Have you ever heard the saying that goes something like this: “why do today what you can put off until tomorrow”? I used to live by that statement!
Procrastination was something that I was really good at, but it kept me from being successful.
Why We Procrastinate
People procrastinate for a lot of different reasons. Some of the ones I’ve struggled with most are:
Overwhelmed With Options
Sometimes I just don’t know where to start, or which direction I should go with a project. When this happens, I get confused about which choice to make so waste a ton of time researching and ruminating on the problem.
Putting it off is a delay tactic to avoid stress. The problem is, I’ll still have this task hanging over my head and therefore, the stress.
It’s important to have choices, but having too many is a problem. It’s best to just make a decision and understand that it’s just one decision that will lead to others.
Don’t get stuck on dwelling on options. Pick one! Flip a coin if you have to and if things don’t go as planned, you can always adjust course.
You might think that you are not good enough, or that you don’t have the talent, the looks, the connections, the money, or that you live in the right place.
But these are just excuses. They are delay tactics that you deploy to avoid stress.
Instead of letting negative beliefs hinder you, choose to embrace positive beliefs that help you move forward.
Another negative belief is a belief in the likelihood of a “worst case scenario”. This is something I’ve struggled with most of my life.
I have often used procrastination to delay what I believed might be a potential negative outcome. Instead of focusing on “what if”, focus on the positive scenarios as well.
The fear of change, fear of making the wrong decision or making a mistake is probably the number one reason people put things off until later. Fear of failure can paralyze you.
You can overcome this by accepting the fact that everybody makes mistakes and that it is all part of the process of becoming a success. Give yourself permission to fail and move forward.
Absolutely every single person who has cultivated extraordinary things have failed – multiple times. Failure is tied to success. Without failure, there is not success.
Not Living Authentically
One of the big reasons people procrastinate is because they are not living authentically. Whether it’s an obligation, a task that isn’t interesting, or a job that doesn’t capture your imagination or feeds your passion, procrastination could be a sign that you need to live more consciously.
Procrastination at work, or elsewhere in your life, is a clear sign that you have outgrown your current situation. Instead of beating yourself up over being a “slacker”, maybe you’re not the problem. The problem is that you’re beyond ready to move onto something else.
You might need to change jobs or cut some obligations. Usually, the root cause of procrastination is that the thing you keep putting off isn’t consistent with how you want to live your life. Instead of struggling to get it done, cut it loose!
Simple Methods To Stop Procrastinating
If it absolutely has to get done, then here are some strategies I use to be productive:
1) Break Large Projects Into Smaller Tasks
When Tracy and I rolled out a redesign and launched our membership section on our website, I had a LOT on my to-do list.
The list was endless. There were SO MANY moving parts. The pressure to not break anything (which I have done in the past!) was stressful. I kept putting things off because there was so much to do!
Then I broke all the before and after tasks into smaller projects. I assigned each small project an end date.
Even though I had several projects to finish, I felt good every time I finished one. I was able to celebrate my mini victories before I started the next task.
Plus, this didn’t make everything that I had to do feel so overwhelming (or that it all had to be done at once, yesterday!).
2) Set Time Limits
Setting a deadline is a great procrastination buster. This is really important and you should do this with all of your tasks.
A lot of people work at their peak when they are under pressure. I don’t know about you, but if I am given (or I give myself) a week to finish a task, you can bet that I will take the whole week to complete it.
In fact, I will probably start it on the evening before it’s due!
If I give myself three hours to complete the task instead, I am much more likely to complete that same task in just three hours because I will cut out all other distractions and focus all of my efforts on the task at hand.
Don’t give yourself “someday tasks”. Just get it done today, or in the next hour!
3) Start In The Middle
I do this all the time when I’m writing. I am more productive and work quicker when I jump into the main points of an article or blog post that I write.
I often type up an outline and skip down to the main content. If I get stuck, I skip that part and come back later.
I almost always write the intro to a blog post last. I never write linearly. I’ll usually start in the middle with what I’m the most familiar with, and then expand up, down, and out from there.
Also, don’t get stuck on blanks. If I don’t know a name, or need to cite a fact, I’ll continue to write, then fact check afterward. That way, I remain “in the zone”. Once I’m finished writing, then I can edit and fact check.
Facing a blank page can derail your productivity and tempt you to procrastinate. However, If you start in the middle, then you can work your way out and let your creativity flow. There’s no excuse for writers block!
Procrastination is a major problem and can interfere with your ability to enjoy a life you love. It can also be a strong signal that you need change in your life.
The way you deal with it can turn your slacking off time into productive time.