What is Procrastination?
Before we kick off with how to stop it, you need to understand what it is. Procrastination is conflict between instant gratification and future rewards and outcomes.
Let me give you an example. You want to start losing weight, because you want to look good in your summer outfits.
You start going to the gym or going out for a run in the morning. You say something to yourself like “Tomorrow morning, we’re gonna get up half an hour early and start exercising.”
Tomorrow morning comes, you’ve set the alarm, you wake up and the procrastinating begins… ”I don’t really feel like getting up.” You turn over and go back to sleep again, hitting the snooze button saying “I’ll do it tomorrow.”
Another example. You need to get this report finished but it’s Friday night. Just as you’re about to leave the office your boss says “Paul, I need this report done first thing Monday morning. It had better be there or you’ll be in big trouble.”
You say “Yeah, no worries, boss, it’ll be ready for you.” In your mind you tell yourself, “I’ll do a bit tonight. I’ll do some on Saturday, and finish the rest on Sunday.”
You get home, your brain starts to procrastinate saying, “We’ve had a really tough week at work. We don’t really want to do that report.” So you settle down and binge your favourite series on Netflix.
Meaning you really want the instant gratification. After a hard week’s work, you want to relax. Saturday morning, you get up. “Don’t fancy doing that report now. I want to see my friends, it can wait. I’ll do it later.” Saturday comes and goes, the report still not finished. Same thing happens on Sunday.
But something weird starts to happen Sunday lunchtime, you start thinking about getting that report done, because you don’t really want to get a grilling from your boss Monday morning.
As the afternoon progresses, you start to get a little bit more worried, a bit more anxious, you might start to feel a bit crappy and a bit guilty. Then you start to cross this threshold where you think, “Oh my god, I must get this report done. Because I’m gonna have a major problem tomorrow morning. And my boss is going to rip me a new one. He’ll tell my coworkers how crappy I am.” Panic knocks on your door.
You know what happens next. Monday morning gets closer and closer, you start to work on that damned report.
By 1am, the report is done, and you get about four hour’s sleep. You dash off to work, sleep deprived, with a half assed job done…
What happened there was you went from instant gratification to fear of being chewed out by your boss. Then you HAD to get this thing done. You tipped the scales and finished the job.
It’s the problem many folk face every single time when it comes to procrastination. This is why you need to think about how you deal with this problem as soon as possible.
9 Tips to Beat Procrastination into a Pulp
- Set a deadline
- Make a wager
- Limit Instant gratification
- Break tasks into smaller chunks
- Have a daily routine
- Follow the five second rule
- Track Everything
- Get help if you need it
Here’s some more detail on each of these. You can click on each of the links above to jump to each section and back to the list, or read all 9 procrastination tips in order.
Set A Deadline
Set yourself a deadline to actually get things done. For example, if you’ve got a report to complete, rather than leaving it to the last minute, say to yourself “I’m gonna get this done by Saturday 5pm, If I don’t get it done by five, I won’t go out with my friends and I’ll miss all the cool things I’d planned to do”.
This way, when it gets a Saturday afternoon, all those feelings about getting this report done will kick in early. Then as the deadline gets close, you’ll start to do the work and get the report done leaving you free Saturday night and Sunday to do whatever you want.
Make A Wager
Place a bet with either a friend or use an online app. If you don’t get the thing done that you want to do, you donate money to an organisation you absolutely hate. Any group you despise. If you don’t get that thing done, by the time you’ve said you’re gonna get it done, your friend gives the money to the outfit you hate. How would that make you feel?
Team up with an accountability buddy. Find someone who has a similar goal to you, say losing some pounds before summer. Importantly, you both agree on how you’re going to do this. Let’s say you both agree to hit the gym 3 times a week. Now if you do it on your own you’re more likely to procrastinate. You’ll get up in the morning and think, now I can’t be bothered, I’ll start tomorrow.
