You write a to do list, and then you say…I'll do it later.
You have a deadline looming…but instead of doing work you find yourself checking emails, browsing social media, finding another random task to do.
You know you should do it, but you just don’t feel like doing anything.
According to university researcher, Piers Steel 95% of us procrastinate to some degree. While it may be comforting to know you’re not alone, it can be sobering to realise how incessant procrastination holds us all back.
The good news is, it isn’t all hopeless.
Procrastination is actually a habit. It’s an active process. This means when we procrastinate, we choose something else, instead of the task we know we should be doing.
And so with all habits, they are breakable! We can choose to do something different.
Of course, breaking that habit can take a bit of know how. Which is what this article is here for. 😉
So if you're sick of being in a never ending procrastination death spiral, let’s cut to it.
Here are 5 rock-solid ways to kick that procrastination habit to the curb and actually get stuff done…right NOW.
Motivation sucks, so much so I wrote a whole article on it here. If you haven’t read it yet, basically it explains how motivation is unreliable. It’s fickle and can even be affected by trivial things like hunger or tiredness.
When we rely on motivation to take action, it means we become dependent on the ups and downs of this fickleness, and as a result we probably aren’t doing very much at all.
As such – we need to rely on something that’s a little more dependable. Like discipline.
Where motivation is a feeling, discipline is a habit - therefore it’s something you can practice and build. And habits are infinitely more reliable than feelings.
One excellent way you can start building discipline every day is a method I like to call “Eat a giant beetle first thing, every day!”. No not literally. This means do the hardest task, first thing in the morning. When you focus and achieve the hardest task first, this builds confidence and momentum - fast tracking yourself to training that discipline muscle.
It’s estimated that we make about 35,000 decisions every day - from what to eat and wear, to what we say and do. Each time we make a decision, this zaps a bit of energy out of us. By the end of the day, after all these decisions, our will power to make good decisions start to fade – also called decision fatigue.
Facebook Founder, Mark Zuckerberg and former US president, Barack Obama are famous for understanding this concept. They admit to wearing basically the same thing every day – because running a billion dollar company and the most powerful country in the world, requires them to make life changing important decisions. And as such, they take out as many decisions as possible like what to wear, to have enough energy to focus on more important things.
So when it comes to the tasks you have set for yourself, make a decision to do them – commit. If you don’t, every time you think of doing the task – there will be an internal battle “Should I do this now or later?”, “Should I even do this task at all?”.
When you take the decision out of it – it’s easier for you to take action – because you’re already committed to doing it.
Some ways to take the decision out of your to-do list:
Schedule your tasks in your calendar the night before, so when you wake up you already know what you will be doing. No ums and buts.
Set a timer, and commit to sitting there no matter what. No cheating and checking your phone or browsing the net!
Tell someone what you’re committing to – a bit of external pressure always helps. 😉
No matter what you pick – just remember to decide to do it - commit!
Your environment has a huge impact on your productivity. A bad environment can cause you to procrastinate more, and a good one can help you be more productive and support you in achieving your goals. For example, it’s no good having a cupboard full of cookies when your goal is to get healthy.
Priming your environment, means optimising it for success. Make your environment work FOR you, not AGAINST you.
Want to get work done faster? Eliminate distractions and procrastination pit stops. Turn off your notifications, close those distracting web browsers, if you’re in an office let people know not to disturb you for the next hour – so then you’re free to focus and get to it.
Some of the time we’re procrastinating for a bigger reason than ‘we just don’t feel like doing it’.
Sometimes it can be because we have no idea what to do or where to start. If this is the case, then the first task here would be to answer the question “How can I figure out what to do next?”.
Perhaps it’s to brainstorm ideas, ask someone for advice or to do some research. Just be careful here not to let this first task become procrastination in itself (hello 4 hours of research later). Use tip 2, set a time limit and just get going.
Another reason for procrastination I often hear with my coaching clients is perfectionism. It may be that they delay starting a task because they don’t know if they can do it well, or they avoid releasing work because they don’t think it’s good enough.
As a recovering perfectionist myself, I’ve realised the key here is to ask yourself, “What are the consequences of doing the task here ‘imperfectly’, over not doing it at all?”.
More often than not, you’ll find the potential benefits of getting the task done, no matter how ‘imperfect’ far outweigh the consequences of getting nothing done at all.
Instead of always aiming for perfection, practise running with ‘good enough to go’. Can’t come up with a perfect first line for your article? Just start writing anything that comes to mind on the topic. Not sure if you’ll be able to coach that client like a perfect superstar? Give yourself permission to just practice and give it a go.
So if you find yourself procrastinating – ask yourself, why am I procrastinating here? If you realise the reason, you can then try a different mindset or strategy instead, and break that procrastination habit.
If I gave you 3 tennis balls and asked you to juggle, how would you go? How about 10? Would you now struggle more? What if I gave you just one?
My guess is you could probably juggle one ball, easy peasy. But as soon as another ball enters the equation your focus, energy and efforts are now split. Add a third, and now each ball is only receiving a third of your resources. See, where I am going with this?
If you’re anything like me, you probably have so many things you want to get done across all areas of your life – personal, professional, relationships etc. Often we might be tempted to try and start on multiple tasks in all these areas, which can feel overwhelming, draining and lead to procrastination.
The trick is to realise that any goal can only ever be achieved in small steps, not all at once.
So, when it comes to your to do list, write everything down, but only pick one. Just like juggling, it’s way more difficult and slower to try and do 3 tasks at once, rather than focusing on just one.
When you give all of your focus and energy to achieving one task at a time, you ensure your progress is at maximum speed. And the quicker you tick off each task, the more momentum you build, further fueling that productivity train!
So there you have it, 5 rock-solid ways to kick procrastination to the curb and finally get stuff done!
At the end of the day though, all these 5 ways are preparing you for one simple action step – just do it! You can do all the strategising and planning in the world, but if you don’t take action, nothing will change.
So why not start now, commit to taking action on just one thing. It can be something really small. Remember, it doesn’t matter how small the step, so long as you are stepping forward in that direction.
Which tips work best for you? Do you have your own personal tip to overcome procrastination?
Let us know in the comments below.
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