Stop Procrastinating – Right Now!
Keep Distraction at a Distance
"The U.S. gross national product would probably rise by $50 billion if
that 'new e-mail' notification sound were to suddenly disappear," estimates
Steel. If you're balancing your checkbook online, and then hear that beep, you
may only spend four seconds reading the e-mail — but next thing you know,
you're organizing your in-box, surfing the Web, looking up that recipe for
Cornish game hen. The checkbook? A distant memory.
"We have so many distractions now that are instantly available — and
they're toxic to motivation," says Steel. "It's never been easier to
procrastinate." The answer? If you need to get something done, turn off the
e-mail sound or icon — heck, if you're at home, unplug the Internet connection
altogether. Or take a tip from Stephanie Gabriel Boyden, 33, of Tucson, AZ, who
increases her efficiency by scheduling a daily "electronics-free hour — no
cell phone, instant-messaging, or e-mail for 60 solid minutes."
Eliminating distractions works off-line, too. "I tend to get distracted
easily when I'm doing a chore I hate," says Catherine Boyd, 49, from
Charlottesville, VA. "I'll start thinking of other things that are
important, like checking the furnace valve, or calling the vet. I'd never let
myself quit working to watch TV — but who could feel guilty about setting up
the cat's yearly veterinary checkup? So now I keep a small pad handy and write
down all those other tasks as they pop up in my head. Having that list removes
the temptation to escape from the thing I really hate by doing other things I
hate slightly less."
Schedule Fun First
"One of the most devastating consequences of procrastination is that it
can lead you to put off living," says Fiore. In his research with graduate
students at the University of California, Berkeley, he found that the people
who made time to play sports, hang out with friends, and enjoy themselves were
the ones who actually got work done faster. "The procrastinators were
always worrying, as if suffering were a superstitious offering to the
gods," Fiore noted. "They were, in a sense, saying, 'See, I'm not
having any fun — isn't that almost as good as doing the work?'"
Rather than allowing that procrastination-induced cloud of guilt to
overshadow your life, Fiore counsels setting aside leisure hours first — before
you schedule time to work. A night out with a friend, for example, becomes your
reward for doing something less palatable, like covering the school board
meeting for the PTA. That way, even while listening to hour three of the budget
discussion, you'll remember that life is not all Excel sheets. Rather than
feeling like Cinderella forever, you'll know you'll soon be having a ball
again. Leigh Anderson, 34, of New York City, adds another twist. She hates
cleaning house, so "I invite friends over every Thursday night. It gives me
something to look forward to, and makes me tidy up pronto!"