How to… stop procrastinating and get things done
23:51 GMT, 18 March 2012
Managing time is something with which we all struggle. At work, we’re plagued by deadlines, an inbox full of emails and unfinished to-do lists. At home, there’s a stream of never-ending chores.
Here, MICHAEL HEPPELL, time management expert and author of How To Save An Hour Every Day, shows you how to stop being distracted and get things done.
Be more efficient: You'll quickly get through your 'to do' list if you follow Michael Heppell's advice
PUBLICISE YOUR DEADLINE
A powerful anti-procrastination tip is to put yourself on record.
When you’re working on a project, look at the person you’re doing the task for and say to them: ‘You will have this information by 4pm on Thursday.’
As you do that, you’re instantly setting yourself a deadline that makes you think: ‘I’ve got to get this done!’
people would say: ‘I’ll get that to you as soon as possible.’
could mean next week. But it works much better if you set yourself a
specific deadline and announce it publicly.
TACKLE THE MOST IMPORTANT STUFF FIRST
Always do the most important task first, rather than the most urgent or hardest. Some things seem urgent, such as a ringing phone or an email alert. But you don’t know if they’re urgent until you’ve opened the email or answered the phone. These shouldn’t even be on your radar.
Instead, respond to emails only two or three times a day. And if the phone rings and you’re busy, delegate someone else in the office to answer it.
REPEAT ‘DO IT NOW!’ LIKE A CRAZY PERSON
When it comes to housework and other chores, we know what we have to do, but it’s always much easier once we get started. Who wants to do the ironing or clean the loo Not many of us. So how do you inspire yourself to do these tasks
It all about having an affirmation. Try repeating the words, ‘Do It Now! Do It Now!’ out loud.
Yes, you may feel like a bit of a prat, but there’s something about saying these words verbally that makes you take action, even if it’s putting away socks. Only do this when no one else is around!
SET REWARDS FOR YOURSELF
Create a reward system for yourself. Procrastinators will say: ‘I’m working from home today so I can get that report sorted. But first I’ll have a cup of tea.’
As the kettle’s boiling, they’ll switch on daytime TV. The next thing they know, they’ve watched an hour of This Morning.
For behaviour to be seen as procrastination, it must be counterproductive, needless, and delaying
Then they switch on the computer, have a ‘quick look’ at Facebook and suddenly another hour’s gone.
Instead, give yourself a reward, but only after achieving a pre-ordained amount of work, such as writing 500 words.
Even simple things such as a cup of tea, a digestive biscuit or a magazine can be used as rewards, and you’ll appreciate them more.
USE TECHNOLOGY TO BLOCK THE INTERNET
So many people complain: ‘I get 500 emails a day.’ You know what If you’re getting 500 emails a day, you need to learn how to put filters on your computer. And turn off the email alert. It’s one of the most terrible inventions for a procrastinator.
Imagine these emails are people interrupting you — how would you react
You could also try downloading free applications that help your time management. For instance, if you use the internet browser Firefox, LeechBlock (visit addons.mozilla.org) stops distracting websites such as Facebook from loading during designated times (say, between 10am and 5pm).
ORGANISE YOUR LEISURE TIME
In the middle of the week, write a list to plan your weekend. A lot of people think it’s boring to plot your weekend like that, but it’s not. Some people have an amazing quality of life just because they’ve scheduled it.
How many times have you rung up a favourite restaurant to find out it’s all booked up
The truth is, all those tables have been reserved by non-procrastinaters who were organised.
You’re always better off scheduling a few things — you’ll get more out of life.
AVOID THE TIME-SPONGERS
If you know that someone is a time-sapper, stay out of their way. If you can’t avoid them, devise ways so you don’t get caught up talking to them.
If you need to get something done, you don’t need John or Betty telling you that ‘you’ll never guess what happened to me last night’.
Instead of getting bogged down listening to them, say: ‘I really appreciate you telling me this, but can you tell me in four hours after I’ve done this report’
If you have that positive little script worked out in your head beforehand, you won’t seem rude.
TAP INTO YOUR NATURAL CIRCADIAN RHYTHM
People certainly have times when they’re most productive, known scientifically as circadian rhythms.
You could acknowledge ‘I’m not a morning person’, but you should never use that as an excuse. If you know you work better during a certain time in the day, schedule your most important tasks for that time.