Irony: As I started to write this article, I thought to myself, “Hey, I’ll just go do one Sudoku game before I write this.” I caught myself in the act, and marched my ass back here to write this post.
People who say that procrastination is about laziness are probably the same people who think that bulimia is about eating too much. Procrastination isn’t about laziness. It’s about fear. It’s about perfectionism. It’s about overwhelm. We all experience this, and there are some tricks that have helped me. Hopefully, they’ll help you too…
9 solutions to break the procrastination habit:
1 – When you get an idea, do some little thing to begin it
Did you read Stephen King’s book On Writing? Me too. And one thing I noticed about Stephen King is that when he gets an idea, he writes it. That’s it.
Most people – myself included – will get an idea, sit there, wonder if it’s a good idea, and then wonder if it’s a good idea some more.
Got an idea? Begin it. Just start. There’s nothing to lose.
2 – All hail small chunks of time!
Lots of us complain about having no time. My guess is that we all have lots of spare time. It just doesn’t happen to be all at once.
When we begin to make the most of our small chunks of time, we get better at making use of our large chunks of time.
Quit waiting for many hours and days of spare time to begin your idea, your project, your taxes. Start figuring out how to use the spare half hour that comes up in between meetings or phone calls. (I have given myself 45 minutes to write this blog just to take my own advice.)
3 – Make your new goal be this: To do it badly.
If you are a tried and true procrastinator, set a goal to do it badly. Make the goal be just to show up – and let go of doing it ALL, or doing it WELL. Some of my biggest victories have a lot more to do with getting over my perfectionism or fear, than they do about being perfect.
4 – Commit to it on paper and out loud
Write down the goal. Then call a friend and say something to this effect: “I’m going to spend the next half hour working on my Law School Essay for Harvard.” Then go do it. Call the friend after the half hour and make her congratulate you. Rinse and repeat tomorrow.
5 – Give it defined quantities
Nebulous goals make for nebulous results. “I’m gonna get my office organized” is a bit like saying, “We oughtta do something about Global Warming.”
Most procrastinators have a hard time defining quantities. We can only see that everything needs to be done now.
When are you going to do it? For how long? Which part of your office are you going to organize? Are you going to throw old files from the file cabinet into recycling? Or create new labels for the file folders?
6 – Install this System Upgrade into your mental hard drive: Less is More
Have fewer goals. Have no more than three priorities for a week. Begin the week knowing those priorities. If there are more than three major items, let everything else go but the most important ones.
Because you’re not lazy. You’re just trying to do too much.
Train yourself to grok what it feels like to accomplish one thing instead of not quite getting to everything. Once you get that, you’ll finally understand what it feels like to do something. You’ll want to make it a habit.
7 – Do it first thing
When I was struggling to finish songs, a mentor of mine made me write songs first thing in the morning. He told me to schedule the 2-hour chunk as my first activity upon waking.
“Because you’re telling the universe that this is your priority. And then the universe lines up everything to align with your priority.” Action grounds your priorities. It makes them real. It also makes your day easier because you’re not wasting your precious energy on “thinking about” this thing you’re supposed to be doing. You’ve already done it.
8 – Define times for nose-bleed activities
Email, text messages, voicemail, web stats – any activity that bleeds itself into your whole day becomes a non-activity. It turns into a nose-bleed. When you do it all the time, you never actually do it. You just let it slowly suck the very life force from you. Get out your calendar and define times you’re going to do these activities. Then, challenge yourself to turn off your email, your cell phone, your web stats, until that time comes.
9 – Don’t ask yourself how you “feel” about doing the activity.
Have you ever committed to going to the gym? And then when the alarm goes off, you lie in bed thinking, “Do I really feel like going to the gym?” [Like you even have to ask?!]
Change this pattern. Decide the night before that you’re doing it. Commit to getting up and going right to the gym, the computer, the blank canvas. Don’t sit and have coffee and sigh and think, “Man, if I wait til noon. I’ll probably feel more like it then.”
If it’s important to you, if it’s a priority, don’t waste time asking yourself how you feel about doing it or if it’s really even a good idea. The voice of the procrastinator will always find a way out of doing it. Feelings are an easy out.
There I did it. I wrote this blog. And it only took an hour. And now, I don’t even want to play Sudoku!