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Column: Stop putting things off: 7 tips to avoid procrastination

If you bought birthday presents well in advance and made phone calls when they needed to be made, life could be a lot different, writes Ciara Conlon.

Ciara Conlon

WHY DO WE do it? Put off until tomorrow what should be done today? I once heard that the way to make an easy job seem hard is to keep putting it off. Why does it appear that so many of us mastered the art of stalling?

Maybe it’s a human trait that we want instant gratification and minimum disturbance. We don’t mind doing jobs that don’t take us out of our comfort zone. This is why all the nice jobs on the To Do list get done first.

But how would your life look if you didn’t put anything off. If you paid your taxes on time, bought birthday presents well in advance and made the phone calls when they needed to be made?

The answer is that life would be calmer and stress free. Does that sound good to you? If so here are 7 tips how to avoid procrastination and start getting things done.

1. Know your Priorities
Knowing your goals and priorities in life can help greatly with motivation. If you are clear about your reasons for doing a particular task it will help greatly with the incentive to complete it. Always focus on the positive outcome rather than allowing yourself to think negatively about the task itself.

2. Use a Calendar
If you want a life of achievement with little stress, use a calendar. As the saying goes, what gets scheduled gets done.  One sure way to make things happen is to schedule it. If you create a plan for the week in advance you can schedule in the important tasks, the ones that are most important to you and that should get done first. You will find that there are times when you have to react and do things that you hadn’t planned but at least if the task is in the calendar you can just reschedule for another time.

3. Use a Task list
Get into the habit of taking some time each week to download all the things you have to do from your mind. Write everything down, work and personal and don’t categorise or format. Get it all out of your head. The next step is to organise. If the task is date or time specific, like a meeting or appointment. Then it goes into your calendar. If not you should use some type of task list. There are many to choose from -www.rememberthemilk.com, www.toodoodle.com and www.evernote.com are all good. Your task list should be scanned daily to see what tasks can get scheduled and what ones will get done.

4. Exercise
One of the chief reasons people give for procrastination is that they are too tired. They avoid, hobbies, exercise and household DIY because of a lack of energy. The way to create more energy is to exercise. If you find it hard to fit it in, get up an hour earlier in the morning. If you can’t exercise in the morning, avoid watching TV in the evening and substitute it with exercise. Whatever way you fit it in make a conscious effort to fit it in somewhere. Exercise will give you the energy to get things done.

5. Eliminate Time Wasting Activities
What do you waste time on? Is it Facebook or Twitter? Maybe it’s Coronation Street or Eastenders? I’m not telling you, I want you to be aware of how much time goes into these types of activities. Three hours of TV a day adds up to almost one day in your life every week! Maybe that one day could be used to work on your goals and dreams?

6. Worst First
Brian Tracey, author of Eat that Frog, advocates the idea of doing your worst task first every morning. If you can get into the habit of doing the dreaded task first the sense of achievement and calm this will give you, will make you never want to do it any other way.

7. Don’t try to eat the Elephant
If the tasks you avoid are the elephant tasks, start by breaking them up in to smaller bites. When you decide on the next small action, and start working on it, it will create momentum. The most difficult thing to do is to take the first step, once you get started things will usually start to flow, so if at all possible take action and get things started.

If you find that you have tried all of these suggestions and you still can’t seem to get things done, ask yourself if the task you are avoiding ties in with your life’s goals? Maybe it is something you thought you wanted but isn’t as important now as it once was? If so scratch it off the list and think again.

So start taking action, focus on what matters, and remember:

“A year from now you may wish you had started today.” ~Karen Lamb

Ciara Conlon is a productivity coach, author and blogger. Her blog focuses on how to increase your personal productivity and simplify your life to achieve greater happiness and success.

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