Tackle your to-do list STAT with these easy tips
Sure, you have to practice for your piano recital. But you can do it later—there’s an ANTM marathon on. Sound familiar? You may think you’re a master of pulling things off at the last minute but, sooner or later, procrastinating will cause some big probs. Here are five simple steps to tackle your to-do list in a timely way.
BREAK IT UP
Your teacher assigned a report on The Scarlet Letter at the start of the quarter and you’ve yet to crack the book—hey, you’ve still got a week, right? Not a masterful move, says Dr. Neil Fiore, author of The Now Habit: A Strategic Program for Overcoming Procrastination and Enjoying Guilt-Free Play.
“You can’t skip to the future where the project is finished, but you can start working on it now.” Get the ball rolling on an assignment as soon as you can with short stints of work, starting with 15- to 30-minute periods. Breaking up the big projects will make everything seem more doable—and mean much less stress for you. After all, it’s easier to be motivated when you’re not freaked out by an overwhelming amount of work.
TIME IT RIGHT
Energy gives you the ability to do work, so try doing the bulk of tasks when you have the most of it. Everyone’s internal clock is different, so figure out when you’re the sharpest. You’re an efficient early bird? Memorize those lines while eating your Cheerios instead of going through the motions while half asleep at night. Or use the momentum of a post- school day buzz to crank through flash cards or practice your jazz routine once you get home.
KEEP THE FOCUS
Even if you have the best intentions to get an early start, motivation can melt when you’re dealing with distractions. So eliminate potential pitfalls by shutting down Facebook and turning off your cell and TV while you work.
But know that it’s OK to take a break—especially if you’re not accomplishing anything and your concentration is crumbling. Grab some water or a non- sugary snack, stand up and do 10 jumping jacks to get your blood moving, or try some deep breathing exercises. (Dr. Fiore suggests three deep breaths in three parts. “Inhale, hold and tighten muscles, exhale as you float down into your chair.”) Just avoid logging onto Twitter or texting your friends, which can instantly cause your brain to bust out of work-mode.
PUT YOUR EYES ON A PRIZE
Think you don’t have the willpower to stay focused without fumbling? Give yourself a bigger boost by rewarding yourself for every met deadline. Sure, cleaning your entire room may be one big pain, but hitting the mall with the girls afterward will be twice as nice. For every four phone calls you make for a potential summer babysitting gig, buy a new song on iTunes.
Finally figured out how to get things done ahead of time? Keep up the momentum by staying organized: Use a planner and fill it up with future tasks to tackle over the next few weeks. (Make sure to leave some free time, too.)
Dr. Fiore says that letting yourself have a little fun will only make you more serious about studying. “If you don’t procrastinate on your social life, your work will be easier and of higher quality,” he says. Simply put: Make work and play tops on your to-dos. It’ll give you that extra push to succeed, moving right on past all those procrastinators.
How do you prevent procrastination? Let us know below!