We all have items on our list that we don’t want to do.
And some projects end up staying on our “to do” list for weeks or even months.
Here are four ways to help you get that research paper or project done in a timely fashion:
1. Assign a realistic deadline for yourself.
The first step to stop procrastinating is to set a realistic deadline for yourself. Research has shown that our performance to complete a task increases as deadlines shorten, but performance declines if the deadline is too brief (Journal of Management).
So write down a realistic date next to your projects – and visualize yourself completing it. Make sure the date you assigned is realistic – otherwise you’re setting yourself up for failure, which can just drive anxiety up and lessen the likelihood you’ll actually accomplish it.
Once you’ve set your deadline, create calendar alerts for yourself and reminders to stay on track. I like to set alerts for myself with Google Calendar to keep my momentum going.
2. Break-up big projects into tiny ones.
One reason we don’t work on a project is because some are too big (and so we keep pushing it away hoping it will go away). However, just by breaking a big project into small projects can help you build momentum and motivation for finishing.
For example, if I set a goal to write a book in 6 months, it can seem like a difficult project to achieve. However, if I plan on writing just one page a day, I could have a 180 page book done in 6 months easily. Thinking about accomplishing a small task each day is a better way to think about finishing a large project.
3. Ask others to get involved.
One way to spur you further – and to ensure you’ll accomplish your goal is to get another person involved. Have someone check with you to see how you’re project is going.
The idea that you need to report on your progress can give you just the right amount of motivation to keep moving on your project. So bring another person in if you’re very serious about accomplishing a big goal on time.
4. Reward yourself for accomplishing projects.
One key to helping you complete a task that has been stuck on your “to do” list is to motivate yourself to get it done. Reward yourself in some way for accomplishing the goal – and consider even writing the reward next to the due date. Giving yourself a reward can provide just the push you need to help you achieve your goal – and stop procrastinating.
According to Harvard Business Review, “Regina Conti, an associate professor of psychology at Colgate University and an expert in motivation, provides the example of doing your taxes. ‘A person may want to complete their taxes to avoid the legal penalties of not doing so, but because those penalties are far in the future and the task is a boring one, they will not have much incentive to get started with the project,’ she says.
To make a task feel more immediate, focus on short-term rewards, such as getting a refund. Or if there aren’t any, insert your own. Treat yourself to a coffee break, or a quick chat with a co-worker once you’ve finished a task.”
So what about you? How do you fight procrastination and achieve your goals?
Let me know what works for you.
Further Research on Procrastination:
- Procrastination, Deadlines, and Performance: Self-Control by Precommitment, Ariely, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
- Procrastination at Work and Time Management Training, Journal of Psychology, Volume 137, Issue 5
- Harvard Business Review Guide to Getting the Right Work Done