Procrastination: simple 7 steps to deal with it

Procrastination: simple 7 steps to deal with it

Meet you, the master of procrastination.

... Facing a long pending job that demands your intellectual prowess. A long pending job that requires focus.

Fueled by the weight of this unfinished job, you decide to confront this challenge that has slowly turned into a mental monster.

Feeling extremely charged, "Today is the day! Enough is Enough! No more procrastinating on this job!", you declare to yourself!

In your quest to finally get the job done, you open a browser tab, go to YouTube, and start typing as you search for a motivational soundtrack - Something along the lines of 'focus music for work'.

Countless video titles promise clarity.

Finally having scrolled down the list of recommended videos, you land on 'THE' video. This is 'THE ONE!'

The one that will help you unburden your soul by finally getting the job done.

So you quickly click 'play'.

You listen through a few seconds of some annoying random ad.

You click 'skip ad' and alas! ... sweet music fills your ears. Music to finally help you focus.

Long story short, the moment is short-lived.

Despite trying to focus on the task at hand, your mind just stubbornly resists it.

Despite the nice 'focus music', clarity eludes you.

Despite your best effort, the web of procrastination stubbornly holds onto your mind. Sigh!

It is at this point when you realize, that even a carefully curated playlist can't just conquer procrastination puzzles.

With a strong sense of frustration, you pause your playlist and you set the job aside for the umpteenth time.

The job remains undone - A testament to the complexities of conquering procrastination, ... even with the sweet symphonies that promise 'focus and motivation'.

Well unknown to many is that an old secret to unlocking intense focus, and the ability to do deep work, lies in a concept called 'The Flow State' or simply 'Flow'.

You see, procrastination will usually be fuelled by either Anxiety or Boredom.

Anxiety is where you are 'Too terrified to attempt the challenge' and Boredom is where you are 'Too uninspired to focus'.

The 7 proven tips I am about to share with you have helped dozens of my clients beat procrastination. Now, they are slaying their goals and driving positive momentum in their lives.

Let’s get started!

Step 1:

Understand your purpose

Have you ever put something off because you can’t see an immediate benefit?

Think about that plan of going to the gym or eating healthy. You promise yourself that you’re going to start tomorrow, but tomorrow comes around and you don’t start. There could be several reasons for this, and one of them is that you can’t see an instant benefit.

You find it hard to begin a project or task because you’re unsure of the impact. You don't know what to do because your reason for doing it isn’t strong enough.

This is when procrastination kicks in. You're in doubt so you delay the task. You find more 'enjoyable’ things to do, or something simpler that will result in an immediate benefit.

Before you begin a project or task, you need to nail your purpose. This will provide you with clarity and is the first step to helping you reach the desired outcome.

To help, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is this still important to me/the organisation?
  • Is it the most important thing right now?
  • What would happen if I didn’t do this?
  • What would happen if I did?

Understanding your purpose will help you become laser-focused on your goals and will lead to an underlying sense of peace and fulfillment like never before.

Step 2:

Establish your goals

People who procrastinate may avoid tasks because they don’t have a true understanding of what the outcome should be, and are unclear about the specific tasks required. They often confuse this and label it as ‘overwhelm,' but the truth is they may simply lack clarity around the goal.

Establishing a goal will provide clarity around what you are trying to achieve. The more specific you are, the easier it will be to complete tasks and achieve the goal. To make your goals attainable, ask the following questions:

  • What is the aim of the project?
  • What will the outcome be?
  • What tasks am I required to complete?
  • Who can I go to for the information I need?
  • Is there a budget I need to stick to?
  • What are the deadlines for each task?

Step 3:

Identify whether your tasks are important or urgent

A common problem faced by procrastinators is being 'busy' with an urgent matter. It distracts them from doing important tasks. Spending too much time putting out fires can produce a great deal of stress and could result in burnout.

How can you solve this?

Start by making the distinction between urgent and important tasks. Stephen Covey, author of ‘Seven Habits of Highly Effective People’”, describes this best in the following way:

“Urgent matters are unavoidable and require immediate action since they are visible issues that pop up and demand your attention now.

“On the other hand, important matters require planning and thoughtful action since they contribute to long-term goals and organisational values. When you focus on important matters, you need to manage your time, energy, and attention rather than mindlessly spending these resources.”

On a practical level, a useful tool to help you determine this is the Eisenhower Matrix. There are four determining factors:

  • Urgent and important tasks. These tasks have a deadline and consequences for inaction.
  • Important but not urgent tasks. These tasks enhance your life and should have specific time set aside for them.
  • Urgent but not important tasks. You can delegate these tasks to someone else.
  • Not urgent and not important. You can delete these tasks from your routine. Another option is to delay them until you complete your urgent and important tasks.

Step 4:

Set realistic timeframes

Procrastination often results from underestimating the time it takes to finish a task or project. When you start to feel pressured and stressed, your tendency is to delay the tasks and focus on less stressful items instead.

More often than not, the key to eliminating procrastination is setting realistic deadlines.

Consider the following key points:

Schedule tasks in your calendar

If it's not in your calendar, it may as well not exist. If you have a plan or schedule written down on your journal or calendar, you're more likely to action it according to plan. Treat the task like any other task or appointment that you wouldn’t miss. I.e., brushing your teeth!

Consider when you are at your best to complete the task.

There's no one-size-fits-all strategy for setting a schedule because people are at their most productive at different times. Consider the following:

  • Are you at your best and brightest as soon as you wake up?
  • Do you perform better at night after you've eaten dinner?
  • Do you have the most energy after a workout or a walk in the park?

Some of you may identify as night owls while others are early birds, so it's important to explore what works best for you.

Procrastination often results from underestimating the time it takes to finish a task. We may start but run out of time. When we don't finish something it can create a feeling of failure inside us, or the feeling that it's dragging on, which leaves a sour taste. We may be reluctant to return to the task for this reason, which sees us delaying the rest of the project, or focusing on more pleasant or less stressful tasks instead.

Step 5:

Curate the resources you need

Procrastination can kick in when you don’t have all the resources you need. You may even begin to doubt your abilities and ask, "Can I do this?"

Consider any barriers to completing the task by asking:

  • Do I have all the resources I need to complete the task?
  • Are there any systems I need to set up before I begin the process?
  • Is there any study or research I need to undertake before beginning?

Armed with this information, you will set yourself up for success.

Step 6:

Ask for help

Staying accountable relies on completing the first few tips of this guide. If you don’t have purpose, clarity, or realistic deadlines, you’re going to find this part hard. But it’s fixable. You can ask for help from other people to help keep you accountable.

  • Do you have a team leader or manager who can act as your accountability buddy?
  • Do you have a friend or former colleague who is willing to spend half an hour a week to check in and help keep you on track?
  • Are you part of a networking group that offers group accountability sessions?

Getting help from others will boost your confidence in completing projects and help you stay on track.

Step 7:

Address limiting beliefs/fear

Have you ever caught yourself saying any of the following?

"I can’t afford that."

"I don’t have time."

"I’m an overthinker."

These are limiting beliefs that cause you to procrastinate. You will continue to accept these beliefs to be true, either with or without proof.

When you don’t believe you can get the results you want, you will sabotage your efforts from the start. It offers justification that you can't do it.

Reframe this by replacing these beliefs with empowering ones. For example, “I don’t have the education and skills needed to get that promotion” could be reframed to “What skills and further education could I undertake to make it possible to get that promotion?”

You don't have to apply all the tips in this blog right away to see changes in your life. Start small, understand one tip at a time, apply it, and see the wonderful change it brings.

Here's to building a procrastination-free life one step at a time!


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