To Do List that says mainly procrastinate...

If you are in that 20% of chronic procrastinators, you may see yourself mirrored in one particular Calvin and Hobbes strip. In it, cartoonist Bill Watterson shows Hobbes asking Calvin if he has an idea for a story he’s writing. Calvin replies, “You can’t just turn on creativity like a faucet. You have to be in the right mood.” “What mood is that?” asks Hobbes. “Last-minute panic,” Calvin quips. The humor lightens up what can be a very stressful and anxiety-producing habit.

Clavin and Hobbes comic strip. You can't turn creativity on like a faucet.

Fortunately, because it’s a habit, it means we can change it. This quick 5-minute quiz from Psychology Today can help you assess your overall level of procrastination. It will give you a score from zero to 100 that reflects your self-assessment. Or perhaps you know your procrastination is getting in your way in one, or several, areas of your life.

Finding the right tips and tricks to overcome your procrastination habit, can help to uncover why you put things off. There are likely infinite categories of procrastination types, but this article from Inc. by Wanda Thibodeaux offers three different procrastinator types: The Avoider, The Optimist, and the Pleasure Seeker. If you tend to avoid tasks or projects that make you feel anxious, bored, or overwhelmed, you might be an Avoider. Optimists chronically underestimate how much time a task may take, which can mean you’re often late for a deadline. If you avoid something because you are like Calvin and not in the right mood yet, you may be a Pleasure Seeker.

With this understanding, you may be more likely to find a tip that works for you. Here are 4 tips that we at Evolution Managment, Inc. (EMI) have found helpful to overcome our procrastination tendencies. (And we will neither confirm nor deny if we needed one or more of these tips to get this article written on time.)

  1. Break a task into smaller pieces. If you’re avoiding a 25-page report that you must write, you might start by sketching the outline, then identifying the key points or recommendations that need to be made, and then, you could write the first section. You may feel more productive when you see it as five or ten tasks, rather than one big task.
  2. Schedule time blocks on your calendar. This can help you estimate a more realistic level of effort for a project since you could look back through your calendar and see how much time a similar project took.
  3. Create rewards or breaks during long tasks. For those Calvins out there who are waiting for inspiration or mood, it may never come. Incorporate a reward for every page written, or use your whiteboard and markers to sketch out storyboards. This may just get those creative juices flowing enough to stimulate some inspiration.

Reduce distractions. Every ding and notification that a text or email has come in can disrupt your concentration, and even those split-second distractions can derail your train of thought. Close your email application, silence your phone, or put a note on your office door that you are unavailable for 60 to 90 minutes. Music or white noise can also help drown out any ambient noise.