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5 Ways Lawyers Can Stop Procrastinating: Now, Later, or Whenever

By Mark Wilson, Esq. | Last updated on

I was going to blog about procrastination for National Fight Procrastination Day on September 6, but I just didn't feel like it. But at least I'm getting to it now!

All of us in the law community suffer from procrastination, some more than others. Appellate attorneys may have it worst of all: Their deadlines are a month down the road, so why start now? You've got plenty of time! And then suddenly you don't. So in honor of National Fight Procrastination Day -- which already happened -- here are some tips for getting your work done sooner, rather than later:

1. Figure Out What Type of Procrastinator You Are.

The first step to figuring how to solve the problem is to diagnose it; then, at least you know what you're dealing with. The odds are good you're not procrastinating because the work is too difficult to do right now. It's more likely that you're afraid of failing or you have a "racehorse" personality that can work only when faced with an imminent deadline.

2. Take Projects a Bit at a Time.

If you procrastinate because your project seems insurmountable, don't look at it as one huge thing to conquer. Instead, Business Insider suggests, break a project down into smaller, more manageable tasks. Once you've completed several small tasks, you'll be surprised how much of the larger tasks you've accomplished. You can also give yourself a little reward every time you've completed a small task.

3. 'What Are You Preparing? You're Always Preparing! Just Go!'

Dark Helmet has a point. It's easy to get stuck in the preparation for a project because it looks like you're getting something done, with the added advantage that there are no consequences if you fail at this mini meta-project. Online cults of organizing and "productivity porn" only reinforce that you need this kind of pen and that kind of notebook before you can start your project. Of course, by the time you've finished preparing, you're at the deadline.

4. Myth: Any Work Is Good Work.

Are you spending your time wisely, or are you wasting it? Answering emails and taking phone calls is technically work in the sense that you're off the streets and out of the bars, but it's not work in the sense that you're substantially closer to your goal. As a sort of corollary to tip No. 3, don't confuse "doing stuff" with "getting your goals accomplished." You'll be shocked at how much day has gone by with nothing to show for it but some answered emails (and no one gets a medal for that).

5. Be Organized.

Woody Allen once said that 95 percent of success was showing up. The project management version of "showing up" is "being organized." If you're not organized, you're not really prepared to do what you're supposed to be doing. You can use whatever method you want: index cards, outlines, checklists -- just know what you're supposed to be doing, how you're going to do it, and what you need to accomplish it.

Got any more tips to stop procrastinating? Let us know on our Facebook page or send us a tweet @FindLawLP.

Editor's Note, September 23, 2015: This post was first published in September 2014. It has since been updated.

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