Stop Wasting Time! 7 Tips to Get You Back On Track

“We went to lunch and were talking about procrastination and the waitress overheard us and she said, ‘I have a problem with procrastination, too.’ I said, ‘Really? …Get my sandwich.’”
~ Ellen DeGeneres

If procrastination were an art, as they say, you’d be Van Gogh. Unfortunately, in practice, procrastination is really, well, ugly: half-chewed pencil erasers, deformed origami post-it notes, and legal pads filled with doodles that look like inkblots from your frustrated, inner adolescence. And, maybe, if you’re a dedicated artiste, a mile-long rap sheet of bookmarked pages on your Web browser.
Sadly for your budding artistic career, the only starry night you’ve come close to producing is the Star Trek screensaver you have saved on your computer.
Everyone procrastinates at work. Those who say they don’t are, ahem, lying. According to many studies, the average attention span of a literate human being is 10-12 minutes. For the mathematically challenged, that means even the most disciplined minds wander off task roughly 40 times per workday.
In her book, How to De-Junk Your Life, Dawn Dwyer offers these trusty hints to cut back on your time wasted at work:
  1. LS002044Break It Down … “Break larger projects into smaller projects,” Dwyer writes. Separated into workable pieces, the project will seem less daunting and more manageable. As an added bonus, you’ll gain more and more confidence as you steamroll through each task.
  1. Don’t Worry, Be Happy … Your anxiety at the outset of a major assignment can be strong enough to prevent you from getting started altogether. In these situations, Dwyer advises you to identify then begin with a part of the project that you think will be most enjoyable. By finding something you like to start with, you’ll have less trouble taking the leap into the dark abyss.
  1. Shorter Deadlines … Just as Dwyer suggests breakingthe project into smaller components, you should chop deadlines down, too. Divide the large deadline into a series of smaller deadlines … it will help keep you on track and, again, make the project feel less like Mission Impossible.
  1. Imagine There’s No Water … Put your Beatles mania to good use: Employ a little imagination. This time, you don’t have to bother worrying about picturing world peace — just trying imagining your project in its finished form. By continually reminding yourself of what sense of accomplishment you’ll feel when the project’s finished, you’ll keep yourself motivated.
  1. Perfection Isn’t Perfect … Unrealistic expectation, writes Dwyer, is the leading cause of procrastination. This shouldn’t be an excuse for poor execution, but you should release yourself from the burden of believing everything must be mind-blowing perfect. Waiting for a Jordanesque performance from yourself will only keep you from making progress.
  1. 91949090Go, Go, Go … Don’t postpone a project until you have a large chunk of free time or your fifth cup of coffee. Start the darn thing already. Use a small period to get things moving because, if you’re busy, it may be weeks before you find a sufficiently large enough time block.
  1. Self-Reward … Promise yourself a reward — say, the 1968 Bordeaux you’ve been eyeing — for a job well-done. Or, give yourself added incentive by rewarding yourself for each small task completed — a chocolate treat from the company’s vending machine would work well. Whatever you give yourself, give yourself something to look forward to as you crunch numbers and wade through paperwork.

Keep these tips in mind the next time your boss slams a Washington-monumental task on your desk. Be patient, persevere, and stop drawing those weird ink blots … you’re scaring your co-workers.

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