How to Stop Procrastinating

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How to Stop Procrastinating

Do you want to finally finish that looming project or assignment, or cross those items off your to-do list?

Are you looking for some useful and practical tips to help you finally stop procrastinating?

Procrastination is something we all have to deal with, from time to time.

We’ve all been there.

We’ve all had work projects, school assignments, household tasks, or personal errands hanging over our heads.

We know what needs to be done, but we just don’t want to do it.

As annoying as procrastination is, it’s all part of being human.

And like many things in life, the only way to solve a problem, is to identify it for what it is, and deal with it head on.

In this practical post, I offer seven tips on how to stop procrastinating.

You will definitely want to bookmark and keep this post handy for all those times when the procrastination monster rears its ugly head.

 

Stop making excuses.

This tip is all about checking your excuses, whining, and complaints at the door.

This a serious, no-nonsense, time to get things done approach that takes some major self-discipline.

Yes, it may feel like an enormous strain to focus your mind on what you need to do.

But let’s get real for a moment: do you want to stop procrastinating…or do you want to keep procrastinating? The choice is yours.

How can you set yourself up for success? Simply run towards your procrastination blockage, headfirst.  Set your focus and intent on what it is you’re going to accomplish over the next hour or so.

Then, pull out your tools, materials, information, notes, ideas, and get to work. It really is as simple as that.

If you’re feeling the terrible procrastination pangs of “I don’t wanna,” keep pushing through that resistance. It may take you several tries to push through your reluctance to work.

What’s more, it may take a good chunk of time, too. But, if you keep pushing through and persist, you’ll eventually settle down into a work groove.

Sure, this might not be the most comfortable or productive work session you’ve ever had in your life, but that’s okay.

You’ll have gotten something done. You’ll have emerged victorious against procrastination.

And that’s what truly matters, isn’t it?

Figure out why you’re procrastinating.

People have tons of reasons for procrastinating on tasks. They’ll say the weather’s not right, they don’t have the right clothing, they can’t find time in their schedule, and so on. In reality, however, they might be fearful, feel unknowledgeable, overwhelmed, or have some other mental block.

While someone else’s motives for procrastination can look blatantly obvious to you, what’s not always apparent is why you personally procrastinate on tasks.

If you’re really interested in stopping the vicious cycle of procrastination in your life, you’ll need to figure out what is holding you back, and then find a suitable solution.

So, why are you procrastinating? You’ve probably got a sneaking suspicion as to why you don’t want to perform such-and-such task.

What are the facts at hand? How do you feel right now? The only way to find the answer is to be brutally honest with yourself. Once you’ve figured out your answer, you can take targeted action.

Here’s some ideas for you:

If you’re fearful of something. Remind yourself that there’s a first for everything. Get inspired by books, blogs, family, and friends. Remind yourself of all the other things you were afraid of doing in life, but came through with flying colors. You can do this, too!

If you’re feeling unknowledgeable. Learn something new. Read a book or magazine, read a blog, watch videos on YouTube, take an online course, ask an expert, take a class, etc. Having more information at your disposal may help you feel more comfortable in taking that next step.

If you’re feeling lazy. Schedule work time into your calendar. Set a timer and get busy. If you need some more motivation, make a friendly wager with a friend. If you don’t accomplish what you say you’ll do, you’ll have to make a donation to the organization of their choice.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed. Write down your thoughts and ideas. Then, reorganize these items on paper. Remind yourself that not everything has to be done at once. Work on one thing at a time. Start with the easiest task first, and take your work step-by-step.

Delegate work.

Okay, so you really don’t want to do what it is you have to do. Depending on the task at hand and your current situation, you may be able to avoid rolling up your sleeves. What’s the solution? To delegate your work.

Sometimes, delegation can be best course of action when it comes to procrastination. This is especially the case if you know full well that you will never finish that despised household chore, or finish a task because of your schedule, no matter how many weeks, months, or years pass by.

If this is the case for you, and your work can be delegated, you have a couple of spare bucks in your bucket, or you could call in a favor from someone you know, you might want to delegate your work.

