Break the Procrastination Habit

I confess–I love to procrastinate while I’m procrastinating.  I mean, I find all kinds of satisfying things to do instead of the THING I should be doing.

There are lots of theories about why we have a habit of procrastination.  You can Google them if you want to procrastinate…LOL!!

I just know that I make lists on scraps of paper and somehow never get the right things done.

 

I could ponder about how I developed and nurtured a strong procrastination habit.  But, it doesn’t really help all that much to deeply analyze why we have a habit, according to Charlie Seashore, one of my very wise mentors.  Charlie always said that it was more useful to change our habit by replacing it with a new habit.

So here is my approach to procrastination.  I conquer TIME!

Just KIDDING!  This isn’t a science fiction post.

What I do is replace my procrastination habit with time management tools and priority setting.

Importance Grid

Here’s my tool for priority setting. I hope it will help you set your priorities.  We all have large goals.  I blogged about 3 of my top goals:  here are 3 of my major 2021 goals.

But I have one other major goal– I want to blog on a frequent basis, ideally once a week or more. My other 3 major goals fall into Box C right now because the deadlines are far into the future. Writing blog posts are in Box D as of this writing because I don’t have any new posts written.  My plan is to write 2 or 3 posts at a time and schedule them in advance. I want to have 3 weeks scheduled at any point in time.  Then, writing blog posts will fall into Box C, which is a more comfortable place to be.

The blue boxes are those tasks that feel appealing.  When we focus our actions in boxes A & B, we believe that we are actually accomplishing something. And, yet, we never seem to get our most important tasks done. By the way, Box B tasks are sometimes things that other people want us to do right away.  It’s appealing because we enjoy helping others.  Be careful with how much time you spend in Box B.

As for Box A–dump those tasks in the garbage.  Be rigorously honest with your self about their value to you.

Box C also offers us another opportunity.  I often need quilts quilted but I don’t have the time or skills to do a really good job.  So, when quilting a top is in Box C or Box D, I call one of my longarmers.  They love the work and I love having their skills enhancing my design.

I invite you to create your own Ugency Grid and map your goals and major tasks on them.  See how this will help you focus your time.

And, speaking of time, here are my two favorite tools for managing procrastination.

List Important Tasks for the Day

First, I find that listing important daily tasks helps.  I might even shorten that time to tasks for the morning or afternoon. I look at the tasks  in Box D first.  Box D tends to include answering emails from Guilds who want to book me for lectures or questions from students who will be in my upcoming modern quilt workshops.

Then, I look at Box C on my Urgency grid and select at least one task from that box to work on.

I break the task down into small CHUNKS that I can accomplish in an hour or less.  Answering my emails usually only takes about 5 minutes or less per email.  I can knock out 6 or 7 emails in under 30 minutes.

Here’s an example of the chunks of a larger task — writing a new blog post:

  1. Select the title and subject focus from my list of ideas in the Notes on my phone and my notebook.
  2. Set up the Draft post on my WordPress site.
  3. Gather the images and upload them to the media library in WordPress.
  4. Create any additional images needed for the post
  5. Write the content.
  6. Schedule it for publication.
  7. Create an Instagram post for the post and schedule in Tailwind

Use the 15 Minute Rule

My cousin Pat B. taught me this rule many years ago.  I use it almost every day when I catch myself procrastinating.

For my major goals, I look at a task chunk and select something that I can do in 15 minutes or less.

Or, I might choose task chunk from Box D.

Or I might choose a task that never gets on my Urgency grid–like housework!  Here’s a tip:  I keep a set of all my bathroom cleaning supplies and tools in each bathroom.  That way, I can run in and do a quick clean up because everything I need is right there. Disclaimer–my hubby is pretty neat and we have no kids or pets.

How might you use the 15 minute rule?

 

Pomodoro Method

Pomodoro is a technqiue for time management when you need more than a quick 15 minutes.  I downloaded one of the many apps to help me with this. Check around and pick one that you like.  I tried a couple out for free before buying the paid version.

With a Pomodoro app, you can set a time limit for the task and then the app will signal you at the end of that interval and verbally remind me that it’s time to take a break. Here’s a screen shot of the app on my phone.

I often use Pomodoro for blog writing or pattern design.  I can get so deep into these kinds of creative tasks that I really lose track of time.  Over focusing on one task can lead to burnout, so taking breaks is improtant to maintain your mental balance.

Sometimes, I set the Pomodoro break for –15 minutes–and switch to another quick task unrelated to my main task.

Pomodoro helps me keep my email inbox under control.  Answering emails usually only takes about 5 minutes or less per email.  I can knock out 10 emails in under 30 minutes. It’s perfect for the Pomodoro technique.

I wrote this blog post in three 25 minute Pomodoro sessions. I created some of the graphics so it took a bit longer.  Most of my blog posts are done in one or two sessions.

Key is Take Action

Instead of fretting over the things I should be doing, I use these tools to take action and do something productive.  Above all, I take action on the IMPORTANT tasks before they become Urgent & Important.

P.S., Yes, I give myself permission to extend my time on a task if I’m close to finishing OR if I’m just in the flow. 

2 thoughts on “Break the Procrastination Habit”

  1. Elizabeth A Franck

    OMG – I can really relate to what you are saying…. I have worn out so many windup timers – and
    my stove timer, too. Now, I have a bunch of digital timers and my cell phone timer.

    I found out late in life, when my granddaughter was diagnosed ADHD – ADD and my daughter suggested that I might be, too. I was tested and I am ADHD – Hyperactive….. It turns out that my daughter is also ADHD……… All of us have somewhat different clusters of symptoms. Neither of them is Hyperactive, like I am. My daughter needs to set timers, too.

    All of us are very creative, my granddaughter, a painter and I love to draw and have a gift for recreating nature realistically. Since drawing is not a gift my daughter was given, she conceives
    everything, in her head!

    My daughter and I have been involved in Fiber Art – from weaving, dyeing, etc to Wearable Art –
    for many years. Quilting is more recent for me – about 12 years. I started with designing – At Quilts – Underwater Landscapes, since “Life is a Beach”, for me. All of us are singers, too – sopranos. My granddaughter is a Jr. at De Paul University in Performance – Lyric Opera.

    Time Management has always been a problem for me ….. As my Doctor says – my brain’s control center doesn’t work correctly – I lose time…. I can get so involved in what I am doing that hours go by, in a flash. It is great to be retired because I can stay up – most or all of a night … when I want…. most of the time.

    I must confess – “I also love to procrastinate while I am procrastinating!” When I read what
    you wrote LOL! It is a constant battle for me…… I will always be “a work-in-progress”.
    I so appreciate your sharing of procrastination challenges.

    1. Thanks for sharing another aspect of the managing time story. There are many, many reasons that we prefer to procrastinate. Sometimes those reasons are GOOD ones…like when I know that a quilt design isn’t quite working so I keeps finding other things to do instead of finishing and releasing a new on demand class or pattern. Days or weeks later, the solution comes to me and I’m glad that I put that project aside.

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