While I've learned not to procrastinate, the truth is that I do procrastinate every once in a while. This isn't a post about why I procrastinate but rather how I deal with it. Here's how I deal with my own procrastination:
- Do the first step. Sometimes I procrastinate because the task is too large to even know where to start. "Publish a GNOME quarterly report." That sounds like it's going to be a lot of work, so I put it off until tomorrow. Once I realize I'm doing that I stop and think about what's the first step? Deciding what's in the quarterly report. So I do just that step and then define the next one.
- Redefine the scope. Some times a task is just so big or so hard, it's unlikely you are ever going to make time for it. "Research CRM systems." I had in my head that this was going to mean installing 4-5 CRM systems or getting live demos, writing up a huge list of features in a spreadsheet and tracking with CRM system did what, gathering requirements and mapping those to the features. So I didn't do it for a long time. I finally realized that I had been talking about it long enough that I knew what we needed and I knew what people recommended, so I should just write up a quick proposal to recommend the recommended CRM system and to verify it did what we needed.
- Do it poorly – or at least not as well as I'd like. I like to do things well, so if I don't know how to do something or think I won't do a good job, I put it off. Every once in a while, I realize there's a task I've been putting off forever because I'm afraid I won't do it well. Then I just do it. And I put it out for review some where and cringe when I think of people seeing the unfinished work. But it gets done. (And the feedback I usually get is that it looks fine.)
- Decide to do it as a favor for someone else. Another reason I procrastinate is because I don't think something is important – someone else asked me to do it. In those cases (when I realize that's happening), I either tell them I'm not going to do it or I decide I'm going to do it for them. Even though I don't think it's important, it is to them and so I do it for them.
- Don't do it. Sometimes I procrastinate because I've really decided not to do it. There are two reasons I might decide not to do a task:
- Sometimes I procrastinate on things because I've subconsciously decided they aren't important. Crossing them off my list relieves my stress.
- Give it to someone else. Some times there are tasks that others can do
more easily or with more joy. I really wasn't the right person for the job. If I can, I give it to them to do. You can trade. For example, I do the laundry and the dishes and not much of the cooking.
- Hold something hostage. I've been known to say I'm not eating lunch until this is done. That usually works. (It's best to pick something that doesn't make somebody else wait for you!)
- Promise someone else. Often I'll tell someone I'll do it and by when. Then I feel like I'm letting them down if I don't get it done. (Be careful. Some research shows that by publicly commiting to do something, you might be less likely to actually do it. Something about you already got the kudos for good intentions so now you don't need to do the task.)
How do you deal with tasks you keep putting off?