1. Think on paper. Prepare thoroughly. List every step of the job in advance. Break the job down into its constituent parts before you begin. Simply writing out every detail and thoroughly preparing in advance will help you to overcome procrastination and get started.

  2. Gather all the materials and work tools that you will need before you begin. When you sit down to work or to begin a task, make sure that you have everything at hand so that you won’t have to get up or move until the task is done. Being fully prepared is a powerful motivator for staying with the task until it is finished.

  3. Do one small thing to get started. There is an 80/20 rule that says that the first 20 percent of the task often accounts for 80 percent of the value of that task. This is probably what Confucius meant when he said that, ‘‘A journey of 1,000 leagues begins with a single step.’’ Once you have taken even one small step to start the job, you will often find yourself continuing on with the task to completion.

  4. ‘‘Salami slice’’ the task. Just as you would never try to eat a whole loaf of salami at once, don’t try to take on all of a job from the start. Sometimes the best way to complete a major job is to take a small slice and complete just that piece, just as you would take a single slice of salami and eat it.

    When you select a small piece of the task and then discipline yourself to do it and get it behind you, it will often give you the momentum you need to counter inertia and overcome procrastination.

  5. Practice the Swiss cheese technique. Just as a block of Swiss cheese is full of holes, you treat your task like a block of cheese and you punch holes in it. Select a five-minute part of the job and do only that. Don’t worry about the whole job. For example, if you want to write an article or a book, break the task down into small pieces that take an identifiable amount of time to complete and do just one small piece at a time whenever you get a chance. Many authors begin by writing one page a day. If you are doing research, you can read one article per sitting. Many people write complete books on airplanes, or complete their college degrees with snatches of time between other activities. If you wrote one page a day for a year, you would have a 365-page book by the end of the year.

  6. Start from the outside and complete the smaller tasks first. Often there are preparatory steps you must take before you can tackle the main part of the job. In that case, starting from the outside by doing all the little tasks first will help you to overcome procrastination, and it will get you started on the big tasks.

  7. Start from the inside and do the larger tasks first. This is the opposite of suggestion number six. Look over your list of everything that you have to do to complete the job and ask yourself, ‘‘What is the biggest single task on this list?’’ What is the one item that will take the most time or require the most effort? Discipline yourself to start with that item, and stay with it until it is complete. All the other, smaller tasks on the list will then seem easier by comparison.

  8. Do the task that causes you the most fear or anxiety. Often, it has to do with overcoming the fear of failure or rejection by someone else. In sales, it may be associated with prospecting. In management, it may be associated with disciplining or firing an employee. In relationships, this may have to do with confronting an unhappy personal situation. In every case, you will be more effective if you deal first with whatever is causing you the greatest emotional distress or fear. Often this will break the logjam in your work and free you up mentally and emotionally to complete all your other tasks.

  9. Start your day with the most unpleasant task first. Get it over with and behind you. Everything else for the rest of the day will seem easier in comparison.

    A recent study compared two groups of people. One group started an exercise program in the morning. The second group started an exercise program in the evenings after work. The researchers found that the morning exercisers were much more likely to still be in the program six months later. Starting the day with exercise was much more likely to lead to the habit of regular exercise than putting it off until the end of the day when it was easier to make excuses and procrastinate.

    Mark Twain once wrote that, ‘‘The first thing you should do when you get up each morning is to eat a live frog; then you will have the satisfaction of knowing that that is probably the worst thing that can happen to you all day long.’’

    Your ‘‘live frog’’ is your biggest, most difficult, most unpleasant task. When you start and finish this task before doing anything else, you will have the satisfaction of knowing that the rest of your day is going to proceed much more smoothly.

  10. Think about the negative consequences of not doing the job or completing the task. What will happen to you if this job is not done on schedule? Both fear and desire are great motivators of human behavior. Sometimes you can motivate yourself by the desire for the benefits and rewards of task completion.

    Sometimes you can motivate yourself into action by thinking about the negative consequences and what will happen to you if the job isn’t completed as promised.

  11. Think about how you will benefit from doing the job and completing the task.

    Write down all the reasons why it would be helpful for you to get this job done on time. The more reasons you have for completing the task, the more intense will be your desire to begin, and the greater will be your internal drive to complete what you’ve started.

    If you have one or two reasons for getting a job done, you will have a mild level of motivation. But if you have ten or twenty reasons for completing the job, your level of motivation will be considerably higher, and so will be your persistence and selfdiscipline.

  12. Set aside fifteen minutes during the day when you will work on your project. Set aside a specific time—say, from 10:00 to 10:15 A.M., or 2:00 to 2:15 P.M.—and resolve just to work for that brief fifteen-minute period without worrying about anything else. This technique will launch you into the task so that completion will be much more likely.

    To get the most out of this technique, you must make an appointment with yourself and write it down. Then, at the designated time, have your tools and materials at hand and begin the fifteen-minute work session. At the end of the fifteen minutes, you may want to continue to work. If not, put the work aside and schedule another fifteen-minute appointment at another time. And then keep your appointment with yourself.

  13. Resist the tendency toward perfectionism. Since perfectionism is a major reason for procrastination, decide not to worry about doing the job perfectly. Just get started and work steadily. You can always go back and make corrections and revisions later. Nothing worthwhile has ever been done perfectly the first time anyway.

    Not long ago, a friend of mind started a consulting business. I asked him how it was going. He said he had not done anything yet because it was going to take a full month before he got his brochures, business cards, and letterhead back from the printer. I told him that his brochures, letterhead, and business cards would never get him a nickel’s worth of business. What he should do is write his new telephone number on the back of his existing business cards, or get some cards made up at a quick copy center, and then just get out and talk to prospective clients. I told him that this would do him more good than all the brochures he would ever design.

    He phoned me a week later and told me that this advice had transformed his thinking about himself and his business. He had started calling on prospective customers that very day and was already doing business and making money.

  14. Pick one area where procrastination is hurting you. Select-a single identifiable area where you know your tendency to procrastinate is holding you back. Pick the most important area, and resolve to conquer that specific example of procrastination. Set your priorities, and then concentrate single-mindedly on the one area where overcoming procrastination can make the greatest contribution to your success. Always attack the most difficult tasks first. Challenge yourself to confront the hardest parts of your work, and then get them done before anything else.

  15. Develop a compulsion for closure. Once you have launched and begun to work on your task, refuse to stop until it is completed. When you develop the discipline to start a major task and then stay with it until it is finished, you will be laying down the foundation for a life of persistent, purposeful work. Force yourself to finish the last 5 percent of the job. That is the part that is worth all the rest in terms of personal satisfaction.

    It is amazing, and somewhat sad, the number of people who overcome procrastination sufficiently enough to get started on a task, but they never carry it through to completion. As they get closer and closer to the end of the task, they find more and more reasons and excuses to put off the last 5 percent or 10 percent of the job. This is the reason most university theses and dissertations to complete masters or doctoral degrees never get completed and submitted. A person may spend years of study in college and leave without the degree because he was unable to push through and complete the last 5 percent or 10 percent.

    You only experience the joy, satisfaction, and exhilaration of finishing the task when you bring it to completion. As you wrap up the last detail, you feel a tremendous sense of relief and accomplishment. Your brain releases endorphins, and you get a surge of happiness. But this is only possible when you complete the task 100 percent.

  16. Maintain a fast tempo. Fast tempo is essential to success. Resolve to work at a brisk pace. Walk quickly. Move quickly. Write fast. Act quickly. Get on with the job. Consciously decide to speed up all of your habitual actions.

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