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Just do it: 6 practical tips to stop procrastination.

All this time you thought you were the king or queen of procrastination. Oh no, my friends – that crown belongs to me.

I am an expert procrastinator, which makes it very difficult to have a job where deadlines are crucial and inflexible. Add to that the challenges of running and raising a family and procrastination is incredibly, frustratingly destructive.

So why do we do it?

Procrastination, stalling, putting things off until the last minute…it’s not due to laziness. It’s because the task at hand is either unpleasant or seemingly insurmountable. However, nothing is as unpleasant as letting someone down. And nothing is as insurmountable as trying to get something difficult done at the last minute.

Just as an FYI, you should know that this post is sponsored by Microsoft. But all opinions expressed by the author are 100 per cent authentic and written in their own words.

Working on my habit of procrastination is a work in progress. Some days and weeks are better than others. All it takes is a few tips and tricks, a tool box if you will, to leave procrastination in the dust of productivity.

Make an appointment with yourself.

In fact, there are six tools I’m going to hand to you – and they all work wonders. Use one, use two or do as I do and use them all:

1. Make an appointment with yourself and keep it.

The first step in cracking this procrastination game is to make an appointment with yourself. Start with a list. What are the tasks you constantly avoid? Exercising, cleaning, paying bills, working…Write down your main offenders and then schedule them in.

At the schedule time, go to those tasks and at least attempt them. Even if you fail to complete the set task, it doesn’t matter.

By making an appointment with yourself you’re at least attempting to get things done in a timely manner. And most days you’ll surprise yourself with how much you get done.

2. Don’t try and do it all at once. Just commit to a few minutes.

Sitting outside for just a few minutes can do wonders.

If turning up to complete an entire task is just too much for your frazzled brain, then break it up into steps. At first you might just do a few sets of push ups for exercise and go for a walk later. Or you might pay some urgent bills or take some notes about a work project and do the rest later.

Breaking tasks you procrastinate over into simple, less time consuming steps stops you from avoiding them because they suddenly seem more achievable.

A trick I use when I am really stuck on something or really don’t want to do it is to go for a short stroll and think about it. Even sitting outside for a few minutes can help. Step away, have a think for a few minutes and then get started. Then, if you need to step away again, do, but just for short time.
You’ll be fresher and happier to get it done if you break it up like this.

3. Make a ‘To Do’ list, or several.

Check it off!

I have become a prolific list maker. They are on bits of paper on my fridge, on my phone and on my computer. I email them to myself, I text myself, and I make them on the OneNote app so I can take them with me everywhere.

I also set heaps of reminders up on my iPhone, with alarms and everything – because ‘To Do’ lists are lifesavers. By listing down everything you need to do you can clearly see what you need to do urgently and what can wait. Then you can focus on those things that really need doing.

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I have now organised my ‘To Do’ list habit a bit more by sitting down each night with a cup of tea and write out what I want to achieve the following day. That way nothing is forgotten. And by listing everything, I can mentally prepare myself to actually get through them.

4. Make it fun.

Music to my ears.

There are certain tasks I hate to do and will do anything to avoid – catching up on correspondence, clearing out all my email inboxes, folding laundry, ironing, all cleaning – so I try and make it fun for myself.

I have all my tasks assigned to certain days of the week and sometimes I do them, but not without a bit of help.

I’ve taken to listening to music and documentaries when I need to get something done on my computer or just sit down and pay bills. I do laundry in front of the TV. At the moment I am working my way through the TV show Entourage.

Make it fun with music and entertainment and you are more likely to give it a go, or have fun trying.

5. Plan a reward.

If there are things I really, really need to get done – uni assignments, applications, work stuff – I plan a reward before I even begin.

What do you consider a good reward for getting things done? For me it’s lunch with friends or getting a pedicure.

The best rewards are those that need an appointment, because that becomes your deadline for getting tasks done. Imagine how much more you’ll enjoy your lunch or pedicure knowing you achieved exactly what you wanted to achieve? Think of how happy you will be.

So sit down and come up with a handful of ways for rewarding yourself and book them in.

6. Make it a habit.

Nothing beats a good cuppa.

When I need to sit down and get work done on my computer, I always get a cup of coffee and a glass of lemon water. I sit down next to my computer with my beverages and because I do this every single day, it now triggers my brain to switch into work mode.

The taste of coffee and lemon water just gets all those signals firing and I get things done. This doesn’t work straight away but if you make it a habit, it will soon do the trick.

So think of a couple of beverages, even your favourite chewing gum and when it’s time to sit down and do some work or pay some bills set them up first. If you repeat this every day then the taste, smell and sensation of your choice of healthy treat will trigger productivity.

Also, it’s best to stick to healthy drinks and snacks. We can all get work done while eating Tim Tams, but that will create another problem, won’t it? Put the Tim Tams away.

What do you do when you feel yourself procrastinating?

Healthy treats are the perfect trigger for productivity. Here are some of our favoruite snacks that get us through the day:

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Learn how Office 365 can help you and your family get things done: http://office.microsoft.com/en-au/office365home/ 

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