We have entered the lazy days of summer, that languid time that tests even the most dedicated workers.
We’ve got a bunch of stuff to do—emails to write, content to create—but it’s so darn nice out. There’s that beach vacation to plan. Cool new flip-flops to pick out online. Anything seems better than writing that next email, blog post post or even a to-do list.
Sometimes putting a task off isn’t an option, so here are 10 tips to jump-start your initiative:
1. Divide to conquer. We often avoid tackling big jobs because they seem so daunting. The solution? Divide major projects into a bunch of smaller, easily conquerable tasks. “Taking on a huge project is always overwhelming, and especially so if it is accompanied by a tight deadline,” writes Sonal Mishra at YourStory. “In such a situation, it helps to take one step at a time by breaking your task into smaller sub-tasks.”
2. Use a “power song” to get you started. “Pick a song that really gets you energized, and play it whenever you want to tackle something you’ve been procrastinating about,” suggests Vanessa Loder at Forbes. “The brain likes to have a trigger to create a new habit; plus, you’re more likely to follow through when you’re feeling good.”
3. Play “Beat the Clock.” “Whenever you find yourself putting off a task, set the timer on your phone for 10 minutes,” writes Melinda Rhodes at BKA Content. “Discipline yourself to write for that entire amount of time. Chances are you’ll become engrossed in your work and continue writing long after the timer goes off.”
4. Create a reward system for yourself. “Giving yourself a treat when you’ve completed your task can help you avoid getting sidetracked,” writes Bec Evans at Publishing Talk. “Rather than indulging yourself in a procrastination activity before you start, why not use it as a reward for when your writing is completed? Think of something small enough to encourage, but not too big that writing become all about the reward, and you’ll find your motivational sweet spot.”
5. Optimize your work environment. There is a world of distraction at the fingertips of every email marketer or content developer. Making it go away (temporarily) can help you avoid sabotaging your productivity. To do that: “Close your email and IM, turn off your phone (or at least set it on ‘do not disturb’ and put it out of sight), and don’t let yourself get on the web until you have completed the task, or hold off any necessary internet searches until the end,” suggests Elizabeth Lombardo at Psychology Today.
6. Don’t be a perfectionist. “Perfectionism pressures us to procrastinate,” writes Megan Bruneau at Forbes. “Because we have unrealistically, inflexibly high expectations for ourselves, we feel overwhelmed and paralyzed. We don’t want to make a mistake or screw up. One of the easiest ways to prevent perfectionism-related procrastination is to aim for ‘good enough’—75 percent or 80 percent.”
7. Create accountability. “It’s easy to blow things off when your commitment to yourself is the only thing at stake,” says Amy Spencer at RealSimple, “but make yourself accountable to a friend, and suddenly potential embarrassment becomes a powerful motivator. Call a friend or a sibling, and tell her what you plan to get done. Ask her to check in and crack the whip at an appointed time. Then let the fear of disappointment work its dark magic.”
8. Look ahead to when you are finished. “Imagine how you’ll feel once you do whatever it is you’ve been postponing,” advises Denis Waitley at Success. “Freedom from anxiety. Freedom from nagging pressures. Freedom from self-doubt. Accomplishing put-off tasks will give you a great boost of confidence and energy.”
9. Think about concrete steps. “When you are getting started on a task, it’s much better to think about the concrete steps you are going to take, rather than abstract aims and ideas,” writes Psyblog. For a writer, this could means putting a laser-like focus on the need to create a great first line, rather than dwelling on the more abstract concept of the 1,000 or so words that will have to follow it.
10. Just start. “Like jumping into a cold lake, the anticipation and initial dive into a project are the most difficult and unpleasant,” writes Kimberly Joki at Grammarly. “Once you start, you acclimate and the process becomes tolerable, sometimes even enjoyable. Once you get over the first ‘hump,’ accomplishment, inspiration and confidence have room to motivate your work.”
This post first ran on Ragan in 2017.