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What could be going on?

  • The task is big and amorphous and you don’t know where to start.
  • You’re not sure when or how it will end, and are therefore hesitant to get started.
  • You’re not sure why it’s important.
  • You’ve developed a procrastination habit.
  • You’re afraid of something — the usual suspects are failure, uncertainty, change or commitment.

9 Ways to handle it:

1. Ask yourself: What’s blocking me from doing this?

There’s something about this particular task that’s making your brain go, “No way!” Whatever it is, try to identify it and come to terms with it. That will often help you get started.

2. Break it down into smaller tasks.

When a task feels so big you don’t know where to start, it helps to think it through and break it into smaller, more manageable tasks. Line those smaller tasks up one by one and start with the first. Try to turn a never-ending task into something with logical steps that are easily tackled.

3. Write down the benefits of completing it.

Build up some positive motivation for getting the task done by writing down how much better your life will be after you get it finished — starting with the reduced stress from not procrastinating!

4. Write down the risks of delaying it further.

If needed, build up some negative pressure by writing down what will happen if you keep putting it off.

5. Set a reward.

Bribe yourself with an exciting reward for completing the task. A sushi dinner? A new pair of shoes? You can also try withholding something until you complete the task, like a favorite TV show or type of food.

6. Make a commitment to others.

Ask a co-worker, family member or friend to enforce a motivating deadline or reward. The more public pressure, the better.

7. Move to a “no distractions” zone.

Like a conference room or coffee shop, and bring only what you need to complete the task. Put yourself into a position where there is nothing to do but the task at hand.

8. Commit to working for only a set amount of time, say, 10 or 30 minutes.

Set a timer. Once you get done, take a break. Repeat until you finish the task.

9. Just start!

Experts suggest that getting started is by far the hardest part. So why not stop reading this and start right now? If you’re like many procrastinators out there, you’ll find that spending even two minutes can lead to five, 10, 20 … and before you know it you’re making real progress.

On the subject, I love this TED Talk by Tim Urban. Inspiring and very funny!