I meant to write this article last month, but never got around to it. Only joking but putting off tasks is a problem for many people so here’s how to stop procrastinating and get more done.
There is so much to do with work, blogging and running a website that it can all become too much for some people and they can’t face essential tasks that need to be done. Blog posts, work projects, website updates and so on, just seem to mount up and we can’t face them or at least, can’t summon up the energy or enthusiasm.
What can you do to ensure that tasks are done when they need to be done and they don’t get put off until it is too late? How do you get stuff done in a timely manner?
A while back I wrote How to write a blog post in one hour – 10 tips for speed writing and this is a good resource for bloggers wanting to up their game and reduce the time spent writing posts for their site. Will I get this article done in an hour? Probably not, but it will not be far off.
1 Break down big projects
Sometimes a job that needs doing is just too big and the vast scope of it overwhelms us. With so much to do we don’t know where to start and end up putting it off till later.
Break down a project into a series of smaller tasks to make them more manageable. Don’t think about climbing a mountain, just think about the next step and the next. Take lots of little steps and eventually you will reach the mountain top.
It is the same with big projects such as building a website or even just writing a comprehensive 2,000+ word blog post. Break it down into small manageable chunks.
For a blog post, create a number of small sections and write subheadings. For example, you could create 10 subheadings covering different topics and then there is only a series of 200 word pieces to write a 2,000 word article. That is manageable and less scary.
When building a website, make a list of the essential pages you need and then just create one at a time, step by step. Each page may have subheadings which further break down the task.
By splitting large tasks into several smaller ones, they are more likely to get done.
2 Change the scenery
Sometimes being in the same place day after day becomes monotonous and saps our will to live. Well, our will to work anyway. If you work at home, then the same desk or table and the same room with the same walls can become boring and tedious.
Occasionally work in a different location. This is easy with a laptop that will run for a few hours on battery power and you could visit your favourite coffee shop or other place with public Wi-Fi access.
Try to find a place that is fairly quiet and where other people also work on laptops. Some places are better than others for working.
3 Avoid distractions
Following on from the last tip, an alternative location could be a library. Is there one near you could take your laptop to and work on your website or latest blog post for a couple of hours? The quiet atmosphere in a library encourages you to concentrate and there are far fewer distractions than when working from home or an office.
This may not be possible if you have to look after young children of course. Trying to work when they are around is hard and sometimes impossible, so you may have to work when they are asleep.
4 Create deadlines for tasks
Use a calendar app on your computer or phone like Google Calendar, Microsoft Calendar, Apple Calendar or one of the many other calendar apps to create deadlines for tasks.
Create all-day events or multi-day events on the days you need to work on and complete tasks. Calendars are great for planning the days or weeks ahead and you can easily see what must be done and when. Calendars can also display a list of tasks in the order in which they need to be done.
You could simply ignore deadlines set in your calendar, but it is a sort of psychological mind trick and seeing a deadline looming or a task that needs to be done today or tomorrow gets you working and helps stop you putting things off till later.
5 Create a to-do list
There are many to-do lists apps for the phone and the computer and these are great for getting tasks done.
Go to Settings in Google Calendar and you can choose to open a Tasks panel on the right.
In there you can create lists of things that need to be done along with checkboxes so they can be ticked off when completed. For example, you might want to create a list of things to do after a blog post is published, such as places to promote it.
There is a Google Tasks app for phones that syncs with Calendar on the web, so you can check your tasks when you are out.
Having a list of tasks that must be done today or this week, and checkboxes so you can tick off each one when done is a great way to overcome procrastination. Seeing a list of tasks gives you a psychological push to get them done.
6 Use the Pomodoro technique
A problem that some people have is focusing on the task at hand. They sit down, begin, but their mind starts to wander. Is there something new on Facebook? Is there a new story breaking on Twitter? There are too many distractions and that blog post that should take an hour runs into two or three, or ixs never finished.
Search the app store on your phone for ‘pomodoro’ and you will discover dozens of free and paid apps but what is it?
Pomodoro is basically a countdown timer and you set it going and work until the alarm goes off. You then have a break and do something different or even simply nothing until the alarm goes off to signal the end of the break.
You repeat this work for a bit, take break, work for a bit, take a break for as long as you can.
Sessions are usually 30 minutes during which you work for 25 and rest for 5, then repeat but are usually configurable, so they can be longer or shorter.
It sounds too simple and you might not expect it to work, but it is brilliant. I don’t know why, but it really focuses your mind on your work and you will get more done in each 25-minute work period than an hour sat at your computer daydreaming.
You should definitely try one of these apps. Here are some examples Work faster and smarter with pomodoro apps for the iPhone but there are many more for iPhone and Android phones.
7 Reward yourself for completing tasks
Rewards encourage you to get stuff done. You probably will not want to reward yourself for every little task, but you certainly should for larger projects. Remember that a large project can be broken down into a set of smaller tasks, and when the last one is done and the project is complete, you should celebrate.
What form the celebration takes is up to you and it could be a small or large one, probably depending on the size of the task or project completed. It could be anything from a doughnut to a night out at your favourite restaurant.
Launching a website is a major milestone and so deserves a celebration. Setting up affiliate links and getting your first sale is also worthy of celebration. Writing your 10th, 50th or 100th blog post. Getting 100 visitors a day for your site for a whole week is worthy of celebration. There is no end of things to celebrate.
8 Just do one thing
Sometimes we have so many things to do we don’t know where to start. It is overwhelming and intimidating. Should we do this first or that? Faced with too many choices or tasks, we freeze.
People get worked up by the sheer number of things that need to be done when creating a blog or website, or even when just needing to write a long post.
Just pick one task and do it.
Then pick another, and another.
As tasks get done, the pressure eases off and you can see the end of the project.
9 Start with the hardest task
It is tempting for a procrastinator to start with the easiest task that needs to be done first because it is the least hassle and the quickest to finish. However, the most difficult task will be on your mind the whole day and you will be worrying about it. Every task you do gets harder and harder as the easy ones are completed and the day just gets worse and worse.
Tackle the hardest task first and the next one is easier, and as you think about the rest of the day it is filled with easier and easier tasks. You will then look forward to doing them.
10 Do the best you can
Sometimes people are put off doing something because they know it will not be perfect. The website won’t be perfect, the article won’t be perfect, they worry about what other people might think if what they do is not perfect.
Just do the best you can. Something is better than nothing and while your first attempt at a website, a blog post or anything else might not be perfect, you can return to later when you have learnt more and improve it.
11 Silence vs music
Do you work best while listening to music or when there is silence? Some people say they work best with music playing in the background while others find it a distraction.
Try it both ways and see which way gets more done. You may enjoy working while music is playing, but if you keep stopping work to listen to the music or sing along with the lyrics, you may end up getting less done.
Some people say music without lyrics is best, then you don’t get distracted by the words being sung.
12 Don’t multi-task
We often have many tasks to complete every day and there is no end of things that need doing with a blog or website. You might start one task, switch to another, start a third and so on.
When you multitask, you can end up with a bunch of half-finished tasks which might never get completed. Completing a task is a reward in itself and you get a satisfied feeling after completing a task.
Focus on one thing and finish it before starting another and try to avoid getting bogged down it multiple tasks that are all half done.
13 Develop good habits
There are some excellent apps for phones that encourage good habits and discourage bad ones. See Get into the habit – iPhone apps to encourage and track good habits (there are similar Android apps too).
A good habit could be working for a certain length of time, such as working on your blog or a post for an hour a day every day. You can tick off when you have done it each day. The apps track how often you performed the task and you can view your history and successes.