If you are trying to achieve anything in your life you should see procrastination as enemy number one. It will keep your dreams as just dreams and offers only memes, cat pictures and mindless YouTube videos in return. Follow the tips below and you will start realising how much time you really have in a day.
1. Forgive yourself
Forgive me Father, for I have sinned. I spent four hours on the couch yesterday when I should have been contacting stockists. Beating yourself up is not the way to overcome procrastination, it will leave you feeling demotivated. Just because you have procrastinated in the past does not mean you will in the future. We all have the choice to improve when we wake up each morning. Focus on right now, not the past.
2. Build a working habit
I am convinced of the power of habits. I read an AMAZING book a few years ago called “The Power of Habit” by Charles Duhigg. I could feel my world changing as I read. It is a must for anyone interested in self-improvement. Procrastination is a habit – you wake up, start checking your phone, browse the news, watch some videos etc. and then it’s lunch time. Start building a working habit instead. Plan out your new morning routine and cut all the distractions from it. For example: wake up, spend 45-minutes getting ready (shower, dressing, breakfast, coffee), then get to work. Keep your phone and other distractions away from you. The first few days will be the toughest, but it will then become like clockwork. The hardest part is starting so make sure you start first thing in the morning.
For bonus points – tidy your desk each night and write your goals for the next day. Nothing beats procrastination better than when you wake up knowing exactly what you need to tackle first.
3. Manage your distractions
We all know what causes us to get off task and start procrastinating. For me, it’s my phone. With so much information at my fingertips, I can easily spend hours with little to show for it. That’s why I put it on silent when I am working on something. Gloria Mark (Professor in the Department of Informatics at the University of California, Irvine) found in one study that it takes an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to get back on task after being interrupted. That is a lot of procrastinating if you are in a distracting environment. Think about what distracts you and how you can eliminate or at the very least reduce it (babies and pets excepted).
4. Know why you are doing something
This ultimately comes back to goal-setting. Being able to tie a task back to a bigger goal you want to achieve makes it much easier to overcome procrastination. For example, cold-calling stockists might not be the most fun, but I know that it is essential if I am going to achieve my bigger sales target goal.
5. Forget perfection
A lot of time gets wasted worrying about perfection. It is great to want to do the best work possible but not if it means you don’t start at all. I remember researching other articles and being in awe of how well written they were. I thought that there was no point in even attempting my own article until I could write to that level. I was just creating excuses to not attempt at all. I needed to remind myself that the author was once like me, looking up to someone else. They didn’t let this phase them and neither should I. Your aim should be to deliver your best work with a set timeframe.
6. Divide up big tasks
Big tasks can be so overwhelming that you don’t know where to begin – so you start procrastinating. I had this problem when it came to design a new notebook. To overcome this hurdle, I broke it down into actionable steps e.g. visit specialist stationery store and talk to owner (2-hours) brainstorm new concepts (30-minutes), email designer with idea and set up Skype call (15-minutes), attend Skype call and take notes (1-hour) etc. Sometimes the words you use can be demotivating e.g. design, create, and plan are more overwhelming than brainstorm, draft and call – so watch out for this.
7. Do what's most important first
I consider doing admin tasks as a minor form of procrastination. Sure, that paper needs to get filed eventually. But is it the most important thing you must do right now? Can it wait and be done more efficiently later? I thought so. If you don’t tackle the big tasks you will always end up scrambling to do them at the last minute.
8. Build your self-discipline
Sorry if this is bursting your bubble but you can’t just read an article and magically beat procrastination. You need to be conscious of when you are slipping, catch yourself and refocus your efforts on the task at hand. Just before your hand reaches your phone remind yourself of everything you need to get done today and how long a distraction will keep you off task. Be disciplined – focus is a muscle that needs training to become strong.
Procrastination isn’t your friend. Sure, it might feel nice to surf the net for a few hours but ultimately it will leave you feeling hollow with nothing to show for it (unless you are reading about how to beat procrastination of course 😉). If you have read this far you are someone with goals to achieve. Send procrastination packing and start working on them today – you will surprise yourself how quickly things start moving. Please share your favourite procrastination beaters in the comments below, I would love to hear them.