Getting Things Done (When You Really Have To)

Like many people, I have a procrastination problem. Sure, I always end up getting things done but it can still put me in a bind. Surprisingly enough, I have no problem with being a chronic procrastinator.

As far as I’m concerned, the key is to be able to really get your hands dirty and get the job done when the time comes and as long as I can do that, I’m happy doing everything at the last minute.

I’ve put together a list of ways to get things done when it’s really critical that work for me. Try some of these out and hopefully you’ll find a couple that work for you too.

Cloister Yourself: It can be really useful to block out some time with the specific purpose of doing whatever you need to do. This doesn’t mean planning to “work on it” after you get home from school or work or whatever you do; it means setting some time aside on a weekend or another free day when you can lock yourself in your study and focus on your project and get things done. Make sure you tell friends and family so you don’t have a ton of unnecessary distractions.

Plan for Yourself: To get yourself into the mood for productivity, it can help to make a schedule ahead of time. If, the day before your retreat, you write out something telling you what to do when (e.g., 10:00: Outlining, 10:30: Writing, 12:00: Revisions) you will find it a lot easier to focus and you’ll spend a lot less time staring at a blank screen. Keep in mind that’s it’s okay to take breaks. Just be sure that you plan a definite start and end point and keep to it. If you don’t think you have the self-discipline, forego breaks altogether.

Unplug Yourself: Don’t worry, I’m not going to tell you to put away your computer and dust off the quill pen. However, putting away the parts of your computer that you don’t need will help you focus. Turn of mail clients, RSS readers, IM programs or even disconnect from the internet if you won’t need it. One quick distraction can lead to many others, so don’t leave anything open that you don’t absolutely need.

There are applications that can black out everything but your current workspace (Think, a free application for Macs from Freeverse, is one example) but I don’t find these to be particularly useful. If you do use these, bear in mind that they’re not an excuse to leave distracting applications open, they’re just one more level of security for your focus.

Threaten Yourself: You’ve probably noticed that it’s a lot easier to do things when someone of authority, a teacher or boss perhaps, or someone you like has told you to do it. This can make tasks for work or school relatively easy to finish but it doesn’t help any with personal projects.

One way to help gain initiative is to set a clear deadline for yourself. This may be helpful to some, but, quite frankly, it’s pretty easy to blow yourself off. Next, you may want to ask a family member (preferably someone such as a parent or spouse that you respect enough to do what they say) to set a deadline for you. If even this doesn’t help, you’ll need to get serious. Have that same family member give you a deadline and impose some sort of consequence if you don’t meet it. With your reality TV on the line, you should have a much easier time getting to work.
Judge Judy
Inspire Yourself: Although this isn’t strictly a tip for getting things done when you’re right up against a deadline, it can be really handy for making sure things never get down to the wire in the first place. Make sure that whenever inspiration hits (it visits everyone from time to time) you run with it. If you don’t get things done when you’re really ready and rearing to go, you’ll have a much harder time doing them later when the inspiration passes. Don’t even say “I’ll do it when this show is over” because you won’t. Turn off Judge Judy and do it that instant, you’ll thank yourself later. That said, you can’t always whip out your laptop and spend an hour or two working away. If this is the case, make sure you write your idea(s) down in great detail and get back to them later.

This post was written by Sidney Clark (A.K.A. Gnome) of End Kvetch, a blog about Macs, productivity and general stuff.


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