People who say procrastination is about laziness are like people who think that anorexia is about not eating enough.
Case in point: As I started to write this article, I thought, “I’ll just go check my Facebook messages first.”
Then I caught myself in the act and started writing.
Now, I wasn’t tempted to dive into Facebook because I’m lazy.
I was going to dive into Facebook because it’s hard to write an article, and I get a little jittery before I write! On the other hand, it’s easy to scroll through a stream of other people’s thoughts. That doesn’t make me jittery at all.
That’s it. Plain and simple.
I’m betting that, like me, you’re not lazy.
I’m betting you’re scared.
I’m betting you’re a perfectionist.
I’m betting you’re overwhelmed.
Or, you’re all three. (Plus a few other things thrown in the mix.)
The good news is that you can train yourself to get stuff done. Look at me, for instance. Almost everything I’ve accomplished or created came because I tricked my needy, fearful, anxious little ego to step to the side and let me do my thing.
Here are 8 of my favorite tricks to help even the worst procrastinator break the habit:
1 – Take one little step.
When I read Stephen King’s book On Writing, I noticed something. I noticed that when Stephen King gets an idea, he writes it. Immediately and imperfectly.
Most people get an idea.
Then they sit there.
They wonder if it’s a good idea.
Then, they wonder if it’s a good idea some more.
Stop doing this.
Next time you get an idea…
…do something tiny. Write a paragraph, pick up the phone, make an outline. Do something.
2 – Use small windows.
Everyone complains about having no time.
My guess is that we all have lots of time. It just doesn’t happen to be all at once.
Are you waiting for many hours of spare time to begin your idea, your project, or your taxes? Stop waiting! Learn to use the spare half hour that comes up here and there. (I gave myself 45 minutes to write this article just to take my own advice.)
3 – Do it badly.
Set a goal to do it badly. Set a goal to show up. Let go of doing it ALL, or doing it WELL.
Some of my coaching clients’ biggest victories have a lot more to do with getting over perfectionism and fear than they do about getting it all done perfectly.
4 – Get accountability.
Call a friend and say something like this: “I’m going to spend the next hour working on creating my new product.” Then go do it.
Call the friend after the half hour and make her congratulate you. Repeat daily.
5 – Define quantities.
Nebulous goals make for nebulous results.
“I need to write more” is a lot like saying, “We should do something about climate change.”
Most procrastinators have a hard time defining quantities. We think everything needs to be done NOW.
So here are three defining questions to answer before you start on a project or task:
1 – When are you going to do it? (What exact time?)
2 – For how long will you do it? (Until when?)
3 – What small section are you going to work on? (Chapter 3, your top drawer, your bio, etc)
Define the goal, acknowledge its completion and get the dopamine hit you so need.
6 – Do it first.
My very first coach made me write first thing in the morning. He told me to schedule the 2-hour time block as my first activity upon waking.
His words: “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 energy thinking about this thing you’re supposed to be doing.
7 – Avoid “nose-bleed” activities.
Email, voicemail, web stats – any activity that bleeds itself into your whole day becomes a non-activity. It becomes a nose-bleed.
When you do it all the time, you never complete it. You just let it slowly drain the very life force from you. Define times for these activities. Then, turn off your email, your cell phone, your web stats, until that time comes.
8 – Never ask how you “feel” about it.
Have you ever committed to getting fit? 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. Make your decision the night before. Commit to getting up and going right to the gym, the computer, the blank canvas. Don’t have coffee and sigh and think, “I’ll probably feel more like it at lunchtime.” You won’t!
If it’s a priority, don’t waste time asking yourself how you feel about doing it. Feelings are an easy out.
There. I did it.
I wrote this article.
(And now I don’t even want to go to Facebook. How about that?)
Now, your turn…
Pick one of these questions (or all three) and answer in the comments…
1 – What’s your favorite procrastination activity? (Confess it here so you can catch yourself in the act next time.)
2 – What tool or strategy helps you stay on track and not procrastinate? (Do you use it regularly?)
3 – After you comment, what’s the one small thing you will go and get done immediately?