Have you ever had to tell your boss that you couldn’t finish an important project on time? Or perhaps felt bad after not following through on a promise you made to your spouse. Life happens and we get distracted. But for many of us, these are simply the results of procrastinating.
If I had to guess, I imagine everyone has caught themselves procrastinating a time or two. If you’re like me, you probably catch yourself every dang day! I’m driven, organized, and not the procrastinating type. Still, I catch myself dozens of times each day and it’s incredibly frustrating.
Looking through my last year of journals, I’m able to see how much of a problem procrastination can be. By reviewing these notes, I was able to identify when I’m most likely to procrastinate and the triggers that cause me to do so.
Behind every task I struggled to start, there was always fear and discomfort holding me back. I noticed that I was much more likely to procrastinate on big important things. Projects where I put my heart, soul, and reputation on the line, like releasing my first ebook for sale. I also struggle to finish deeply personal posts like the ones about perfectionism,
It’s frustrating to feel like you can’t follow through on what you promised to do. After years of trying to power through and just do it, I decided to try a new approach. I resolved to do the complete opposite and decided to …
JUST SIT WITH IT
When I catch myself procrastinating, I shut down whatever I’m wasting time on. I think about what I intended to do and why I’m avoiding it. I sit with the discomfort, fears, and irrational thoughts. The truth and more rational self-talk quickly follow. Then I
5 Steps to Get Stuff Done
1 – Decide
Decide what your most important task is for that day. Let go of all your other worries and shift your focus to that one thing.
I like to decide the day’s focus the night before. But I’d be lying if I didn’t admit how easy it is to fall into reaction mode, especially when I open my email. In these moments, I turn off the distractions and shift my focus back to my one thing. I decide on the one small task I’ll focus on next and get started.Focusing on more than one thing at a time is as effective as focusing on nothing. Click To Tweet
2 – Do it First
Before you start scrolling through your to-do list, commit to doing that one thing first. If it’s a big project, decide on the first step and the amount of time you can invest that day. Then get to work before your mind has a chance to distract you with a less important task
3 – Set a Timer
I love using timers because they give me an idea of how long it takes to complete certain tasks and that improves my planning. Before I dive into a project, I set a time limit somewhere between a half hour to two. I don’t allow myself to do anything other than that task until the timer goes off. No getting up for a cup of coffee, logging into Facebook, or checking my phone. If I’ve been struggling to stay on task more than usual, I’ll put my laptop in airplane mode or disconnect the internet altogether.
When the timer goes off, it’s helpful to take a short break. Unless I’m in the flow, I find it’s easier to focus on my next time block if I walk away for a minute or two. Stand up and stretch, grab a drink, or read information that pertains to the project you’re working on. If you tend to lose track of time, set a timer for your breaks too.
The final way I use timers is to get myself started. I find that it’s more difficult to start a task than it is to keep going once I begin. When I have trouble starting, I fight my excuses by starting a timer for 10 minutes. I’m usually sucked in by the time the buzzer goes off. And when I’m not, that’s a clear sign it’s time to work on something else for a while.
4 – Stick with It
If what you’re doing is important to you, you’ve got to sit with the discomfort and keep moving forward. Maybe you can’t come up with the perfect thing to say. Or perhaps you hate all of the ideas you’ve come up with thus far. Stick with it anyway.The temptation to quit will be greatest just before you are about to succeed. Click To Tweet
The problem is that many of us expect our work to be better and easier than it actually is. We have the perfect vision in our mind, but when we sit down to do our work, that vision gets lost in translation.
I can’t begin to calculate how many words I’ve written that will never be read. Then there are days that everything flows and I can’t stop. Both have value. They’re part of your journey to doing your best work.
I’ve written 7,400 blog posts, and I’ve done 4 perfect ones. If you put enough bad ideas into the world, sooner or later your brain will wake up, and the good ideas will come. No one gets plumber’s block. They simply do the work. I write daily because I’m a professional, and this is what I do.Seth Godin
Interview with Tim Ferriss, November 1, 2018
This process isn’t just for writers and creators. This process works for everything. You can apply it to accounting, sales, and yes, even plumbing.
5 – Schedule Time
There’s no denying that our culture is overly busy, but that’s another post. If we really want something, we can’t allow our perceived lack of time to prevent us from starting.If you really want to do something, you'll find a way. If you don't, you'll find an excuse. ― Jim Rohn Click To Tweet
For most of us, the truth is that we get to choose how we spend, or invest, our time. There’s always enough time for the things we choose to make time for.
And it doesn’t take much time at all to start making massive progress. Let’s say your dream is to build a side business. But between a full-time job, volunteer, and family commitments, there isn’t any time. What if you commit to freeing up just two hours per day, five days per week, 48 weeks per year? That’s 480 hours. Most people spend more time than that scrolling through social media.
What you could complete in 500 hours?
When it’s all said and done, I average around 500 words per hour. In the example above, that’s 240,000 words over the course of a year. That’s the equivalent of at least two novels.
The average person has the ability to become fluent in another language in just 600 hours. Following the aforementioned formula, you could
Still, it’s hard to make it happen unless you schedule it. As I mentioned earlier, we can lose our days the moment we open our email. So if it’s important to you, schedule it like you would an important meeting. Then follow through as though your life depends on it.
If it’s important to you, give yourself the gift of repeating it daily.
It’s imperative to set goals and deadlines if you want to make progress. Saying I’ll take that vacation to Paris next June is so much better than saying I’d like to travel someday. As soon as you set a date, you’ll be more intentional about getting there.
As much as I love my smartphone and other technology, I know it’s one of the greatest hindrances to my personal productivity. Most of us could afford less time scrolling and more time on the things that truly matter.
Knowing how easy it is to get sucked into my phone, I challenged myself to not touch it for the first hour of the day for two weeks. The challenge went better than expected due to my competitive nature. There were days I didn’t touch my phone until nearly eight o’clock pm.
During the challenge, I averaged two hours of screen time each day. An hour of which was used while working out. The purpose of this experiment was to break the compulsive habit of picking up my phone. It was great for both my productivity and mental health. I highly suggest trying something similar.
While our self-worth should never depend on our productivity or accomplishments, we all feel better when we get things done. I challenge you to pick one of these tips to try this week. And don’t forget to comment or send me a message and let me know how it goes.
Now for something a bit lighter. Please enjoy Tim Urban’s TED Talk about what it’s like to be a Master Procrastinator. I guarantee you’ll laugh out loud.
What are your best tips to beat procrastination? Share in the comments below or come start a conversation on Facebook. I can’t wait to see you there!