Most every tax client I work with intends to file their tax return on time. Then they avoid doing what they fully intended–yet never fully committed–to get done. The size of the task overwhelms them. It’s as if they implode emotionally and shut down. How about you? Ever find yourself stuck in procrastination? Here’s 5 sure-fire steps to overcome procrastination and get important projects done, on time, every time.
- Set small goals. It’s common for procrastinators to set huge goals, get down on themselves when they don’t hit the mark, and then get addicted to their own disappointment. Don’t do this to yourself. Rather than setting out to do the whole job done in one day, be realistic. Break the job down into smaller, daily tasks. Maybe today’s task is to locate and gather all the forms (W-2s, 1099s) and receipts you need to file your return. Then tomorrow you can total up all the income and expense receipts for your rental property, your business, or your medical costs. In just a few days, working 20 minutes a day on smaller goals, you’ll gain the momentum and confidence you need to complete the tasks required to finish up your return.
- Write things down. Being organized is a skill. “If you’re not organized”, writes Jeffrey Combs in his book The Procrastination Cure, “there’s a high probability that you’re rebelling against your own success”. Don’t let yourself become a rebellious procrastinator! Choose to get organized; start keeping lists. You might go low-tech (pen and notepad) or high-tech (Evernote, iPad, etc), but either way, you have to have a method. You can’t operate on a scrap of paper or back of a napkin. Create a system to keep your daily list of tasks to complete your project.
- Eliminate Distractions. Distractions are what keep us in procrastination mode. It may be as simple as Facebook and Twitter (“Squirrel!”) Or it may be more complex. We may even use work, family, or other responsibilities as an excuse. I don’t mean to downplay important responsibilities in life. The point is, we all have them. But filing taxes on time is important as well, and April 15th still comes for all of us. Often I hear people say “You don’t know my situation! My life is crazy right now; I just don’t have the time…”, as if they don’t get the same 24 hours a day that every other busy, responsible adult gets. It takes discipline to overcome procrastination, and it takes commitment to not let distractions hold you back.
- Become Reward Conscious. Don’t focus on the problem. Instead, go for the reward. By ‘reward’ I mean what you envision in the future. It’s the peace of mind knowing you’ve faced your fears, moved forward with courage, and fully completed an important project. No matter how big the task, if the reward is big enough, and you’re passionate enough about it, there’s a high probability that you will overcome your procrastination and produce the result you seek.
- Learn the Skill of Self Evaluation. On the outside, you procrastinate. On the inside, what’s the cause that creates the effect? Self-evaluation allows you to understand what’s going on inside you that keeps you stuck. Anger, guilt, resentment, abandonment, rejection, feelings of being overwhelmed–which of these emotions has the greatest you impact on you? Without self-evaluation, we have a tendency to point the finger at someone else. With it, you can adapt, change, and become the courageous, productive person you were born to be.
There you have it: 5 steps that help me get unstuck and overcome procrastination. How about you? Are there other steps or strategies you’ve found helpful? I’d love to hear them; please share your thoughts in the comments below.