Delegation can take many different forms. Here’s a few ways it can play out in real-life situations:

If you work in an office. Do you have an assistant? Why not ask for their help with something like research, making phone calls, following up with people, and so on. If you’re working with coworkers or colleagues on an a project or assignment, could you trade tasks with someone else so that the tasks better suit your skill set? Maybe you’re a whiz at writing emails, but dislike proofreading reports, and your colleague happens to have a knack for proofreading.

If you’re at school. If you’re working on a group project, ask if others will swap their tasks for yours so you can find a better fit. If you’re working in an extracurricular activity, group, or club, that has some sort of support, be it a helper, or volunteer, ask for help or assistance. In some cases, you may even choose to call in a favor from a fellow classmate or friend. And remember, don’t just pay people lip-service; keep your work and make sure you actually finish the work you say you’ll do!

If you’re at home. Ask friends or family members to pitch in, be it walking the dog, shopping for groceries, organizing the hall closet, doing household chores and cleaning, and so on. Alternatively, you can outsource and pay people to do tasks, be it a professional cleaner, babysitter, dog walker, and so on.

If you decide to delegate a task, you owe it to yourself to explain exactly what you need from the other party.

Be sure to explain how the task should be completed, and when the task should be completed by.

What’s more, should make a note in your calendar to check in with them when the appointed time arrives.

And if all of this “delegation work” sends a chill down your spine, keep in mind, these steps are a small price to pay to avoid the work you don’t want to do.

Take time to procrastinate.

You want to move your work forward, but for some strange reason, you’re still procrastinating. Oddly enough, you’re sick and tired of procrastinating. What should you do? You’re going to soak in that procrastination for a brief time, and then you’re going to promptly deal with it.

This tip is for those situations when you’re ready to move through your procrastination, but need a strict, helping hand through the process. Yes, you do get to fully soak up and experience your procrastination/boredom tendencies, but then you push them to the side, AND take forward action.

You’ll be concentrating and compounding your procrastination into a teeny-tiny unit of time so that you get the urge to procrastinate out of your system. It’s like the equivalent of throwing a procrastination temper-tantrum…and then getting on with your day like nothing happened. If you choose to go this route, be forewarned, it will be an intense experience.

Ready to get started? You’re going to time yourself using your wristwatch, smart phone, tablet, computer, or wall clock for five minutes. During this time period, you’re not allowed to do anything productive: you must procrastinate to the fullest. For the uninitiated, this process takes a lot of energy out of you.

Now’s the time to go ahead, and let all those frustrations out, talk about how much you don’t want to do X task, pace about the room, frown in front of the mirror, vigorously wave your hands in the air, whatever you like. Just do everything you can get it out of your system.

Once the five minutes have passed, take several deep breaths to calm down and compose yourself. Now that you’ve addressed the issue head on, the next step is to pull out your tools, materials, items, and you guessed it…get to work.

Build momentum by working on small tasks.

This is one of my all-time favorite tips to beat procrastination. Instead of tackling a nagging task head-on, you get off the beaten track, and take a sideways approach to it. You can think of this as taking a detour to your work destination. The only difference is that this detour will be a productive one.

This clever tip can be thought of as a one-two productivity punch. It’s extremely powerful because not only do you circumvent the mental block you’ve put up for yourself when it comes what you’re supposed to be doing, you actually get things done. Plus, it doesn’t even really feel like you’re working!

The idea here is to put your focus and attention on tiny tasks that are directly related to what you’re procrastinating on. The tasks are so small (they’ll probably take less than five minutes to complete), that you can’t help but make progress in your work.

Here’s how this works in action…

You have to write a draft chapter for a report. Instead of thinking about writing the draft chapter, write a bare-bones, basic outline, pencil in your report due date into your calendar, open a new word processing document and save it as “Draft Report_Chapter 1,” create and label a folder on your computer for your report drafts, and so on.

You have to mow the lawn. Instead of thinking about mowing the lawn, put on your sneakers and yard work clothes, walk through the lawn and pick up bits of debris, pull out the lawn bags, locate the rake, pull out the lawn mower, and so on.

