As freelancers we face the full range of entrepreneurial responsibilities. From PR and marketing to project management and accounting. Most of us even have to buy our own office supplies and restock the breakroom. It is not surprising that tasks we find difficult in some way can trigger procrastination when we face so many demands.
Luckily, there are tools we can use and systems we can put in place that help us prioritize and stay on top of those tough challenges.
1. Pick a task that you consistently put off.
No matter how big or small the job, if something triggers your procrastination and makes you fall behind, it can be addressed in the following steps.
By the way, make sure that you actually have to do it. We sometimes waste time on chores that are not necessary, could be delegated or done less often.
2. Accept that this particular task is difficult for you – no shame and no blame.
This can be hard because as humans we seem to have a built-in tendency to compare ourselves. When others take in stride what seems overwhelming to us, self-doubt sets in.
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Just remember that many things you excel at are other people's Achilles heel. You might as well embrace your particular challenge without guilt or comparison.
3. Determine when a challenging job is due.
Often the deadline is very concrete and easy to identify. Whenever other people such as clients or colleague are involved, double check with them when the work needs to be finished.
If the task doesn't have a specific due date, pick one yourself. Because uncertainty about timelines can increase avoidance behavior, this step is very important.
4. Estimate the time it will take you to finish the task.
One big trigger for delays is overestimating the time it takes to do something that seems quite dreadful like taxes. In reality, many chores that are emotionally or practically difficult don't take more than a few hours.
If the task requires more time, always break it down into smaller chunks of no more than two hours at a time. Work modules of 30-120 minutes are ideal for larger projects.
5. Determine when you have high enough energy to tackle difficult tasks.
Think about how you feel throughout the day and identify peak energy times. Those are the hours of the day that are most productive.
Use those high-energy periods to do all the things that require concentration, emotional fortitude or physical strength. What's easy can be achieved at all other times.
6. Schedule that demanding task on your calendar and add alarms.
We are used to blocking out time for appointments and bigger projects. When it comes to small tasks, we often forget to put them down on paper.
But no matter how small a chore, if you tend to postpone doing it, it's crucial to assign a specific time and date to do it. Don't forget to add an alarm, so you'll be reminded when to start.
7. Make that difficult task a priority.
If you are like me, your calendar looks either dismally empty or so overwhelming that it can be hard to think. I'm in very busy period right now and despite my best efforts, some things I scheduled on my calendar have to go.
As tempting as it might be to postpone bothersome tasks, prioritize the things that are challenging unless something of greater importance needs your attention and you can easily reschedule them.
8. Face emotional blocks head-on.
When we experience a job as demanding, there are often emotional components to the challenge. Dislike, fear, perfectionism or resentment rear their ugly heads.
Whatever feeling is creeping up, don't push it aside because it will return in even greater force later. Be as still as you can, consciously breathe and observe the emotions – don't react to them. Once the intensity abates, slowly go back to the difficult job.
9. Always reward yourself after finishing a difficult task.
To recondition your responses, attach positive experiences to challenging work. Imagine you finish that finicky job and you immediately follow it with something you deeply enjoy.
After a while, you'll anticipate both negative and positive emotions connected to the chore and will be much easier to get it done.
Beyond Procrastination: How to Stop Postponing Your Life
by Renate Reímann Ph.D.
About the Author
Renate Reímann, PhD, is founder of FreshLife Coaching, helping clients overcome procrastination issues and achieve greater confidence and productivity. Her recently released book, Beyond Procrastination: How to Stop Postponing Your Life (FreshLife Coaching 2015), offers concrete steps to move individuals past problematic behaviors to achievement and success. Learn more at www.freshlifecoaching.com.
Watch a video: Moving Beyond Procrastination (with Renate Reimann)