Procrastination, in my personal experience, is rarely a factor of preparation. Typically it’s your own heart that is in the way.
When tasks feel emotionally difficult, we tend to delay action – even when we know what the next steps are and have all the resources at our disposal.
For entrepreneurs and small business owners, inaction can cost real dollars.
While our true causes of procrastination may lie in deep-rooted beliefs about our worth – or may be a reaction to stressful life circumstances – there’s no need to blame and shame yourself for something all humans struggle with.
As technology has become a daily constant, woven intricately throughout our lives, our stress levels as a society have risen. And with anxiety comes avoidance.
In an era where instant gratification is such an easy choice, how do we bust through moments of resistance and push ourselves to accomplish more?
When it comes to turning procrastination into productivity, you’ve probably read tips online that recommend things like:
- Implementing keystone habits i.e. exercise or journaling
- Identifying top priority tasks that must be accomplished that day
- Limiting all extraneous distractions i.e. muting notifications, airplane mode
- Breaking larger projects into manageable tasks
- Scheduling work sessions in your calendar in advance
- Letting go of perfectionistic standards
While all of these techniques are helpful, sometimes the invisible barrier is just too stubborn. Here are 3 tactics to beat procrastination that may surprise you!
Do Something Else – Even Something Fun
More often than not, when we’re avoiding an overwhelming task, we’re engaging in some other activity. And more often than not, that activity is stimulating the instant gratification part of our brain. Whether it’s the latest Netflix docuseries, the next level of a gaming app, eating an unhealthy meal, scrolling through TikTok, or whatever it is, distractions do not move us forward.
Sometimes progress is hard to make because we feel like we’re not making progress. So we need to make some progress to convince our heart that more progress is possible.
Logically we may understand this process, but in reality, our emotions don’t always align with what we conceptually understand.
So the next time you’ve fallen into a distraction and need to get yourself to work, this is what you do to stop procrastinating.
First, get out of the all-or-nothing mentality.
Allow yourself to do a different activity – even if it’s not the best use of your time. Cut yourself a little bit of slack in the productivity area to break the instant gratification cycle.
What is something that takes under 20 minutes to accomplish – something that does not exist in the digital world – that could give you an immediate win?
- Empty the dishwasher
- Tidy your desk area
- Organize your papers and mail
- Discard old food in the fridge
- Quick clean out of your car
- Take the dog for a walk
- Practice an instrument
- Draw, doodle, or paint
With a couple wins in your day, you may just give yourself the momentum you need to start working on that big task. This is the same philosophy behind developing keystone habits – activities within your day that set you up for success for the rest of your day.
Visualize the Work
This tip is for the people who took the previous tip too far.
Productive procrastination is sneaky because it makes us feel accomplished when we’re still not taking action on priority tasks.
Perhaps you don’t feel competent enough to do a job well done. Perhaps you’ve waited too long get started and now it’s crunch time. Perhaps you simply do not enjoy the task ahead.
If this sounds like you, consider this.
Have you ever been driving home and craving fast food? You tell yourself you’re not going to go through the drive-thru, but you keep thinking about your favorite items on the menu. And before you know it, your imaginary order turns into a real order.
Once you decided what you wanted, once you saw yourself ordering, the decision almost felt like it was made on your behave.
We do this all the time when we go on an extra trip to the store or when we choose less pressing tasks over what we intended to do.
When the to-do lists aren’t helping you check off the most meaningful tasks, stop what you’re doing and refocus.
Slow down, take a breathe, and find a place to sit.
You don’t need to close your eyes, but you may find it helpful to slow your thoughts. Visualize yourself getting ready to work and taking that first step.
Envision yourself plugging away at this task you’ve been procrastinating on. Follow-thru to the end and let your imagination lead to you the sense of relief or accomplishment you’ll feel once the project is complete.
Use this exercise to identify the entry points into your project. Rather than thinking of the most logical place to start, get going with the task that feels easiest.
Remember the Bigger Consequences of Procrastination
Whether it’s perfectionistic tendencies, low confidence in a particular skill, or just being overwhelmed with life, humans choose procrastination in the moment because it feels like the better choice.
In anticipation of how we would feel if we were working, we let ourselves fall into distractions and bad habits.
Take a moment to remind yourself, that underneath the temporary relief that instant gratification gives is a growing anxiety. Procrastination creates a burden and this burden perpetuates your procrastination.
Our choices have a direct relationship with our self-esteem. When you do not feel like you can trust your own behaviors, insecurities rise up and rule your life.
The promises you break to yourself are the most detrimental.
You’ve heard this before, but the only thing you need to do to beat procrastination is just get started!
If you’re feeling down because you’ve already wasted today’s work time, remember tomorrow is a new day.
Every small step forward is a win.
What was your obstacle today? How can you set yourself up for greater success tomorrow?
Email Renée to schedule a FREE 30-minute introductory coaching session.