Hi, I’m Jen, and I’m a procrastinator. (And I’ve been meaning to write this editorial for a while.)

In the past, the tendency to wait till the last second to write a story was actually a positive trait that helped me make a small name for myself as a fast-paced online community journalist who could churn out a story in 20 minutes and scoop the big newspapers and TV channels. I thrived on the adrenaline rush that came with being the first to break a big story.

These days, I find myself doing a lot of work ahead of time for my stories, since HVAC reporting generally requires much more time and research on the front end. However, in my personal life, procrastination continues to be a constant character flaw. (Just ask my fiancé about the mountain of things I still have to take care of before our wedding later this month.)

Much of my problem is that I get distracted and don’t stay on task very long, and I know I’m not the only one with this issue. Maybe you also have a tendency to wait till the last minute to do payroll, prepare for staff meetings, execute performance reviews, schedule training, and so on. Perhaps it affects your business, and perhaps not, but it’s likely causing you some stress at work or at home. Luckily, there are things you can do to break the procrastination cycle.


Here are six simple things you can do to help you stay on task and accomplish your goals:

• Get rid of distractions — If your smartphone distracts you, silence it or put it on airplane mode. If the things around you are distracting you, consider a change of location. Find out what diverts your attention away from the tasks at hand and get rid of them.

• Set specific goals — Now that you’ve eliminated distractions, you have to figure out exactly what it is you’re trying to accomplish. Set detailed goals for yourself, and put them in writing. Better yet, tell someone else about your goals to increase accountability.

• Give yourself a deadline — Once you’ve clarified your goals, set deadlines by which to complete your tasks (and put that in writing, too). “Map out all of your deadlines on one calendar — that way, you’ll see that your tasks are all interrelated,” wrote Business Insider’s Vivian Giang. “If your task today affects your task tomorrow, you’ll experience an ‘urgency to act.’”

• Take it one step at a time — If your task is much larger (like planning for a wedding), breaking it into smaller pieces can help. “The bigger your goal or the change you want to make, the more quickly it can send you into overwhelm,” wrote Forbes contributor Margie Warrell. “So, if your goal feels daunting, break it into manageable, bite-sized steps.”

• Just do it — Once you’ve figured out your goals and deadlines and eliminated potential distractions, you need to sit down and just do it. “At the end, it boils down to taking action,” wrote Lifehack.org’s Celestine Chua. “You can do all the strategizing, planning, and hypothesizing, but if you don’t take action, nothing’s going to happen.”

• Reward yourself for a job well done — Finally, when you’ve finished a task, make sure to reward yourself. “Treat yourself to a coffee break or a quick chat with a coworker once you’ve finished a task,” wrote Harvard Business Review’s Amy Gallo. “You can also embed the reward into the task itself by making it more fun to do. Work with someone on a particularly difficult project or set up a game for yourself so that doing the task isn’t so boring or onerous.”

Following these simple steps can help you end the procrastination cycle, which will only have a positive impact on your professional and personal lives.

Publication date: 8/10/2015 

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