Getting down to it

PUBLISHED : Monday, 16 February, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 16 February, 2009, 12:00am

By putting off your tasks, you only make things worse. So draw up a timetable and get started - now!

You know you have a project to complete, but you just can't seem to knuckle down to it. We know that putting something off doesn't help us. It only makes things worse by stressing us out - but knowing this makes us procrastinate more. Procrastination is an ugly habit many of us fall into. You need to stop this vicious cycle by using your time more effectively, and getting your tasks done sooner.

Set yourself up for success

Decide exactly what it is that you want to accomplish. Clarity is essential. If it is a certain career that you wish to have, or even something such as a project that you need to hand in at school, create a picture in your mind of what it should look like - and then write down what comes to mind in the form of goals and objectives.

Make a plan

When you make a step-by-step plan, you are setting a specific schedule and timeline to complete the task. Write this plan down on paper. Writing this list will help you better organise your thoughts and determine the small steps you need to take to accomplish your goals. Give yourself attainable tasks on a daily, weekly or hourly timetable, depending on your situation. You are less likely to be overwhelmed when you're faced with small, manageable steps.

Be realistic

Be realistic about what you can achieve with your plan. Doing so makes each step clearly attainable and you'll be less likely to put it off. Knowing your limits will make your goals seem easier and less of a mountain to climb.

Just begin

It sounds simple enough, but few heed this simple tip. Most procrastinators find themselves prone to delaying the start of the task because it seems too overwhelming. Instead, they stress and worry during the final moments before it's due.

No matter how large the task may seem, beginning with even a small step will build momentum. Simply beginning also tends to put the task into perspective and makes it seem more possible than ever.

Take breaks

Taking scheduled breaks while working on your task refreshes your body and mind. If you go for a 10-minute walk or work on a Sudoku puzzle, you'll feel re-energised and you'll be in a better frame of mind to forge on.

Breaks, while refreshing, should be taken in moderation. You certainly don't want to use breaks as an excuse to lapse back into procrastination.

Follow these five steps, practise them frequently, and with some time and patience you'll find yourself getting more done, more often.