day. Do you do your best work under deadline, or is your deadline work a mixture of could-have-been-brilliant mired in sloppiness?
You can break the “put it off until nearly too late” habit — if you start now.