You have to prepare dinner. Instead of thinking about preparing dinner, pull out a large cutting board, read a cookbook for inspiration, inspect the fridge and pantry for ideas, preheat the oven, start pulling out ingredients, wash your hands, and so forth.

When you string all of these small, related tasks together, you’ll find you’re further along in your work than when you started.

Even if the items you choose to work on aren’t perfect or are half-baked (you only created a word processing document and a folder, you only picked up stray twigs from the yard, or you only chopped up some onions for dinner), you’ll still have something with which you can work in future.

Now, that you’ve had time to warm up your mind and body, it’s time to push through your procrastination and dive into your work.

Find an accountability buddy.

If you’ve been trying to get things done, but to no avail, you might need to call in some external support. One way of doing this is to work with an accountability buddy, or someone who will keep you on track, and make sure you accomplish all that you say you’ll do. The good news is that there’s several ways you can work with an accountability buddy.

One way is to physically work together in the same location or space. Set up a date and time to meet at a dormitory, office space, coffee shop, library, or park, and each bring a piece of work with you that you need to complete. You’ll both sit down for the scheduled amount of time, and do your work.

A second option is to virtually meet up with a friend. You schedule a time in which to do your work, and check-in with each other via phone or video conference on what task you will finish within the next hour or two… and get to work. After the allotted time has passed, reconnect via phone or video, to discuss your progress.

A third option is to simply check-in with your buddy at regularly scheduled intervals, so you can update them on your work progress (or lack thereof).

If you choose to go the accountability buddy route, you’ll need to find someone who will hold you 100% accountable. The last thing you need in your life in your quest to beat procrastination is someone who yields at the slightest sign of pressure, coddles you, or helps you make excuses.

This accountability buddy role isn’t for the weak or fainthearted: you absolutely need a buddy who is unrelenting when it comes to holding you accountable in your work. You should find a friend, acquaintance, coworker, or someone else in your life who has the following traits: 1) a taskmaster, 2) takes things seriously, 3) calls things as they see it, 4) has a positive attitude, and 5) won’t be swayed by your excuses, complaints, or whining.

Temporarily give in to procrastination.

When all else fails, you might just want to give into procrastination. Sometimes you need to let procrastination run its course until you get the motivation to take action again. Be forewarned: this tip should only be attempted under the right conditions.

You need to make sure whatever it is you are procrastinating on won’t pose a danger or threat to yourself, other people, or your immediate environment. You’d definitely want to pay the electricity bill before your lights get turned off and go food shopping before your cupboards and refrigerator are bare. And you’d certainly want to extinguish a small fire that started in your kitchen ASAP.

So, if you’re procrastinating on a run of the mill task, just let go. Go for that walk, see that movie, organize that clothes closet, mop the first floor of your home, or otherwise do something to take your mind off of whatever it is you’re supposed to be doing.

You can also “do nothing,” and simply let yourself be bored for a time. Being idle is highly underrated and a break from always being on the go, thinking, working, playing, will do you a world of good. As you’re talking, walking, or rolling your eyes through your boredom, your subconscious mind will be busy at work figuring out various solutions to your procrastination or boredom problem.

Sooner or later, you’ll find yourself bored at playing the boredom game. This is where the true magic happens. You come up with an exciting idea, find yourself motivated to take action on your project, or are inspired to get back to work.

And just like that, your temporary bout of procrastination has been defeated.

How about you? What are your reasons for procrastinating on a task, project, or assignment? Which of these tips are you going to use the next time procrastination strikes? Join the conversation and leave a comment below!

How to Stop Procrastinating
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Rashelle Isip is a New York City-based professional organizer and productivity consultant who helps people get organized so they can stress less, have more fun, and be happier at home. Her work has been featured in Good Housekeeping, Fast Company, Cosmopolitan, The Washington Post, Business Insider, and The Atlantic. Get access to her free guide, 3 Smart Steps to Organizing Your Home, by clicking here.