Your boss doesn’t care that you’d rather be sitting in a hammock, eating leftover BBQ instead of sitting at your desk and struggling to meet a deadline. That means that you have to power through the urge to procrastinate and get to work. Here are a few tricks to help you do it:
1. Put money on it.
What if missing a deadline meant that you’d be forced to donate money to a charity you absolutely hated? StickK can make it happen. The process is simple: you select a goal, set the stakes, and pick a friend to referee. Fail to meet your self-defined commitment, and say goodbye to the cash.
“You can select other options and you don’t have to put in money, but c’mon, go big or go home!” writes Gregory Ciotti at Lifehacker. “Also, can you honestly think of a better way to get yourself to take action than an impending deadline that will send your hard-earned cash to an organization you despise? What if you knew that $50 was headed to a place like the Westboro Baptist Church if you don’t get that new wireframe/article/logo finished? I rest my case!”
Of course, if you feel like you have enough apps in your life already, you can always do it on your own, although it still makes sense to get friends involved, if you want to make sure you’re not going to cheat.
2. Harness the “Goal Looms Larger Effect.”
Do you find yourself constantly putting off the smaller items on your to-do list, until the sight of all those seemingly meaningless tasks weighs you down and saps your motivation? Reframe those smaller items in the context of the larger goal, and you’ll feel more motivated to get them done.
“This idea relates to the phenomenon known as the ‘Goal Looms Larger Effect,’” writes James Ullrich at Psychology Today. “Researchers have long since established that motivation to reach a goal increases the closer one actually gets to achieving it. This results from an unconscious action in our brain which removes blockages to our energy when we realize that a goal is indeed attainable and that our finite resources of focus and energy will likely not be wasted in pursuit of it.”
3. Settle for good enough.
“Perfection is the enemy,” Sheryl Sandberg says. And yet, if you care about your work, you want to get it right—right?
The goal here is to remember that getting it right doesn’t mean getting it perfect. You don’t work in a vacuum, and your projects are not going to turn out differently in reality than they would if you had endless time and resources. Don’t wait for things to be perfect. Settle for close-to-perfect, and move on to the next.
4. Use the “(10+2)*5” method.
Sometimes, you just don’t have it in you to put your head down and work for a solid hour or so. That’s OK. Working in shorter sprints can be just as effective, provided that you string enough of these sprints together.
Years ago, at 43 Folders, Merlin Mann outlined his “(10+2)*5” procrastination hack. Basically:
Work for 10 minutes without a break. No checking email, no noodling around on social media, no staring out the window. Just work.
Take two minutes off to do whatever you want.
Do this five times in a row.
5. Work with yourself, not against yourself.
If you’ve tried all these tricks, and nothing’s helping, it might be time to throw in the towel. Can’t afford to take the day off, or even skip out of the office for a 10-minute break? Switch projects. As they say, a change can be as good as a rest.