Procrastination is not the cause of your inability to get things done. Instead, it masks a deeper underlying problem.
The underlying problem can be any of the following: low self-esteem; perfectionism; fear of failure; ineffective goal-setting; imbalance between work and play; and so on.
Therefore, if you want to stop procrastinating you need to uncover what your underlying problem is, and address it. Fortunately, there are many ways to do this. Below you’ll discover 12 tips for defeating procrastination and gearing up for action.
1. Listen to the Nike ad and “Just Do It”. A lot of people have a tendency to get stuck in the preparation or planning stage of a project. While it’s definitely a good idea to plan, there comes a point at which you’re just avoiding the vital step of executing the plan in favor of further “preparation”. In order to stop doing this, decide how much time you’re going to devote to a project, and then do the following:
- Apply 25% of the allotted time to planning;
- Apply 50% of the allotted time to executing your plan;
- Apply 25% of the allotted time to analyzing the feedback that you receive after executing your plan, and then tweaking your original plan accordingly.
When the first 25% of your time is up, stop planning and just do it.
2. Stop acting like Chicken Little. One of the reasons why people procrastinate is because they give so much importance to the project that they need to work on that they scare themselves into inaction. Stop telling yourself the following:
- My career or the future of my business depends on doing this well.
- If I fail at this, it’s all over.
- Whether or not I will succeed in life hinges on the outcome of this one project.
Stop telling yourself that the sky is falling. Panic mode is a highly unresourceful state to put yourself in. Instead, put things in their proper perspective. This will make it much easier for you to act and get things done.
3. Take a lesson from the Amish. Striving for perfection is almost guaranteed to lead to procrastination. After all, perfection is unattainable, so if your choices are to either do something perfectly or not do it at all, you’ll almost certainly end up not doing it.
The Amish purposefully plan for a mistake in their quilts as an acknowledgement that only God is perfect. They call the block in which they add a mistake the “humility block”. So, the next time that you find yourself thinking that you have to carry out a task perfectly, remind yourself that humility is a virtue. Acknowledge that you will make mistakes, and that this is OK.
4. Do things only because you choose to. Feeling like we’re being forced to do something makes our inner child rebel. If your spouse asks you to take out the garbage, your inner child is likely to think, “I don’t want to, and you can’t make me”, and make a grab for the TV control remote.
You can defeat this cause of procrastination by only doing things you choose to do. When your spouse asks you to take out the garbage, ask yourself whether or not you choose to do so. At this point you might tell yourself that taking out the garbage would make your spouse happy, and since their happiness is important to you, you choose to do so. Or you might choose not to do so and make your spouse unhappy. It’s up to you.
5. Ask yourself if you’re the best person for the task. You might not be the best person to perform the task that needs to be done. Would it be quicker and more efficient to hire someone else to do it? Is this something that you should be delegating to one of your employees? Is this a task that one of your children could take care of?
Sometimes the best way to stop procrastinating on a task is to have someone else do it.
6. Use the STING approach. STING is a mnemonic device which will help you to defeat procrastination. The five letters stand for the following:
- Select One Task
- Time Yourself
- Ignore Everything Else
- No Breaks
- Give Yourself a Reward
As an illustration, you might select “write article for blog” as the task that you’re going to work on. In addition, you’re going to give yourself twenty-five minutes to work on it. Do the following:
- Set a timer for twenty-five minutes during which you’re going to work exclusively on the task of writing a blog post.
- Clear away all distractions.
- Start the timer and work on your article for twenty-five minutes without taking any breaks or allowing for interruptions.
- When the timer rings go get yourself a cup of flavored coffee, sit back and close your eyes for five minutes, or reward yourself in some other way.
Take an index card, write the word “STING” on it, and place it in a prominent place where you’ll be sure not to miss it. Then, whenever there’s an important task that you’re procrastinating on, take a look at your index card and follow the STING method.
7. Stop waiting for your mood to catch up to your brain. Writers are often told not to wait for inspiration in order to get started writing. That is, in order to achieve their goal of writing a novel they have to set aside some time each day to write and then get to it, whether they feel inspired or not.
This same advice applies to every profession and to any project that you may be working on. Instead of waiting until you feel like working on a project in order to get started, get to work on it regardless of the mood you’re in. You may even be pleasantly surprised to discover that once you get to work, your mood improves.
8. Strive for play-work balance. At times you may feel as if there are two different people living in your head. One of these people is self-disciplined and responsible and wants to get things done. The other one is carefree and fun-loving and wants to go out and play.
You may think that the secret to defeating procrastination is to keep the fun-loving part of you bound and locked up. However, that’s the wrong approach. If the needs of this part of you aren’t being met, it will find ways to sabotage you and prevent the responsible part of you from getting any work done.
Therefore, you need to cater to both parts of you. Schedule time for work, and schedule time for play. If the part of you that wants to have fun knows that after working all morning long on that important project it will get to have some fun in the afternoon, it’s much more likely to behave itself in the morning and allow the responsible side of you to get to work.
9. Make your goals as specific as possible. Vague goals lead to inaction. After all, if you don’t know what to do, how can you be expected to act? For example, saying “My goal is to lose weight” is a bad way to set a goal. The way in which you’ve worded your goal doesn’t tell you what to do.
Instead, you should set a goal like the following: “My goal is to lose ten pounds in the next ten weeks by joining Jenny Craig and getting up an hour earlier than usual so that I can walk outside for 60 minutes before going to work.” Now you know what to do, so you’re more likely to do it.
10. Create a chain, and don’t break the chain. Comedian Jerry Seinfeld once revealed during an interview that he works on his comedy every day. When he’s done working for the day, he puts an “X” on his calendar. Then, he makes sure not to break the chain of “Xs”.
Every day that you take the action necessary to move you closer toward the achievement of a goal that you’ve set for yourself, put an “X” up on your calendar. When procrastination tries to creep in and prevent you from taking action on any particular day, just look at your calendar filled with “Xs”. Not wanting to break the chain is very likely to give you the necessary motivation to get up and take action.
11. Do nothing. In the book “Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength”, Roy Baumeister and John Tierney recommend the “do nothing” approach to overcoming procrastination. That is, when you have a task that you need to work on, make the alternative to working on that task to do nothing.
For example, let’s say that you’ve set aside an hour each day for the purpose of writing articles for your blog. During that hour you only have two options:
- Work on writing an article.
- Sit there and do nothing.
A lot of the time we procrastinate on an important project by working on something else. The “do nothing” approach puts an end to that. When your options are to either stare up at the ceiling or work on your blog posts, chances are high you’ll get those articles written.
12. Build momentum. Commit to doing something–however small–every day that will move you closer to the achievement of your goal. Just keep taking one small step after the other. Each step that you take will make taking the next step easier.
Procrastination is a major obstacle to achieving your goals and living your best life. Begin applying the tips explained above right away so that you can defeat procrastination and begin gearing up for action. A year from now you’ll be glad you did.
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