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Procrastination. The thing we do so we don’t have to do the thing we need to do!
The obvious solution to “just do it” sounds easy, but according to procrastination expert Piers Steel, there are 95% of us who put things off. Who else is with me in the 95% club?
Why do we (not) do it? Lots of reasons. Here are a few common ones:
- The task seems too big or overwhelming.
- It’s a task we don’t like to do.
- Other priorities demand our time.
- Distractions get in the way of progress.
- We seek perfection; therefore we procrastinate.
Any of this sound familiar?
Let’s dive into some strategies to overcome procrastination.
1. Divide and conquer
If the task feels too big, break it down into smaller steps.
Think of it as getting to your destination with checkpoints along the way.
Take, for example, cleaning out a closet. The thought of pulling everything out and starting from scratch is too big of a project for your time. It’s something you want to do, but avoid for those reasons.
Instead of taking on the whole closet, divide it into steps that make the task seem much more manageable.
Step 1- Take only belts and purses out of the closet.
Step 2- Decide which belts and purses should be trashed, donated, sold or kept.
Step 3- Put the remaining belts and purses back into the closet in an organized manner.
Next, just rinse and repeat with other sections or categories in the closet until it’s done.
This is a good way to start on projects that seem too big because it forces you to just get started, and sometimes that’s the hardest step to take!
2. Positive self-talk
I don’t procrastinate when it comes to things I find enjoyable and I’m going to safely assume this is true of others. It’s because my thoughts are controlling my actions.
It’s easy to think…
“I want to play with our newly adopted pet cat.” (The cat is highly entertaining.)
However, it’s much less appealing to clean out the litter box.
How in the world can I turn that task into something enjoyable? Positive self-talk!
My cat deserves a fresh litter box. Doing this now prevents a bigger mess. Our cat’s health is important.
Whatever works, tell yourself that!
Bonus: Picture of happy, healthy cat (maybe not the most photogenic lol).
3. Combine the unpleasant with pleasant.
If you don’t like mopping, but you love listening to music… combine them!
Invest in a good Bluetooth Wireless Headset, put on your favorite playlist, and mop like no one’s watching 🙂
Enjoy watching t.v. but don’t like to do paperwork? Bring your papers, file folders & shredder into the living room and do both!
Procrastinating is not such a big problem when it’s combined with something pleasant.
4. Reward yourself
Attach your task to a reward waiting upon completion and it suddenly seems more appealing.
Rewards work just as much for adults as they do for kids! If you tell yourself that “Reward A” is going to be a result of finishing “Task A” then you have extra incentive to get the job done.
I like to do this with organizing projects. I take on small, budget friendly projects and the reward is giving myself permission to spend $20 on new tools to makeover a space. Afterwards, I’m happy to have a new space that works and looks better than it did before.
5. Make distractions disappear
We live in a world of constant distractions and shiny objects competing for our attention. Tools that have made our lives easier have also created a bottomless pit of time sucks (looking at you smart phone)!
We are much less likely to procrastinate if distractions are removed from what we’re working on.
Let’s assume your task at hand is filling out an online form that you’ve been putting off for awhile. If your cell phone is not within reach, the t.v. is turned off and the only tab open is your online form, that is a much more likely environment for success.
You can also turn off notifications to lessen the distractions. Otherwise all of the pings, dings, and rings will control and compete for our time instead of the other way around.
6. Set goals
Setting goals helps you think about what you really want to achieve. Write those goals down and then choose your first action step, no matter how small.
For a goal to turn into an achievement, there must be tasks along the way that get you closer.
It’s important to celebrate all progress and stick to it despite any obstacles. In this article, I summarize 10 simple ways to reach your goals sooner than planned.
7. Find a partner
Sometimes we need those people who will tell us what we don’t want to hear so that we can get where we really want to go.
Partnerships based on trust and accountability are so powerful for making the impossible seem possible. Especially those who are tackling an area together.
An example of this that has had a huge positive impact on my health has been joining a co-worker on a mission to eat more healthy. We share recipes, take turns bringing in healthy lunches and help each other meal plan. On my own, I would have given up already and used excuses for my poor eating habits.
Another pair of co-workers in my department challenge each other every day about who will get the most steps in. Partnerships, or finding a support system in general, is definitely a win in the battle to overcome procrastination.
8. Change the scene
If you’re a student and can’t get the work done at home, go to a place where you can. If you’re an entrepreneur who is struggling through the distractions in the office, change it up.
Sometimes a change of scenery is all that we need for more motivation.
If the task is at home and you can’t change the environment because the task IS the environment, try tackling it at a different time of the day.
9. Utilize your strengths
Sometimes procrastination is the result of lack of confidence in whatever we need to do. When you know and utilize your strengths, you will be in a much better frame of mind and energy to complete the tasks. When we play to our strengths, we’re more likely to set ourselves up for success.
Among everything that you need to get done, there will be varying levels of importance.
Tackle your priorities because the “must do” trumps the “need to do.”
Getting the priorities complete will have an overall positive impact because it’s done and out of the way instead of consuming your thoughts.
11. Create a vision board
Granted, creating a vision board can be a fun form of procrastination. However, I truly believe in the power of visual reminders to influence our actions.
When that thing you’re avoiding is staring back at you every time you turn around, you are going to get closer to achieving it because what we focus on gets better.
In order to get better at anything, including procrastination, we have to keep trying different behaviors until we find what works. It takes some time and effort, but this is an area we can control and improve with perseverance and patience.
Any strategies you’ve found helpful to overcome procrastination?