It is so easy to put something off that doesn’t matter. Or at least, you think it doesn’t matter. Maybe not today. But someday it will. That aching toothache you think might just go away. The overdue taxes that maybe they won’t check up on.
All of these catch up some day. That’s when the trouble really begins.
So you need to avoid procrastination in order to prevent these negative consequences. One way to do it involves adding accountability. You need to be accountable to yourself. You can do this by writing your tasks on a to-do list. When you include items that you have been putting off, you begin to create accountability. As you do your work during the day, you glance at your to-do list and see that outstanding item. You have committed to doing it. So the time to do it is now.
At the end of the day, review your to-do list. Did you meet all of the goals that you set for the day? Did you get all the tasks done that you said you would? If not, what got in the way? An external factor that was unavoidable? Or your own procrastination? The temptation is to re-write the task on tomorrow’s to-do list. After all, you’ll get to it then. But that’s the problem. You don’t get to it. So there is a danger in repeating tasks on successive to-do lists. If your own disinterest caused you to put it off, writing it down yet again won’t change things. Instead, write down a small part of the task that you could very easily do. For instance, you need to clean up your basement. You haven’t yet. However, you could certainly go down there and list all of the boxes you need to go through. And if doing your taxes is too daunting, how about simply gathering up all of your tax receipts and putting them into a pile? It’s a start.
There is another even more powerful way to build accountability. And that is being accountable to someone else.
Take a task you have been procrastinating on. Break it into small pieces and choose the first step. Then make a deadline. When are you going to accomplish it? And what will it look like when you finish? You can’t just say, “Work on a project…” Instead, you need to say, “Complete the research from three sources required for the project…”
Now, here is the all important accountability step. Let someone else know what you plan to do. And ask them to check up on you. It could be a spouse, partner, parent, boyfriend, girlfriend, neighbor, work buddy – anyone. It’s helpful, but not necessary that they have a stake in the task. If you need to do a household repair, then telling your spouse is a good idea, because your spouse will benefit from the task being done.
So stop procrastinating. Build accountability. Find a buddy and get stuff done.
Your time is worth it.
Mark Ellwood is president of Pace Productivity, an international consulting firm that specializes in improving corporate productivity. His passionate mission is to improve people and processes through consulting and training.