We all do it. Procrastination is part of human nature. Even the very best accountants have days where they delay tackling the work that must inevitably be completed.
If you’ve ever felt like procrastination is a chronic illness you can’t shake, then you’re not alone! You can beat the urge to dilly-dally during work hours by using a simple behavior tactic.
Admission is the First Step
Before you can start to reverse an attitude prone to delay, you must admit that there is a problem in the first place. It’s like being an addict; you can’t get life changing help—the kind that makes a plausible difference—until you acknowledge and admit to the fact that there’s a problem.
Right now you’re thinking about your work and saying, “But I finish what I need to each day. How is that a procrastination problem?”
Procrastination comes in many forms. For example, do you tend to push certain tasks off until the last minute because you lack motivation or an interest in completing them? Perhaps you push these tasks off to accomplish less productive but more pleasant tasks?
Accountants are trusted with time sensitive and in-depth projects. If we put tasks off until the last minute, we run the risk of:
- Missing an important deadline
- Making stupid mistakes
- Not catching our mistakes
- Completing work that is less than acceptable
- Ruining client relationships
If you have a tendency to put projects off and then later rush to get them done, you have a procrastination problem.
Killing the Habit to Procrastinate
Procrastination is a habit. It isn’t something we learn overnight. It’s a pattern we fall into over a period of time.
Therefore, in order to kill the habit successfully, we must condition new behavior. This is the behavior tactic we are going to cover.
Conditioning new behavior may sound daunting, especially when you consider how busy you are. You can easily condition procrastination free behavior by following 5 easy steps:
- Create a to-do or task list. Every night, list everything you need to accomplish the next day. There should be about 6 1hr tasks. Next prioritize each task and assign a time when each one will get done. The most important should go earlier in the day to avoid running out of time. Also, don’t plan more than 6 hours of work because likely some tasks will run over or you’ll have unplanned interruptions. The key to this is doing it the night before, not the morning of, when you’ll be less likely to commit to the more dreaded tasks.
- Finish the hard stuff first. Tackle the really big and in-depth tasks first. Get them out of the way before you feel the urge to delay.
- Do five-minute tasks. When you hit a task that you just don’t want to do – tackle the aspects of the project that take a few minutes before diving into the rest. Your goal is to be productive with each five-minute task while feeling a sense of satisfaction upon completion.
- Take a break. If you can’t focus and are daydreaming, take a break. Give yourself 10 minutes to breathe, and then force yourself to finish the task.
- Banish distractions. Banish co-workers who like to chat. Eliminate distractions so that you are not tempted to remove your attention from the task at hand.
For more information on becoming more efficient, check out our ebook, Accounting Firm Owners: The 7 Secrets You Know To Increase Profits in 2014.
Every accountant experiences procrastination. By developing behavioral habits that promote productivity, you can focus your time and energy while lessening the temptation to put tasks off.