Even if you consider yourself to be a hopeless procrastinator, you can get help. How can I be so sure? Because I was born the world’s greatest procrastinator. (My mother claims that her pregnancy with me lasted 10 months—that I actually put off being born for a month.) As an adult, I converted. Now, I’m a “recovering procrastinator.” If I can change, you can, too.

The STING Strategy

Here are five steps to take the STING out of being overwhelmed. Doing any one of these steps will help you to stop putting things off, but when you put all five together, they form a powerful strategy that will help you to accomplish your top priority, no matter how many other priorities are nipping at you.

Where to start? You know that old expression “a journey of 10,000 miles begins with but a single step”? Your first step is the “S” of STING: select one task you’ve been putting off. You’re right, you can’t do everything, so do just one thing. If it has many components to it, keep narrowing it down. Break it into smaller tasks. Select just one task to do.

Now, the first thought that many really good procrastinators will have is, “Well, I’ve selected my task. Now I have to wait until I have a whole day free to work on it.” However, we all know that you’ll never, ever have a whole day free. You probably find it almost impossible to carve out a whole morning or afternoon as free time, but you can always find one free hour, right? Maybe not every day, but at least one hour a week.

Next, the “T” of STING is to time yourself. Buy an ordinary kitchen timer, and set it for one hour. Sometimes, people say that they can mentally time themselves, but the ticking of a timer adds a wonderful sense of urgency to the project.

Two Simple Rules

Even if you have attention problems or a difficult time focusing, you can stick to something for one hour, can’t you? During that time you can follow two simple rules to help you get the job done. The first one is to ignore everything else. Focus on doing just this one task.

This is the downfall of most procrastinators. They decide that today, they will accomplish this one task, but then they think that maybe they’ll first check their e-mail, then perhaps make one quick phone call, and next, it’s time to organize all the paper clutter in the area, and then one—just one—computer game. In the blink of an eye, 15 things are started, none are completed, and the procrastinator says, “Well, I was multitasking.” However, it’s not productive if nothing is completed.

Then, all of a sudden, time’s up. The procrastinator looks at the clock and says, “It’s too late to start this today. I better leave it ‘til tomorrow.” It’s a terrible rut to be in, but this rule will help you to stay out of that rut. For only one hour, ignore everything else.

Here’s the second rule to the STING strategy: no breaks allowed while the timer is ticking. To be honest, back in my procrastinating days, this is where I excelled . . . or, I should say, this is where I sabotaged myself. I could take a one-hour job and make it last 14 months because I was so terrific at taking breaks.

When I first incorporated these two rules into my strategy, I realized it was the very first time in my life that I did one hour of pure work, with no breaks and no goofing around starting a million other projects. These two rules will help you to accomplish an incredible amount of work.

The Power of Rewards

So, what do you do when the timer dings and your time is up? Your last step in this journey is the “G” of STING: give yourself a reward when the job is done. This is an important part of the strategy, but it also can be the hardest. You can probably identify rewards for your family, your customers, your boss and coworkers, and your friends, but many people never give any thought to what would make them happy.

As you start your journey to become a “recovering procrastinator,” list several rewards for you that would get you going on this project. Don’t cop out and say, “The satisfaction of completing the job is enough reward for me” because if it truly was, then why in heaven’s name were you putting it off in the first place?

Plan big rewards for big accomplishments, and little rewards for little ones. Of course, a trip to Hawaii for making a call to a customer would be terrific, but that’s not going to happen. We’re talking about things you can give yourself today, or at least this week, as a reward for one hour of work.

For example, don’t allow yourself a favorite beverage or the chance to check your e-mail until the hour is up. Or think of all those things you love to do but never have time to do—read a novel, spend time with your spouse or children, walk out in nature, go to a movie or a museum, or take a nap. Then, when your hour of “pure” work is complete, you can enjoy your reward guilt-free.

There you have it—five steps that together form a surefire strategy that will take the STING out of feeling overwhelmed:

* Select one task you’ve been putting off.
* Time yourself. Give the task one full hour.
* Ignore everything else. Focus on doing just this one task.
* No breaks allowed while the timer is ticking.
* Give yourself a reward when the job is done.

Every step you take in conquering procrastination leads you to a greater sense of freedom. Now, go ahead and set that timer. Build the success of which you dream. The world will be a better place when you do. Start becoming the effective, productive, goal-achieving person you want to be, and you’re likely to notice that each step becomes lighter as you travel your journey of 10,000 miles—your journey to becoming the leader you are meant to be.

** This article is one of 101 great articles that were published in 101 Great Ways to Improve Your Life. To get complete details on “101 Great Ways to Improve Your Life”, visit http://www.selfgrowth.com/greatways.html

Author's Bio: 

Rita Emmett is a professional speaker and the author of The Procrastinator’s Handbook and The Clutter-Busting Handbook as well as a free monthly e-zine, “The Anticrastination Tip Sheet.” You can reach her or sign up for the Tip Sheet through her Web site, http://www.RitaEmmett.com, or call (847) 699–9950. If you’d like a free visual reminder of the STING strategy, go to Rita’s Web site and click the “Looking for STING?” link.