Procrastination is something we all experience. Trouble is, it’s something that can quickly become a habit. And it’s a habit that will derail your business success. People who are successful are people who have learned to tame that particular monster.
Here are twenty-one ways to help you boot it out the door.
It Gets Easier
If you’ve been procrastinating in almost every area, choose one task – preferably your most important – and focus all your energies on getting that one done. The sense of relief and accomplishment you experience will make it easier to tackle the next task. And the one after that will be even easier. So, pick a project (or even a small, specific part of one) and go for it!
Start it Today
Make ‘today’ the most important word in your vocabulary – especially if your particular form of procrastination involves goals that don’t have deadlines. Goals that don’t have tangible deadlines tend to be put off indefinitely. That’s why people stay in miserable relationships, don’t move out of their parents’ house, never go back to college, and don’t buy a ranch in Montana.
Realize that no matter what long-term goal you have, it will never happen unless you make a concrete start today.
Every time you manage to avoid procrastination and accomplish a task, reward yourself. You don’t have to buy yourself a box of chocolates (though who would ever say ‘no’ to chocolate?) You can reward yourself in much simpler ways that are meaningful to you, like literally sticking a gold star on your bulletin board.) Or putting enough money for another rose in your ‘flower jar.’ Or even just posting on Facebook that evening “accomplished everything I wanted to today. Feeling happy!”
The reward that works best for you should give you a noticeable jolt of pleasure and uplift your spirits – even if just in a small way. If your chosen reward works for you, be proud of yourself and enjoy it!
Be Aware of Procrastination’s True Dangers
Procrastination is the enemy of excellence. It prevents you from polishing your work to its sparkly best. It’s the difference between enjoying the process and being proud of the work you do, and just scraping under the wire by the skin of your teeth. It’s the difference between a feeling of accomplishment and the ailments of stress.
Procrastination is not your friend. It is the enemy of your goals and dreams.
Turn Your Back on Excuses
Procrastination and excuses often go hand-in-hand, encouraging each other. Accepting personal responsibility and realizing that ‘reasons’ are often just excuses will help you shut the door on procrastination.
(Hint: Using an accountability group or partner will also help you recognize and bust your own excuses.)
Transform Your Thoughts
Negative thoughts and procrastination go hand-in-hand. Start reframing self-deprecating, blame-filled thoughts into empowering, positive ones. If your self-talk becomes positive, you will start to believe it. And after a while, as you experience the joys of successful habits, you will find yourself less inclined to procrastinate.
Decide on a chunk of time – half-an-hour, an hour, or more if you think you can do it. Then stop multi-tasking and focus for your set time period on doing ONE task you’ve been putting off. Planning to work on a chore only for a short time-chunk can be a surprisingly effective way to deal with procrastination.
Plan Your Week
It doesn’t have to be the most meticulous plan in the universe. You just need to spend less than ten minutes making a note of tasks you will need to fit in during the following week.
Start the Task Even if You’re Planning to Procrastinate
If you think you’re going to procrastinate, get everything ready and set up, at least, so you can start the task straight away when you return. Then start it. Even if you only work on it for a few minutes.
Half the time, you will find you just keep going, once you’ve actually started. And even if you don’t, you’ll discover a task that has been set up and started is much easier to tackle when you finish your nap or your game or close Facebook.
Chop Your To-Do List
Most people tend to over-estimate what they can get done in a day. If that sounds like you, reduce your To-Do list down to no more than three items (your top priorities).
Even leaving just ONE task on your To-Do list is acceptable: In fact, it may work even better than two or three. If you do this every day, your mind will make you regard that one task as absolutely crucial. And it will get done.
Chuck Your To-Do List
If your To-Do list instills strong feelings of shame, guilt and doom that send you plummeting down the cliff of procrastination, get rid of that list completely! It’s not doing you any good—just reinforcing feelings of inadequacy and anxiety, and reinforcing procrastination.
Find a different way to prioritize. (One that matches your learning style and doesn’t trigger anxiety.)
Don’t Beat Yourself Up
One thing procrastinators are prone to doing is blaming themselves for being ‘weak.’ Drowning in guilt is a sure-fire way to invite yourself to hide.
