Kick the Procrastination Habit Once and For All

Why We Procrastinate

Whether it has to do with prospecting, spending money or simply introducing your self to someone at a party, the reasons why you procrastinate boil down to the few:

  1. Fear of failing
  2. Feeling overwhelmed with a situation.
  3. Given up hope that a situation can be changed or affected.
  4. Too “Busy” to get the really important things done.
  5. Can’t make a decision.
  6. Overworked, tired.
  7. Want to avoid work you don’t like.

Each of these can be reduced down to the pleasure + pain principle: we do things to gain pleasure and to avoid pain.

Method to Overcome Procrastination

1. Get clear about what you want in life. Take a half-day to write down all your goals in some or all of these categories: career, education, relationships, financial, physical, mindset, creative, spiritual, public service, travel, leisure, and other. Once you have your list, then whittle it down to your top 10, then down to your top 5, and then your top 3. Do this by asking yourself, “Can I live without this?” Let your less important goals lie dormant on a “maybe” list that you can check on again in a few month.

2. Delete or delegate from your To-Do List those things that don’t relate to your top 3-5 goals.

3. Tie tasks you don’t like to your goals. It helps to mentally (and in writing) tie these tasks to one of your main goals or values. For example, “Picking up the phone and calling prospects allow me to have have business constantly churning in the pipeline, which is something I highly value. By having prospects constantly in the pipeline I will be better able to work on my goals and have less anxiety.” By linking the task to the pleasure of being able to think clearly, you now have a reason that will motivate me to take action.

4. Plan your day every morning. This is not a big task. It should only take about 10-15 minutes of quiet time. Refer back to your master list. Do the most difficult and most important things first and work your way down to the easier stuff in the afternoon. You’ll feel really good if you do this. Focus on that to motivate you to wait to check email and such until after you’ve finished your first big task.

5. Plan by weeks, not days. Start every Sunday and fill in your calendar with all the big things that you’d like to accomplish for the week. Sometimes procrastination happens simply because a task is not scheduled.

6. Cheat and nap. Don’t be so hard on yourself about the timing of a task. And take short breaks, always. If you do, then you won’t try to escape through procrastination so hard in the future. Just reschedule and get back on track later or tomorrow.

7. Just do it.

8. Break down big tasks into smaller assignments. The novelist Anne Lamont said as a little girl she remembered her brother becoming frantic over a huge project he had due in three days. The project was to document and briefly describe dozens of birds in his local neighborhood. To keep his son calm and on track, her father often said, “Son, just do it bird by bird.” Take a few moments to think about how to break down a larger task and schedule it into your calendar in pieces. This is good for when you are feeling overwhelmed.

9. Get help making decisions. I like to use the pro/con method. I also recommend getting help from a friend that you know is good with making decisions. Once you’ve made your decision then break it down into tasks and schedule into your calendar.

10. Believe in yourself. If you’ve lost hope, know that you can turn things around. Release the fear of failure. Failure is just a learning experience. Slow and steady wins the race. A little bit done every day adds up to a lot over a year. If you have to, just fake your belief until it becomes real. Remember, you can do it!

In a nutshell:

  • Know your most important goals and values.
  • Only do tasks that contribute to those goals and values.
  • Mentally link tasks to the pleasurable outcomes you seek.
  • Plan your day & week.
  • Do, but don’t overdo. Rest when needed.
  • Break down big tasks.
  • Get help making decisions.
  • Believe in yourself!

What do you do to overcome procrastination?

Click Here to Leave a Comment Below 2 comments
Marv Roth

I like the information in this article but I take exception to #4. Tomorrow’s work should always be planned the day before. When we come to work in the morning, we need to be ready to accomplish something important. If we start the day planning our work, it will only lead to another opportunity to procrastinate. Not having a plan may lead to not coming to work at all. I always get more done when I come to work knowing exactly what’s on my schedule. And, I also know when it’s time to go home.

Gary Elwood

Marv, I like your point, and I’m glad you took exception to my point. And just as a disclaimer, I do at times plan out my day on the evening before, and that feels awfully good walking into work, sitting down, and hammering out what i need to do immediately. However, even when I do sit down in the morning and plan out my day, without fail I already have in mind what my first task is going to be. It’s just a matter of gathering the peripherals that accumulated throughout the night. Furthermore, my daily routine doesn’t vary much and I already have a sense of what every day of the week is going to look like since I typically plan out blocks of time weeks and even months in advanced. I appreciate your thoughts. Gary.


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