We all know what a problem procrastination can be on our productivity. According to Dr. Edward M. (“Ned”) Hallowell, “we procrastinate because we all have too much to do, and we want to dodge things we don’t like.” A Harvard Business Review article summarizes experts’ opinions, including Dr. Hallowell’s, in these five principals to follow to avoid deferring important work:
Figure out what’s holding you back: Once you’ve identified the reason, you can break the cycle. There are two types of tasks most often deferred: The ones you don’t like, and the ones you don’t know how to do.
Set deadlines: Break the project down into manageable segments, and assign deadline for each piece. Adding appointments in your calendar will help you address these segment each day, which in turn contributes to your sense of progress. Use Post-It notes whatever visual cues will ensure you don’t avoid the project.
Increase the rewards: We often dally because the reward is too far off. Focus on short-term rewards, and if there aren’t any, insert your own. Treat yourself to a coffee break, or a quick chat with a co-worker once you’ve finished a task. You can also embed the reward, like working with someone on a particularly difficult project or setting up a game for yourself so that doing the task isn’t so boring or onerous.
Involve others: One of the principles Dr. Hallowell often repeats is “Never worry alone.” Turn to a trusted colleague or a friend for advice, ask them to review your work, and even enter an anti-procrastination pact: hold each other accountable to deadlines.
Get in the habit: Hallowell says that he used to be a procrastinator but trained himself to stop. “I don’t procrastinate at all now. Putting it off doesn’t make it go away. Getting it done does,” he says. There are immediate benefits when you start getting things done right away, and it’s a habit you can cultivate. Try noting the progress you make each day, and see yourself, and talk about yourself with others, as someone who gets things done.
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To read the entire article, which includes two case studies, please click here.
A graduate of Harvard College and Tulane School of Medicine, Edward M. (“Ned”) Hallowell is a child and adult psychiatrist and the founder of The Hallowell Center for Cognitive and Emotional Health. He was a member of the faculty of the Harvard Medical School from 1983 to 2004. He is considered to be one of the foremost experts on the topic of ADHD. He is the co-author, with Dr. John Ratey, of Driven to Distraction, and Answers to Distraction, which have sold more than a million copies. In 2005, Drs. Hallowell and Ratey released their much-awaited third book on ADHD, Delivered from Distraction. It provides updated information on the treatment of ADHD and more on adult ADHD. In his most recent book, Shine: Using Brain Science to Get the Best from Your People book (2011), Hallowell draws on brain science, performance research, and his own experience helping people maximize their potential to present a proven process for getting the best from your people.