Forgive yourself. Banish shame. Lose the guilt. And lose the label too.
Stop calling yourself a ‘procrastinator,’ and focus on moving forward.
Find a Way to Make Boring Tasks More Enjoyable
If you put off doing a task or activity because it’s boring, but you still need to personally be the one who performs it, look for ways to add a pleasure factor. For example, if you’re using a treadmill in a gloomy basement, install a TV and play beautiful scenes or energizing music while you jog. If you are working on your taxes, eat chocolates (one every fifteen minutes). If you need to go jogging outside, do so with a friend or two (or more).
Adding a fun factor to a task is transformational and can really help ward off procrastination.
Join a Group
It doesn’t have to be a group focusing on procrastination – just on the activity you’re having trouble making yourself do. Not only will other group members encourage and inspire you, but they’ll also help build your confidence too.
Try Working with Your Dog
If you’re lucky enough to have a dog, take it to work! Dogs can be even more inspirational than people. For example, if you are practicing a speech, practice on your dog. Speak directly to her. Throw her name into your speech a couple of times, and you’ll have a happy, captive audience – and suddenly the speech becomes less stressful and fun.
And if you’re trying to make yourself go jogging, jog with your dog. Much more fun. For both of you!
Take Back Your Power
People often procrastinate out of resentment – especially resentment they may not even realize they own, deep down.
Resentment comes out of feeling trapped. If this is true for you, figure out what you can do to reclaim your power in some way. Stop working weekends, or charge double rates to do so. Hire an assistant if it’s the work itself that’s trapping you. Change the structure of your appointments to make them easier on yourself and reduce burnout.
Identify what is making you feel trapped and take the right step to free yourself from that feeling.
Take Other Things Off Your To-Do List
When exhaustion and overwhelm are contributing to procrastination, take other, less critical tasks or activities off your to-do list. Do it immediately, then take a short break – perhaps a cup of your favorite special tea – and get back to the overwhelming task.
You may be surprised at how less-overwhelming it seems, giving you the impetus to move forward again without the ankle-weights of those extra tasks or confusion.
People who are perfectionists are prone to putting things off. They become overwhelmed with the fear that they won’t produce exceptional results, but perfectionism doesn’t result in extraordinary results: Ninety-nine percent of the time, it just reduces efficiency and induces paralysis.
It’s important to realize that getting the job done is more important than doing it perfectly: Meeting the deadline, not letting down team members, providing what is needed – this is what to focus on.
If perfectionism is your problem, give yourself permission to let go a little and get it done.
Stop Thinking of Yourself
Sometimes we are so busy agonizing about a task, we don’t stop to consider how not doing it will affect others. Are we causing a ripple effect that makes other team members miss deadlines or have to compensate for us? Are we going to disappoint someone if our being late with a task means we have to cancel a much-anticipated date or outing?
Focusing on what it could mean to others if we hide from doing our parts can help propel us forward again.
Identify the Cause of Resentment
Are you procrastinating out of resentment? If so, stop right now and determine the cause.
If you are resentful because a client is unpleasant and difficult to work with, fire the client and invite in a better one.
If your resentment comes because you’d rather be on a beach in Barbados sipping pineapple drinks, realize that is up to you, then start planning that vacation and give yourself a reason to get your tasks done.
If you feel that you are “working for peanuts,” raise your prices. Knowing you are receiving fair or even generous compensation is affirming, boosts one’s self-worth and gives more incentive to deliver excellent
Resentment is often born out of feelings of inequality and powerlessness. Identify the cause, restore the balance, and get moving again.
Eliminate the Disconnect
Sometimes people procrastinate because there is a massive disconnect between the task they are facing and the goal they are working toward. Focus on why you need to do the work, what the possible rewards or payoffs will be and what its effect will be on your bank account, relationships, self-respect and on others. Find the connection, find the value and it becomes much easier to stop putting things off that lead you toward your goal.
Procrastination is no friend to those who run their own businesses. No one ever succeeded through procrastination. So, make the resolve you are no longer going to be one of those who fall by the wayside. Find out your reasons, throw away guilt or excuses, and start moving forward today.