You procrastinate because the thought of taking a certain action does not excite you. In fact the thought actually makes you a tad sad. There are lots of actions that give us that “Ugh” feeling when we even think about doing them. The unpleasant action could be going to the gym, doing your taxes, making an unpleasant phone call, or cleaning the bathroom.
For the longest, I would ask myself, “Why am I so lazy?” But, procrastination isn’t really an issue of laziness. It’s an emotional issue. Your brain predicts that you’re going to experience a negative emotion and does its best to help you avoid it.
We are not our emotions, and we do not have to allow our emotions to guide us. They’re merely suggestions that we can choose to follow or reject. It’s not easy to take an action that feels uncomfortable, but it can be done.
Even if you procrastinate, you’ll eventually feel even worse about not taking the appropriate action. Why not save ourselves some time and drama and just get it done? Let’s consider different ways to fight through the initial feelings of unpleasantness and get to the place where we can see ourselves as achievers.
Try these tips to overcome procrastination:
- Find an easier way to do the task. Maybe there’s a better or easier way to do what needs to be done. Some tasks are just so big they’re intimidating to even consider.
Can you add something fun to the task?
I make a certain amount of my workouts dance-related because I enjoy dancing.
- Can you do a little each day until it’s done?
I am currently working on my taxes from 7:30 PM – 8:30 PM each night; it’s the only way I could convince myself to start.
- Is there a special tool you can rent?
- Can you break it into smaller tasks?
- Can you hire someone else to do it or help you with it? Can you partner with a friend that also needs to do the same thing?
“Meet me at the library and let’s study for our certifications together?”
- Can you do a little each day until it’s done?
2. Promise yourself a reward after the task is complete. Maybe all you need is an ice cream cone, a massage, or a new book to inspire you to get busy and take action. A reward can be a powerful motivator.
If I stick to my workout schedule, I get a massage every other month.
3. Think of how great you’ll feel after completing the task. There are few feelings better than completing a dreaded task. It’s such a relief to put it behind you. Instead of focusing on how awful it will be to do it, focus on how awesome you’ll feel when it’s done.
4. Start small. Plan to work on it for just ten minutes. Promise yourself that’s all you have to do and then you’ll give yourself a break. You might find that it’s easy to continue after you get started. Getting started is often the most challenging part of accomplishing just about anything.
If there is a project challenge that I am dreading, that I keep “accidentally” skipping over on my to do list, I force myself to take 10 minutes and sit with pen and paper and just doodle my thoughts on the best way to get started. Some of my best plans and approaches have started with just 10 minutes.
5. Get help. Do you know someone that can help you? Having some company can make unpleasant tasks more tolerable. Find a friend to help, and you’ll get done twice as fast. Maybe you are not the best person to do this task. Who is? Can you afford their help? If you cannot, can you find some tips on how to do it? Is there something on YouTube that could give you ideas? You do not have to be an expert; you just have to get it done.
6. Be tough. There are some tasks that simply have to be done even if you don’t want to do them. Summon your inner gladiator and overcome your resistance. You have to schedule those meetings; yes, it’s going to take time to find the right time and location for such a disparate group. Just do it. You have to collect everyone’s feedback and put it into the collective plan and a report. It will not be a short task and everyone will not agree with your recommendation and approach. It is what it is. Just get it done.
7. Give routine tasks a time and a place that they have to be done.
- For years I procrastinated on budgeting and reconciling the family finances until I made it synonymous with Sunday night TV.
- Workouts are to be done before the sun comes up, and then it is out of the way.
- Mondays mornings are for assessing what major activities need to happen across all of my company’s active projects and for sharing our plans with our client groups.
8. Stop using perfect as an excuse. You are not perfect, and no one expects anything you do to be perfect. What people expect is that what you deliver your best and that you get feedback and continue to iterate and make it better and better. If you sit around waiting for perfect, you will never deliver anything.
Everyone has the urge to procrastinate. One thing that separates successful people from the masses is the ability to overcome this urge.
We procrastinate because the thought of doing the task is unpleasant. There are ways to minimize the discomfort of performing a task. Seek out these ways and find what works best for you in specific situations.
Focus on the benefits of taking action, get your work done, and give yourself a little reward. You’ll feel great when it’s over. Now that’s the emotion that we are looking for.