Here's a question...
Is there something important that you need to complete soon?
Maybe today? Maybe you should be doing it now?
If you’re the sort of person who’ll crack on and get it sorted with no hesitation – that’s fantastic – go for it.
But if, like me, you find procrastination comes calling at the mere wiff of something important, today’s podcast is for you!
Let’s start by getting clear on what procrastination really is.
Procrastination in its simplest for is the habit of delaying something important, usually by turning your attention to something less urgent. This could be something you find relaxing, enjoyable or easier.
We all know the voice of procrastination. It speaks to you in a quiet, innocent-sounding like voice. It’ll say something like…
‘I’ll just take a quick look at Facebook.’
‘I’ll just watch one short video.’
‘I’ll just check my messages.’
This voice is usually followed by ‘…and then, I’ll get on with that important thing.’
But that’s not usually what happens.
A quick scroll on social media turns into fifteen minutes of cat videos and your friends’ photos from their fabulous holidays you wish you could be enjoying. One video turns into three. Checking your messages leads to you sacrificing what’s important to you to what’s urgent for someone else.
All this time, that important thing remains undone. And then, guess what happens? You blame yourself. You tell yourself you should be more disciplined. You shouldn’t be so weak minded. So lazy. So pathetic.
Then, procrastination calls to you once more to do something else tempting to help you feel better again. Then, when you’re in the mood, you really will get that important thing done.
But every time you delay, the thing that matters to your slips further from reach. That project you care about isn’t happening. The book isn’t getting written. That business isn’t getting off the ground.
Whatever the important things you need to do, let’s beat procrastination so you can get started full of motivation!
7 ways to beat procrastination
- Wise up to procrastination’s intentions
Getting clear on the true reason you procrastinate will help you outsmart it.
When you think about the important task ahead, what’s really holding you back? Why does procrastination want you to avoid it? Is it that you don’t know where to start? Does it seem so big it feels overwhelming? Are you afraid you won’t do a good job? Are you worried about what people will think?
Procrastination is often a form of stress relief. This is why it tries to distract you with something that will make you feel better.
When you know what’s causing procrastination, it’s empowering to face up to it and then find a more productive way to feel better about what you need to do.
- Make it harder to procrastinate
The urge to procrastinate is often very spontaneous. Creating enough space between you and your favourite procrastination tactics can interrupt the urge. It gives you a chance to catch yourself on the brink of temptation and stop it.
Simple ways can be to put your phone in another room, or at least out of arm’s reach. Turn the TV off. Use focus tools that block your web browser for a set period.
- Focus on the feel good
One of the simplest ways to motivate yourself to get started, is to pause for a moment. Close your eyes. Imagine how good you’ll feel when you’ve completed your important task. Feel that satisfaction.
Every time you’re tempted to procrastinate, do the same. Close your eyes once more. Breathe. Feel that great feeling.
If the task is really important to you, don’t forget to remind yourself that you really deserve this. You and your goals matter.
- Get comfortable with discomfort
Procrastination is trying to help you avoid discomfort, whether it’s stress, fear, overwhelm and so on.
Try acknowledging the feeling and moving it forward. For example:
‘I know I’m worried if my efforts will be good enough BUT I have experience and I can trust in my abilities.’
‘I know that task ahead seems massive BUT all I need to do is pick one bit and start there. The rest can follow.’
‘I’m worried what people will think of my work BUT, if I get this out there, it could really help someone!’
- Let go of guilt and shame
If you’ve given into procrastination in the past, or even today, the first thing you need to do is forgive yourself.
Okay, so you checked in on social media when you should have been working on that important thing. That wasn’t how it was meant to go but you can’t change that now. So, let it go.
Don’t let regret stop you moving forward. Remember that procrastination hooks onto any bad feeling – like regret – to distract you.
Start again. Start now. Start fresh.
- Fill your creative well regularly
One of the biggest blocks to getting going with something important is not knowing where to start. This is especially common in creative industries where there is nothing physically there until you make it.
Keep a notebook – or use a note taking app – to collect ideas, inspiration and thoughts. This is your creative well. Keep it filled up – no matter how small some things seem.
Chances are, when you’re feeling stuck, you can send a bucket down the well and reel it back it back up full of ideas to run with.
- The 10-minute miracle
A great trick for playing procrastination at its own game – and winning – is the 10-minute miracle.
Remember how procrastination loves to say ‘I’ll just… check social media, I’ll just watch that video. I’ll just…, I’ll just…, I’ll just…
Well, what you can tell procrastination in response is: ‘I’ll just work on this important thing for 10 minutes…’ and then you can do something else if you want.
What happens, in that moment, is that big task your need to do suddenly feels like a small task. It’s just ten minutes. You can do that.
It should feel easier, Lighter. Less stressful.
The miracle is that – once you get to the end of the 10 minutes, you are likely to have got into the flow of the task and you’ll feel you can keep going.
And, if there’s no miracle and 10 minutes later, you’re still not into it?
Never to berate yourself. Procrastination would love that.
There are much better options such as…
- Switching to one of other six techniques.
- Switching to an alternative productive task on yours list for a while and coming back to your important thing later.
- Starting the 10-minute miracle again from the point you’ve reached or from another position so it feels fresher and less frustrating.
- And, if the task can’t waiting, you could simply keep repeating the 10 minutes over and over until you get there, breaking it into mini chunks.
The ten-minute miracle is especially handy when you can’t complete a task in one chunk, for example if you’re having to do it around meetings or around your family’s needs.
When you put the important task down, leave a quick note to yourself to remind you where you were and, when you can return to it, use your 10 miracle minutes to get you back in the flow.
And, when you're finished?
When you’ve finished, don’t forget to take a moment to pause and enjoy the feeling of satisfaction. Really savour it.
Not only does it feel good, it’ll strengthen your belief that you can do this and it’ll also give you the motivation you’ll draw upon next time.
Whatever your important task or goals is today, I know you can do it. So, go for it!
- Procrastination is your mind’s way of avoiding stress and discomfort. It’s trying to be helpful but it’s not. Listen for it calling out to you asking you to ‘just…’ do something else. Stare it in the eyes and figure out what it’s telling you about how you’re feeling.
- Use the seven procrastination-busting ideas shared today to help you find a productive alternative to procrastination that will make you feel so much better longer-term. Never berate yourself if you cave in. Forgive yourself and move forward.
- Whatever approaches you decide to use to beat your procrastination, be sure to celebrate your success when you’re done. You’ll enhance your self belief and will remind yourself that you can do this!