Sure, we could always find something else to do (I can help with lots of excuses, if needed) but why not have a think about why we replace high priority actions with low priority ones or swap them for something more enjoyable that gives us a sense of achievement much sooner.
The great thing about procrastinators is that we often know what we should be doing, even if we're not doing it. Making the list is only the start as prioritisation is important too. Putting the washing on is needed but is making a difficult call more important today? Also, keep an eye on how long a task stays on your 'To Do' list as that should flag up your avoidance. Are you avoiding doing things because the task is unpleasant? Or is it just boring but necessary? We all seek comfort in completing tasks that are simpler and not tackling the big tasks so they need to be divided up into steps.
Each task on the list need to be kept to less than 30 minutes and the way to achieve that is to break some down into manageable steps. Try making each step 10-15 minutes and intend to switch tasks after completed. Often by actually starting you'll gain the impetus to continue.
Review your progress at the end of the day and plan the next but do avoid over-planning as it can be better just to get on with some things and not add them to the list. And don't spend time stating how busy you are as justification for your procrastination; that's just further wasted time.
This new time management scheme doesn't mean all work and no play as relaxation can, and should, be factored into your day. Just because there are 24 hours in the day it doesn't mean you have to time manage them all. Block off time to do nothing if that helps you know it's coming.
To get on with the avoided tasks you need motivation so having no 'To Do' list, or no sense of urgency, won't help. Shaming yourself into getting things down can work. What happens if you don't do it? Consider the consequences, who it affects and the cost of not doing it – your time always has a value.
A nicer way is to reward yourself as we all like treats so using the same principle as sticker charts for kids, work out your treat system. Maybe a proper lunch break, or some time-wasting on social media sites (yes, that's not forbidden!) Maybe a chocolate bar or a glass of wine. Maybe a work-free evening and a movie. You know what you crave so don't deny yourself; but give yourself a reason to have that treat. If you feel like you've earned it then you're likely to enjoy it more. Guilt-free treats are always best.
You Are Not Alone
Get help with decisions that are taking up too much of your time. Try noting the pros and cons and get another perspective from a friend. If you have colleagues who could do the task well then consider passing it on. At home, delegation could mean the kids load the washing machine. Finally, you could also use peer pressure and ask someone to check on you. No-one likes being nagged so it may help you get on with things.
(Yes, this was the image I found when searching for 'studying'!)
Having optimism is great but believing you'll finish a large task with a tight deadline is self deception. Think of the student pulling an "all-nighter" to complete an assignment and still passing the course therefore reinforcing the avoidance and procrastination pattern and perpetuating the myth that they are more productive under pressure and that by leaving tasks until the last minute you spend less time. But really it's not your best work and you'll always be under-achieving.
Being disorganised is another common reason for things not getting done. Work out the time needed and set a deadline. Then look at your priorities and get the task started.
Interestingly, perfectionists are often procrastinators. They don't believe they have the skills to complete a task so they don't start. Fear of failure is understandable but learn to accept you can't do everything perfectly. Don't let frustration win and if a task doesn't get completed do reschedule it.
Now we have some pointers to guide us from our time wasting ways do try this completely unscientific quiz to find out if you are a procrastinator and let us know in 'Comments' below.