Pallavi Pinakin explains how to be productive and enjoy it nevertheless!

Do you have a dream that you’ve been postponing for what seems like forever? Something you really want to do but can never seem to get around to doing? Procrastination is the thief of time; and it’s a classic human trait!

It is a personality trait that can hold you back from achieving your most cherished goals – be it writing a book, getting into shape, learning a new skill or even starting your own business.

For procrastinators, tomorrow never comes. Years could go by and you’d still find them talking about how they’re going to ‘start soon.’ Or following a strong start, they lose momentum and the dream is left unfinished. This is quite natural. To keep going day after day is tough; few people have the inherent drive and willpower to push through periods when motivation and energy are at their lowest.

Fortunately, you don’t have to be born a go-getter to get things done. You can learn how to snap out of the slump and beat your tendency to veer off track. Here are some great ways to get started and follow through on your ambitious goals.

Begin not at the beginning. Most achievers have a clear vision of the future. What do you want to accomplish? Why does it matter so much? What does success look like? How will you know you’ve achieved your objective?

The answers will form a solid foundation, which is essential for precise planning and execution.

Work backwards. A big goal like ‘starting my own company’ can sound daunting and unachievable. So use your future vision as a starting point and work in reverse to map out the step-by-step process needed to achieve it. Come up with smaller segments and milestones along the way – on a weekly, monthly and quarterly basis. Timelines are critical. When we schedule a task, we become two or three times more likely to complete it.

For example, setting up a company calls for a series of steps such as deciding on the product or service you plan to offer, choosing a name, registering the business, opening a bank account, buying a domain name, creating the vision and mission etc. These mini-goals appear far more doable, making it psychologically easier for you to get started. What’s more, the satisfaction that comes from ticking each item off the list will keep you motivated.

Employ the 15 minute rule. Even when you have the perfect plan in place, taking that very first step can be challenging. The 15 minute rule helps you overcome the urge to procrastinate and it is wonderfully simple. Set aside 15 minutes (that’s one percent of your day) to work towards your target every day.

This way, you don’t race from zero to 100 right away, which is a sure-fire recipe for disaster.

Instead, you gradually build a rhythm and create a steady momentum. In addition, the 15 minute window is realistic even for the busiest people. At the end of the day, it’s difficult to justify why you couldn’t dedicate even 15 minutes to something you passionately want to achieve. After a while, you can increase this slot to 30 minutes, then 45 minutes and so on depending on your circumstances.

Be prepared for obstacles. Take off those rose-tinted glasses and accept that things can or will go wrong. Unex­pected obstacles will crop up, temptation will beckon and you’ll feel like putting off your mission once again.

If you’re trying to meet a personal health target for example, there may be times when you’re stressed out and feel like eating your weight in junk food. Or you might feel like ditching your Saturday workout for a Netflix binge. The problem is that our brains are really good at forgetting about long-term consequences when instant gratification is only a click away!

So design your future environment in such a way that when temptation hits, you can overcome it – or at least limit the fallout.

For example, have tasty snacks on hand but don’t store large quantities of unhealthy food at home. Throw away that stash of fast food delivery menus. For weekend workouts, make plans with a friend or pay your trainer in advance. Give yourself that extra boost of motivation to get off the sofa!

It’s okay to dilly-dally a little. If you’re an incorrigible procrastinator, roll with it. Make space in your week for lazing, daydreaming or sleeping. Setting aside time to do nothing actually increases your chances of sticking to the rest of your schedule. Once your brain and body have their desired quota of R&R, they’re refreshed and ready to switch to productive mode.

Finally, don’t forget that idleness has its own reward. When the mind is relaxed and unfocussed, it has an opportunity to wander and come up with fresh perspectives. Who knows, you may even discover the perfect plot for your book or a winning business idea thanks to scheduled procrastination!