Nellie Akalp is the CEO of CorpNet.com, an online legal document filing service, where she helps entrepreneurs incorporate or form an LLC for their new businesses. Connect with Nellie on Twitter or visit her free resource center.
There may be an endless array of digital distractions today, but we can’t blame our tendency to procrastinate solely on Instagram and Facebook. Long before social media and gadgets like iPads were dubbed a distraction, people were very good at pushing aside tasks for another day.
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For many, mild procrastination is harmless. But for others, procrastination can be a major stumbling block, particularly in today’s growing freelance economy. Consider a freelancer whose paycheck is tied to productivity, or an entrepreneur who wants to start a new business. In these cases, procrastination can be costly.
If you find yourself battling the urge to put important items off, here are five simple tips to get something done today.
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1. Don’t Wait for Perfection
Perfectionist tendencies will derail your progress. When you wait for every detail to be 'just right' you’ll end up spending too much time on a particular task and your other responsibilities will suffer. More importantly, things will never be completed, because perfection really doesn’t exist.
To make anything happen, you can’t wait for perfection. Use the 80/20 rule instead. That means that if your website or blog post is 80% there, take a deep breath and go live. So what if there are little glitches here and there. Take those glitches and build on what you learn. Remember, taking action is better than not taking action.
2. Create a Sense of Urgency
Have you ever wondered why you can be really productive when you’re facing a tight deadline, but a simple task can take you hours to complete? You’ve probably chalked this up to working well under pressure. However, it could also be Parkinsons Law, which basically states that a task will expand to fill the time you can give it. So, if you have a full afternoon to send a few emails, that’s probably just how long it will take you.
Try to combat this phenomenon by imposing your own specific deadlines for certain tasks, and then make the most of the extra time (even if it’s for something fun).
3. Break a Large Project into Little Tasks
Procrastination often results when you’re overwhelmed by the enormity of a task. Staring at a task like “start a business” or “launch a website” on your to-do list can seem a little daunting. Success depends on your ability to break down a big project into a series of smaller steps, ones that you can actually act on.
If you find yourself failing to make headway on something, break it down into the smallest tasks possible. Then assign each task to a day on the calendar (even if it’s just for 15 minutes one day). With each small task you complete, you’ll be gaining momentum and getting a psychological boost as you see progress.
4. Work With Your Natural Rhythms and Habits
The saying “early to bed, early to rise” doesn’t necessarily apply to everyone. Some people are morning people. Others are night owls. The key is to understand when your personal “productivity hours” are and take advantage of them for the most difficult, or high-priority tasks. For example, if you’re a morning person, use the early hours to tackle one of your most challenging tasks.
And if you find yourself stuck, change your environment. Go work at the café for an hour, or brainstorm at the park. A change in scenery can spark new ideas and give you newfound focus.
5. Conduct a Time Audit
Ever finish up the day and wonder where your time went? If you’re self-employed or starting a business, it’s critical to understand exactly how you’re using your time. Every so often, conduct a detailed audit of your day and keep track of what you did and how long it took. These audits can reveal great insights into your daily workflow and can help you make adjustments where needed.
And just remember that all work and no play isn’t healthy for anyone. One of the best ways to battle procrastination is to give yourself some time off. The key here is to make both your work time and free time count. That’s where the time audit comes in. Look to eliminate busy work wherever possible. It’s not accomplishing anything and won’t recharge your batteries. Replace busy work with something that you truly enjoy. You’ll not only end up being happier, but will get motivated to get something done as well.
This story originally published on Mashable here.