by Kelly Beischel PhD, RN, CNE
While autumn is beautiful, it’s a season that can also be ladened with intense yard work.
Recently, I helped my husband pull out decaying Black Eyed Susan’s from one of our gardens.
From there, I cleaned up the front garden, tossed the spent potted summer flowers, and planted perennial flowers. By the time I was ready to sweep up the mess I had created on the walkways, I was wilting like the flowers I had just tossed.
After many hours of tackling the autumn clean-up, I found myself despising my gardens and swearing that I was going to plant plastic flowers next year.
I have a love-hate relationship with gardening. Can you tell?
My emotions about writing were often the same.
You see, I’ve always loved writing. Yet, I perfected the art of procrastinating my writing until it had become a daunting task. A task that had me cursing its existence.
I learned a few key strategies about taking action on my writing (or any overwhelming task I attempt to undertake) that have completely transformed my productivity.
Key Strategies to Kick Procrastination to the Curb
1. Acknowledge that FEAR is holding you back.
Fear of rejection, fear of failure, fear of pain. There is no end to what we fear nor how it holds us back. Procrastination is born of fear.
2. The moment you say “yes” to a project
– writing, losing weight, creating a course – take immediate action toward successfully completing the project. Mind map your thoughts. Find a great recipe. Free write for 5 minutes.
3. Set realistic goals.
Your brain knows when your goal is not realistic. And it revolts.
- How do you know if your goal is realistic?
- Are you consistently working toward goal achievement?
If yes, it’s probably doable. If you are procrastinating taking action toward your goal, check the goal. Think baby steps. Bite size goals are easiest to meet. And meeting your goals thrusts your momentum into overdrive.
4. Take action every day.
When you complete the action toward your goal, your brain will be happy. And who doesn’t want a happy brain? You will also sleep better at night knowing that you took action that day.
No more laying awake worrying about the project or to-do list that’s haunting you. You know, that project on which you just can’t seem to move forward. Perhaps it’s next semester’s teaching load? The need to publish a manuscript before your yearly review? Squeezing in more exercise? Planning more active learning strategies?
Whatever it is, take action toward it every day.
5. Commit to taking small increments of action.
Even if it’s only ten minutes. Yes, ten minutes of action builds momentum toward successfully achieving your goals.
I wrote my latest manuscript by committing to write for ten minutes every day. It was easy to find ten minutes to write, even on my busiest days.
In fact, I look forward to writing with excited anticipation when I write in small bursts rather than lengthy periods. I am happy to be rid of the bygone drudgery.
6. Find someone to keep you accountable.
Yes, we can tell ourselves that we will hold ourselves accountable. Yet, that rarely works. Buddy up or join a group that will keep you accountable.
7. Use the Pomodoro technique.
Set your timer and get to work. When my timer is on I am laser-beam focused. When my timer is off, well…. so is my focus. It truly is as easy as that.
Are you competitive? There are fun apps that track the number of Pomodoros you complete. Challenge friends or coworkers to complete a specified number of Pomodoros. Taking action is easier when you have a goal to meet.
8. Plan for success.
Brainstorm all the steps of the project. Reverse engineer it for completion. For instance, if it’s a writing project, outline the steps of the writing process.
Determine when you want to realistically finish the project. This is your due date. Then add dates beside each of the steps.
9. Give money away.
Yes. That’s a strategy. Pre-decide that if you fail to meet a deadline, you will pay an organization that you despise. Give the money to a friend to mail for you in the event you don’t make the deadline.
Knowing that your money will help an organization that you don’t value will get you moving, right?
10. Embrace the “good enough” mindset.
There are probably more unpublished than published manuscripts in the world due to angst-ridden professors who strive for perfection. Write your manuscript. Edit it of course. But send it before you think it’s perfect.
Rest assured that the editor and reviewers will have remarks and recommended changes. So why would you aim for perfection the first go around?
Your to-do lists nor your projects need to grow into overwhelming amorphous tasks. Tasks that have you begging someone to pull your fingernails out with pliers rather than tackling them.
Try one or two of these strategies to move your project forward. Try another few. Rinse. And repeat.