If you have a friend who’s in the same situation, who also wants to lose weight, ready for the summer, you can actually say to them, right, tomorrow morning, we’re gonna meet at the gym at 7am. If you don’t turn up, not only are you letting yourself down but you’re going feel bad about letting your friend down too.
Limit Instant Gratification
The next thing we need to do is to make it hard for you to get your hit of instant gratification. If you use Netflix as a way of procrastinating, getting rid of your TV is a bit too drastic. Instead make it hard to turn the TV on. Hide your remote somewhere or take out the batteries. Unplug it, disconnect it and hide it. So turning on the TV out is a big hassle. If you pay monthly, cancel it. Get rid of the whole thing. Bye bye Netflix, hello productivity!
If you’re on a weight loss programme, instead of buying everything in bulk, buy the smallest possible package for each kind of food. Instead of buying a two kilo bag of something, buy a 500g bag instead. If it’s not in your house, you can’t stuff your face. Clear all the crappy “ food” out of your house, all the chocolate, snacks, all the stuff that isn’t good for you. THROW. IT. OUT.
Only have the good stuff. So you can’t procrastinate about eating healthily, by chewing on some snacks, because there aren’t any.
Next thing, remove all the distractions on your phone. So if you’re supposed to be working on a report, but you use your phone as a distraction, delete all those apps. The reward can be reinstalling one or two WHEN the work is done.
Break Tasks into Smaller Chunks
The next thing you can do to beat procrastination is to break the task into small bite sized chunks. Give yourself a reward for each time you finish one of them.
If you’ve got a big report to do, break it down into small sections and every time you complete one section, give yourself a small reward. It doesn’t matter what it is, just make it something that’s motivating for you.
Your brain will start to think “oh yeah, I like this, I can do this, I will do another one, and another one, and another one.” And before you know it, you’ve actually completed the report.
Instead of having to do this whole thing in one hit, you’ve done it in smaller chunks. So you’ve achieved the goal.
Have a Daily Routine
The next thing we can do is have a daily routine. Let’s say you want to write a book and you sit there at a computer thinking “Oh my god, I’ve got to write 60,000 words, it’s never gonna happen I’m never going to do it.” You don’t type a single word.
Do what Stephen King does. In his book “On Writing,” Kings says he sits down at the same time every morning and writes 2000 words. Doesn’t matter if those words are useless, he doesn’t stop until he’s hit his target.
2000 words a day might be too much for you – so break it down. Go for 500 words a day, the number is up to you. You simply have to be consistent and write every single day. One thing that might happen is you do a 30 minute writing session, then your brain says, “We’re not stopping, we want to finish this.” And you’ll write a little bit more.
Instead of just doing 250 words, you might write 300, 400 or 500. And if that happens, don’t stop, let your brain go with it.
Follow The Five Second Rule
Follow the five second rule. Written by Mel Robbins. For example, you want to exercise. In the morning when it’s time to get up and go to the gym, You say out loud “5,4,3,2,1” then get up and move.
To make this easier have all your exercise clothes by your bed, ready to go.
The last idea in this post to help you stop procrastinating is to track everything. Buy a wall planner or calendar. The first time you do something towards your goal, you put a big cross on the calendar for day one. Do the same for day two, day three etc. Your brain will see a pattern emerge and it won’t want to break it. In fact, this action creates a kind of instant gratification that’s good for you.
Be consistent. And before you know it, you’ve completed three, four or five months of daily actions, bringing you closer to your goal.
Get Help If You Need It
You now have a list of eight things you can do to stop procrastinating to stop putting things off right now.
There’s one last thing you can do to eliminate your procrastination if all of the above is not moving the needle. Work with me to find the root cause, the thing that makes you procrastinate. Setting you free to get on with your life, without putting it on hold. To find out more about my history, and my business coaching services click the button below. If you’re concerned about affordability, it’s nothing compared with the turnover you’re losing each month from procrastination. I’ve helped hundreds of professionals beat procrastination, imposter syndrome and perfectionism and set them on the road to freedom.