We all have days when it feels like you just can’t get started on anything. When hours go by and you realize that, somehow, you’ve been reading BuzzFeed and ZDNet all this time.
Often, just taking a break and coming back to a problem fresh is enough to jumpstart your brain and get you back on track.
But what happens when it stops being just a phase? When you slip into the realm of the chronic procrastinator?
Sometimes, it takes a whole new approach to knock your timewasting on the head.
How to stop procrastinating? Here are three top strategies:
1. Build yourself an “ideas playground”
If you’re the kind of person who bounces around from idea to idea and finds it hard to focus, Marianne Cantwell’s playground approach might just be the way forward.
Instead of trying to force yourself to work down a linear list, Cantwell suggests scribbling down a few things that you really need to get done, plus ideas of projects that you really want to delve into but never seem to have time for.
First thing in the morning, she says, try picking just one thing you must do today and spend 20 minutes on it. Then, as your mind starts to wander, allow yourself to drift to something else from your “playground” and explore this for a while before returning to the task in hand.
That way, you get to feel like you’re procrastinating – but really, you’re laying useful groundwork for a project you’d never get started on otherwise.
2. Take a “three pronged” approach
If you feel you need a little more structure to your to-do list, try out Barbara Corcoran’s approach instead.
A leading business guru, Corcoran divides her lists into three parts. The first is a priority section that contains just two or three things she really must do that day, the second is a “review” section of easy tasks that can be dealt with fast, and the third is a list of tasks needed for major long-term projects, which are crucial for business growth.
This helps Corcoran to keep track of the most urgent tasks while making sure that the little things don’t slip through the net – and without losing sight of the big business goals that keep her ahead of the curve.
3. Write down every idea you have
Perhaps one of the most productive people the world has ever seen, Richard Branson is also a prolific list maker – and he has the system nailed.
Similar to Corcoran’s concept, Branson recommends keeping multiple lists – of small tasks that are satisfying to tick off, of big projects that give you a sense of achievement when you finally draw a line through them, and of big, outlandish goals that represent the things you really want to do, someday.
The difference, though, is that what most people might think of as procrastinating, Branson sees as a potential future goldmine of ideas:
Write down every single idea you have, no matter how big or small. Include personal goals in your lists, not just business.
That way, you can scribble down your daydreams as they come and know they’re not lost – you’ll revisit the idea later, when you’ve tackled the most urgent things on your list. And, whenever you need a little inspiration or motivation, you can revisit your old ideas and remind yourself what you really want to achieve.
Just don’t forget your notebook!