Stop feeling crap about it. We all do it. We’re all putting off things we should be doing. Maybe it’s exercise, a phone call, a work project or some DIY task. You’re probably avoiding pain (effort, discomfort, pressure, potential failure etc.) and gaining pleasure (look at photos online, watch that new tv show, order pizza, sleep in, go out with friends etc.) by procrastinating.
I do this all the time. I hate myself for doing it all the time. When I find myself being a useless unproductive procrastinating loser I apply these 5 steps below. As with most self improvement efforts, there are a few ways to counter procrastination and you need to find the combination of techniques that work for you. Life is short, don’t waste time.
Why – Do you have a big enough internal or external reason for taking action. If not, create it, list all the reasons why you must take action right now. If it’s something that doesn’t have huge direct meaning ‘writing that one email’ find a way to connect the activity and outcome to much larger ideas/ideals e.g. getting that email done (the why =) solidifies my identity as someone with character, someone who can be trusted and is reliable, someone who is productive, someone who will go far in life because they do the necessary things not the easy things etc.
Clarity – Often we put off doing things because we just don’t have clarity on what exactly needs to be done. We think we do, but often we don’t. I need to fix my bike chain, it keeps slipping on the highest gear. I think it’s a combination of cleaning, tightening the cable and bending the gear teeth, in order to fix it. But I don’t know exactly what to do, so I’ve been putting it off. Stop beating yourself up about procrastinating if the actual issue is clarity about what you need to do. Get clear, get moving.
Accountability – Perhaps it’s a buddy system e.g. you work out with a friend/trainer. Or you use a service like Stickk that donates money to your anti-charity if you don’t follow through. Perhaps you need to make a public commitment by putting something on Facebook about what you’re going to do/finish. I’ve found that if I check in with a friend who has similar goals or someone who holds me to really high standards and doesn’t mind giving me shit if I don’t live up to them – I’m much more likely to get things done.
Tiny effort – What’s the smallest thing you could do? If you committed to washing just one plate, chances are you’ll just dump some more dishes in there and get them all done. BJ Fogg from Stanford writes a lot about this ‘Tiny Habits’ principle. Just floss one tooth, write a sentence, walk around the block etc.
Belief check – Sometimes there’s an internal belief or bad self esteem holding you back. If you’re insecure or believe that you’re bad at something you’re probably not going to do it. Address the internal belief, find a way to get rid of it and replace it with an empowering belief that allows you to act right now.