How To Stop ProcrastinatingNov 07, 2022
Let's be real, we all have our faults. Whether it's a huge sweet tooth or just never being able to stay focused, everyone's guilty of having flaws – it's what makes us so unique! While there's nothing wrong with these quirks, personal limitations become a huge problem when you're your own boss, and as an entrepreneur, I had to change countless of these traits. Dedication and consistency helped me eliminate most of my bad habits, but I'll admit, one was especially hard to get rid of – procrastination. Luckily, learning how to stop procrastinating changed my life.
All of us procrastinate. It's just so easy to leave something for later... and later... and later...
Until you have no time to do it at all!
It doesn't even have to be work – sometimes you can push back things you enjoy like going to the gym or working on a passion project. While it's so easy at the moment, the more you do it, the more it forms a habit. Take it from me: having procrastination as a habit is horrible; I used to put everything on hold (even things I loved!) until I absolutely HAD to do them. The funniest part is, I was still stressed because I wasn't addressing my responsibilities, even though it was my own decision! I had the power to change it, I just didn't know how.
But, I learned. After years of procrastination, I finally had enough.
Here's How To Stop Procrastinating:
1) Reduce The Decisions You Need To Make
If you approach each new day without having given thought to what you want it to look like, then you'll waste a large portion of your energy thinking about what and what not to do. This drains you of your self-control and makes you tired, which leads to you procrastinating on whatever matters most in your life. The best thing to do is plan ahead of time and establish daily habits so you're left with fewer decisions in the moment!
Instead of deciding where to get lunch with your friend (or if you even want to go) the day of, make a reservation a couple days prior. Have an outfit in mind for the occasion and know how long you'll be out and how it'll affect your schedule.
Don't know if you want to work out? Book a class beforehand or have a specific training program so you're obligated to show up, and don't forget to have an outfit ready!
By not wasting your mental energy on making these decisions every day, you're more likely to actually work on what you need to when you have the time. Not only that, but with this organization, you'll have clear blocks of time for you to work, which acts as motivation!
2) This or Nothing
Famed crime-fiction novelist Raymond Chandler was onto something with his "Nothing Alternative". Even though he loved it, Chandler always struggled with writing, so he would set aside four hours each day and give himself an ultimatum: Write or nothing. "He [the writer] doesn't have to write," says Raymond, "but he is not to do any other positive thing, not read, write letters, glance at a magazine, or write checks".
This is genius – most of procrastination feeds off of doing something else in the meantime. Generally, this other activity makes you happier in the moment, but by denying yourself any other activity, it makes procrastination much less favorable.
Consider organizing time in your day to get things done. You don't need to get them done, but, you're also not allowed to do anything else. Don't look at your phone, social media, newspapers–anything that isn't what you intended on doing. Shut down your WiFi if you have to! By not allowing yourself any alternative, your brain is more likely to finally focus on the real work.
3) Do Something Smaller First
This one is a total psychological hack! In his book, titled Getting Things Done, David Allen discusses the power of "dumbing down your brain", which involves figuring out the next specific action you need to take in order to move closer to the completion of whatever your task is, and DOING IT. This action should be small and totally doable, so the thought of doing it isn't daunting.
When you do something your mind perceives as doable, your energy will go up and your sense of direction and drive will increase dramatically. From there, you’ll be able to motivate yourself to get the rest of whatever you need done.
Think about it! How does that big project you're procrastinating make you feel? Anxious? Overwhelmed? Incapable?
Now shift your focus to a tiny aspect of it. This can be a phone call, a few google searches, or maybe just an outline. That's completely doable, right?
By breaking down huge tasks you've been procrastinating, you can attack them piece by piece. Anytime you feel the procrastination creeping back up again, immediately break down whatever you feel like procrastinating into something simple and doable, even if it’s something as small as opening KeyNote and naming your presentation.
One small step leads to another… and another… and another… and before you know it, you’ve got momentum!
4) Changing Your Environment
Your environment is way more powerful than you think. For example: if you're a recovering alcoholic, you don't keep booze in your house and you avoid bars and people who don't respect your sobriety. Similarly, if you're prone to procrastinate, you need to alter your environment to help you focus.
It's important to have a working environment where you feel comfortable concentrating; this includes putting items in there that make it feel homier, maybe adding a color scheme that brings you joy. Primarily, however, it involves you removing anything that would cause you to be distracted.
If you can’t work in public places because of the constant movement and noise, then find a quiet place to sit down and focus, like a smaller cafe, library, or home office. If you can't work in an area full of distractions, you must remove the distractions.
For me to be able to avoid procrastinating and focus on what I’ve decided to focus on, I need to remove every possible distraction from my work environment, especially digital. I put my phone in Do Not Disturb and mute notifications on my computer and watch. If that isn't enough and I can't fight the urge to look at my phone, I'll even physically move it into a drawer. As crazy as it sounds, it works!
It runs deeper than that, though. If your work environment is perfectly curated for work and work ONLY (this means no distractions), you'll subconsciously start to associate that area with focus and getting things done. When you separate your work environment from your relaxing environment, you're actually less likely to procrastinate in your assigned work area. Your brain loves organization and separation – it's what humans have evolved to have over 300,000 years. Utilizing this internal need to organize your space can actually be a superpower, especially for those who procrastinate!
What does this all mean?
Breaking a habit as deeply rooted as procrastination can be tough, I get it! After years and years of pushing things back, it feels scary to finally stop ignoring, avoiding, fighting. Like any habit, learning how to stop procrastinating is a journey, but a journey well worth it!
Believe me – the moment you stop fighting what's inevitable, you can do anything. The first step to taking charge of your future is to first take charge of yourself, and this is the perfect opportunity!