10 Tips to Stop Procrastinating
Even when you know what you want to achieve, getting started is sometimes so overwhelming that you spend an embarrassing amount of time sitting stuck in stasis—procrastinating. You may think it’s a problem unique to you, but successful CEOs have suffered it, too.
You may be tired, distracted, or juggling too many things at once, but you also just may not have the right strategy. Set aside self-admonishment for a minute, and remember proper tools are necessary for every job.
Overcoming procrastination is no different—all it takes is an actionable approach.
1. Set a Goal
When considering how to avoid procrastination, the first step is to set a clear and measurable goal. Growing your audience is great, but capturing a 50% increase in six months is better.
We can get stymied by overthinking. Clarify and simplify the big picture, break it down into smaller steps, and take the next right action.
2. Break it Down
Your car’s headlights only illuminate about 350 feet of the road ahead at once. Even when you know your destination, you can’t see the entire path from the starting line.
To overcome procrastination, break your macro goal into micro actions. The first of which should be so attainable you can’t help but get it done.
3. Rig it so You Can Win
It might be counterintuitive, but set an initial goal that seems too small and too simple.
If the hurdle is exceptionally high, you’ll get demoralized and stuck rather than creating a feeling of success you can build on. Rig the game so you can win, create a sense of achievement, and nudge your way toward your own personal flow state.
Repeat this process projected out to the big-picture goal. Not only will you achieve it—you’ll minimize both time-wasting procrastination habits and demoralizing self-criticism.
4. Decide on a Timeline
Are you familiar with Parkinson’s Law? It states that “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion”. It all but ensures we’ll waste countless hours only to find ourselves rushing and stressing to meet the final deadline.
To combat this, choose timelines for each of your intermediary goals, and make confident, unhurried strides.
5. Create Your Space
Do you perform best before the sun’s up, or does your most productive period strike while the rest of the neighborhood sleeps? Is your desk a bit chaotic, or have you discovered how an ideal workstation allows you to unleash your inspiration? Understanding what compels you toward effective and efficient work is imperative.
When I transitioned to a work-from-home career, I invested in a second monitor to expand my laptop screen space. I recognized in an instant how much easier dual-monitor life made it to increase my productivity and stop procrastinating.
Some of my favorite monitors are the Swivel 12”/14”, the Solo Pro, and the Solo 17”. No matter which is right for you, never underestimate the power of a proper setup to help you get where you’re aiming to go.
6. Eliminate Distraction
How many times have you gotten stuck and found yourself seeking a distraction?
According to Dr. Tim Pychyl, author of a 2013 study on procrastination, “Procrastination is an emotion regulation problem, not a time management problem.” It makes sense, then, for us to distract ourselves with something less emotionally taxing. Use a schedule with built-in breaks to corral distractions and thwart procrastination.
7. Set a Timer
A popular scheduling approach called the Pomodoro Technique alternates work and break periods. The work periods are long enough to be useful without mentally bogging you down, and the breaks provide consistent opportunities to grab a snack, play with your puppy, respond to texts, or step outside.
To apply the technique, set your timer for twenty-five minutes of focused, diversion-free work time. Take a five minute break. Do this four times, and after the fourth cycle, reward yourself with a longer break, say fifteen, twenty, or even thirty minutes.
8. Consult Your Future Self
“A year from now you may wish you had started today”.—Karen Lamb
Instead of dwelling on time already wasted, consider your future self. Get to work now, and give yourself the ability to look back at a job well done rather than a job never begun.
9. Hold Yourself Accountable
Have you ever considered donating to an organization that goes completely against everything you believe in? Or making a bet with a friend promising them a big payout if you don’t achieve action X by timeline Y?
Negative motivation options like these play into our human desire to counteract loss, and they can provide powerful oomph to get you going.
10. Keep Your Eyes on Your Work
Projects may involve other people, and those people may or may not be as reliable and hard-working as you.
Complete any work within your control. Beyond that, consider offering some “How to Stop Procrastinating” articles to any partners who wait until the last minute. Ease your own stress, and leave others to experience the consequences of their own (in)actions.
Take What You Like and Leave The Rest
Define it, rig it, schedule it, hone your setup, and achieve it.
Not every strategy will resonate or affect change in every one of us, but certainly many of them will.
Take what you like, leave the rest, and get to work.