And you have lots of company. After all, it's tempting to think, "I'll get to that tomorrow" and do something you'd rather spend time on instead. Most people procrastinate at least occasionally, but if it's interfering with your ability to perform at the level you're capable of and accomplish the things you want to do, it's time to take action.
These seven tips can help you combat procrastination:
1. Think about the consequences of not doing the work sooner. Putting off work means you might end up missing a deadline, doing a halfhearted job, letting someone down or staying up all night to finish a project. It could also affect the way you're seen professionally or in your personal life. Make sure you think about these consequences. Your might find that simply reminding yourself of how miserable you'll be cramming to finish something at the last minute can be enough to get you to start working on it earlier.
2. Resolve to work in small chunks. With procrastination, the hardest part is often just getting started. Tell yourself that you're going to sit down and work on a project for just a small chunk of time – one hour, or even just 15 minutes. Much of the time, you'll end up working longer than that because getting started is the hardest part, and it's easier to get started if it doesn't feel like you're making an enormous time commitment.
3. Set yourself interim deadlines. Break projects into pieces and resolve to get one piece done per day (or per week or whatever makes sense for you). For instance, rather than just think, "I have to clean out the whole filing system," decide to do one file drawer a day. While the entirety of a large project can be intimidating enough that it feels easier to put it off, it's much harder to be intimidated by a small piece of the project.
4. Don't strive for perfection. It's a lot harder to get started on a task when you think the work needs to be perfect. So don't even aim for great – just aim to get the work started. For example, if you have to write a report, sit down with the goal of simply getting words on paper without worrying about how good they are. You can go back and revise later, which will be a lot easier once you have something to work from.
5. Enlist a partner. If you have a friend or co-worker who also struggles with procrastination, agree to help each other out. Jointly commit to spending one hour each working on whatever you've been putting off, and then check in on each other at the end of the hour to ensure you each kept your commitment.
6. Commit to deadlines. Tell your boss you're going to have that report draft to her by Wednesday, even if there wasn't previously a deadline attached to it, or announce publicly to your team that you'll have the new filing system ready this week. Of course, don't do this unless you trust in your ability to follow through – otherwise you could end up as a procrastinator and someone who doesn't meet commitments.
7. Create rewards for yourself. Don't let yourself watch the next episode of that TV series you're binge-watching until you complete half an hour of work on the project you've been putting off – but then reward yourself with a guilt-free viewing. You can also reward yourself with a walk, a cupcake or whatever else motivates you.
Alison Green writes the popular Ask a Manager blog, where she dispenses advice on career, job search, and management issues. She's also the co-author of Managing to Change the World: The Nonprofit Manager's Guide to Getting Results, and former chief of staff of a successful nonprofit organization, where she oversaw day-to-day staff management, hiring, firing, and employee development.