Procrastination – and how to overcome it

04 Dec 2017 | Research & Business Knowledge

When I was at school, one of my teachers had 'a round to it' pinned on her notice board – a round cardboard disc that listed all the reasons we tell ourselves to justify why we have not done something.

We are all guilty of this (I am writing this article instead of writing a proposal…!).  Anna Davis, an experienced coach and consultant, has developed a technique to help us work smarter and achieve those tasks that we keep putting off.  Her thinking is that we are more effective when working against a deadline, and that difficult tasks become easier once we actually begin them.

Her technique is as follows:

  • Clear one hour in your diary and dedicate it to this technique
  • Pick two very different projects – one must be the one you have been avoiding, but the other can be anything.  Make it sufficiently 'different' from the first one 
  • Turn off any other distractions (email, phones etc) and make sure that your normal 'distraction tasks' are done (this can be challenging for an indie who largely works from home.  for example, load the washing machine/ dishwasher etc before sitting down to work!)
  • Using a timer work on the projects as follows:
    • Project A – 5 minutes 
    • Project B – 5 minutes
    • Project A – 10 minutes
    • Pronect B – 10 minutes
    • Project A – 15 minutes
    • Project B – 15 mintues

Do not be tempted to overrun on the timings – stick to these exactly – and when the time on one project has ended, begin the next one straight away.  The theory behind this is that it is easier to restart something that is incomplete than begin it from scratch and that by 'chuncking' the project down into short time bursts it does not feel as overwhelming.  Over the course of the hour, you will actually achieve quite a lot.  Even if neither project is finished at the end of the hour, having something that is started but not complete will in itself motivate you to complete it.

Having done this myself, I find at the end of the hour I am more than happy to carry on with the 'difficult' project – my 'head' is in the right space and I find that I can just focus.  I also find that it is never as difficult, nor takes as long, as I feared it would.

A useful technique to apply – particulalry when working on your own when it is so easy to succumb to all those other essential 'time fillers' during the day.