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Tips on How to Stop Wasting Time

written by: Profacgillies•edited by: Ronda Bowen•updated: 7/6/2011

We all procrastinate, particularly when the work seems boring or of little value. What happens of course is that these jobs get put off, work builds up and leads to even less time later on. This can then lead to stress. Here are a few tips on how to stop avoiding the things you don’t want to do

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    One of the ways that we put ourselves under pressure is that we put off the things we don’t want to do. Unfortunately, these things don’t go away. They just sit there, and the knowledge that we haven’t dealt with them simply gnaws away at us, adding to our sense of stress.

    I used to run a course for distance learning students, and they were all busy employed people, who were trying to fit their studies in around demanding jobs and probably busy family lives as well. In the study tips section about time management, it said:

    "Before you put off this week's task, ask yourself why you will be able to fit in better next week when you’ve got next weeks tasks as well."

    Tough but necessary.

    So here are some strategies that can help you overcome your reluctance to get started.

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    Strategies that can help you stop avoiding the things you don’t want to do

    Find something you want to do even less

    This may seem perverse, but I use it often with some success. If there’s something you don’t want to do, look at your to do list and find something that looks worse. For example, like many educators, reviewing student work is not my favorite part of my role. So faced with a pile of student scripts I have to find something I like even less, say tidying up my office, and avoid doing that instead to get myself started on the marking.

    Break down the task in smaller parts

    The hardest part is getting started. Break down the overall task in smaller chunks. For example, faced with 100 student scripts, take them in groups of ten. Immediately, the task does not seem so impossible and each ten completed is a success.

    Reward Yourself

    If this is not enough, reward yourself at the end of each smaller block either with a treat (eg cup of coffee, chocolate cookie, or even a walk around the garden). Alternatively, alternate these smaller blocks of activity with tasks which are more appealing as your reward.

    Set A Time Limit

    Define when you will finish working on the task. This has two incentives. The first is that you can console yourself that by a certain time, you will be doing something that is more fun. More subtlety, you may find yourself working harder to complete the time by your allocated finish time to ensure that you don’t have to return to it another day. (This is effectively something you want to do less than what you are already doing)

    Keep Focused On What Is Important

    Most of the alternatives we find to avoid doing what we don’t want to do are urgent but not important. You can read more about the difference at

    Remember why what you are doing is important, or if it isn’t, maybe it is ok to avoid it.

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    Wasting time and putting off what we don’t want to is something that we are often very good at. It is an occupational hazard for home workers or those with a high degree of autonomy in their job roles. Therefore, it is essential to proactively manage our time to avoid excessive procrastination