Whether you’re ready or not, the holiday season is coming your way—and it seems there’s an endless list of things to do. There are holiday cards to mail out, decorations to put up and gifts to wrap. Ever feel like packing it all in and just calling it a day?
If you’re prone to putting off important tasks, you’re in good company. Many of us are guilty of procrastination, and 15-20% of us actually make a habit of it, according to a study by University of Calgary professor Piers Steel. (It took Steel, a reformed procrastinator, 10 years to study and publish his findings.)
“People who procrastinate tend to be less healthy, less wealthy and less happy,” said Steel, according to a USA Today article, Study is a put off: Scientists research why procrastination is getting worse. He found that younger people procrastinate more than older people, and that men slightly edged over women. And what’s the top task people are most likely to procrastinate? Tasks they don’t like to do.
We all have our reasons for putting things off. Some common excuses are not having enough time, needing more information to complete the task or not being sure how to do it. If you’ve found yourself procrastinating more often than you’d like, take a look at these suggestions.
Create your hit list
Make a list of what needs to be done. Seeing all your tasks together can help you get a sense of what you need to complete and help you prioritize your items. There are several approaches to prioritizing your list, such as sorting tasks by importance, by deadline or by the time it takes to complete.
Tip: Don’t let big projects bog you down. Instead, break them down into smaller tasks or steps. It’s easier to visualize what you need to do, and gives you a sense of accomplishment when you check each one off the list.
Tackle your to-dos
As you start tackling your to-do list, practice your time management skills. Establish the amount of time you want to spend on each task, and stick to that allotted time schedule. If you’ve given yourself 15 minutes to read and answer emails, don’t go over the time limit.
Maintain your focus on the task at hand. You may find your mind wandering to the next item on your list, or you might feel overwhelmed by the number of tasks still left to do. Pace yourself and try not to take on too much or you’ll suffer from burnout. Another tactic is to tackle the tasks that you dread the most first to get them out of the way. And remember, you don’t have to strive for perfection on every single task.
As an incentive for knocking things off your list, reward yourself as you reach certain milestones on your list. And be sure to take breaks every so often so you can keep yourself refreshed—go on, you deserve it.
Tip: Have you ever been tempted to answer that email that just popped up, even when you’re in the middle of doing something else? Distractions can set you off-course and cost you time. If it helps, consider shutting off your phone, radio, email or instant messenger.
Go to your back-up plan
Things don’t always go as planned. If you feel you won’t have enough time to accomplish what you need to do, here are some suggestions:
- Ask for help
- Request more time
- Learn to delegate
- Eliminate nonessential tasks
- Re-prioritize your “to do” list
You’ll learn from experience and be able to apply what you’ve learned next time.
Tip: Make it a routine to review your list of things to do. Check your list at the beginning of the day so you can outline the day ahead of you. At the end of the day, review what you’re accomplished, and make plans for the next day. That way, you can make arrangements ahead of time should you need to ask for help.
This holiday season can be a great starting point for you to lead a more efficient and productive lifestyle—by tackling procrastination right now.