It’s Monday morning, it’s just the start of a hectic week, and your client expects you to send a PowerPoint presentation within the day. Truth is, it was originally due on Friday but you asked for an extension which your client gladly gave you and yet here you are rushing to finish this assignment despite having two extra days to complete it.
Why is this happening? How can you delay this once again? What did you do in those two days?
Oh well, you randomly browsed Google, YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, and you
You told yourself you’ll create the presentation “later within the day” until the later became tomorrow and then tomorrow became the next day. The next thing you know, you no longer have enough time to complete your work. Now what?
Does this ring a bell? If your answer is yes, let me tell you “that you are not alone for I am here with you ?” Did you sing along with me? ?
Okay, let‘s be serious now. It’s true, my friend. You are not alone in this. At some point, we all fall into the trap of this problem called procrastination.
But why? Why do we do one thing when we know we‘re supposed to be doing something else? Why do we delay working on the important tasks until the last minute?
Why We Set a Goal And Then Not Do It
To beat procrastination, we must know the underlying reason we put things off.
Well, there can be a lot of factors affecting our behavior but I have found a study which explains this well. In his book “Atomic Habits”, James Clear explained that the reason we procrastinate is
To understand this term better, imagine yourself having two personas: the Present Self and the Future Self. Usually, your two personas want conflicting or opposite things. For example, your Future Self wants to become a published author but your Present Self is not feeling motivated to write and wants to watch Netflix movies instead. The Future Self is great at creating plans. Problem is the Present Self loves instant gratification. If you want to solve this problem, you must bridge the gap between your Present Self and your Future Self by practicing delayed gratification.
“The ability to discipline yourself to delay gratification in the short term in order to enjoy greater rewards in the long-term is the indispensable prerequisite for success.”
– Brian Tracy
How to Stop Procrastinating
Now forgive yourself for delaying things in the past. Today, right now, is the moment to turn things around. So, here are 10 Simple Ways To Overcome Procrastination and Get Things Done
1. Get Clear On Your Goals
It’s important to ask yourself “what do I really want and why do I want it?” because it’s not enough to set goals. You also need to figure out WHY you want to do what you want to do. Without clarity, it will be very difficult for you to roll up your sleeves and get things done. Clarity is the way to mastery.
2. Use the Ivy Lee Method
The Ivy Lee method is an old yet effective productivity hack and here’s how it works. Each night, write down a maximum of six important tasks for tomorrow and prioritize them in order of importance. The next day, do task#1 (the most important task) and focus on that alone. Avoid multitasking and only move on to the second task once you’ve completed the first task. Repeat until you complete all the tasks you’ve written. If there are unfinished tasks, move them to your new list for tomorrow. Okay, so why is this effective? Simply because it’s easy, quick to do, and it forces you to prioritize efficiently by constraining yourself to only do six important tasks per day.
3. Put Your Goals In Your Calendar
Setting a deadline and sticking to it is crucial in getting things done and if you haven’t tried scheduling your tasks into your calendar, test it for yourself. Knowing you‘ve already scheduled every important task will give you peace of mind. You no longer need to worry about your other to-dos and just focus on what you’re doing now. This practice also helps you determine when to say no and if you’re putting too much on your plate.
. Put Something At Stake
For some, deadlines are not enough. So if you’re one of those people, ask yourself “what do I have to lose if I don’t do this?” Try putting a price on it. The idea here is to force yourself to follow through with your goals. Otherwise, you’ll pay a price.
A good example of this is stickk.com who stated that financial stakes increase your chances of success by up to 3x. Stickk is a platform where you can set your goals, create a commitment contract, and put your money on the line to hold yourself accountable. If you fail, Stickk will donate your forfeited money to a charity you support or don’t support (to make it worse) depending on your preference.
5. Find an Accountability Partner / Accountability Group
If you’ve already tried almost everything in this list, an accountability partner or partners might be the missing link to your personal success. But don’t choose just anyone for this purpose. Look for someone you truly respect that his words carry weight for you. It’s also important he/she is open to having an accountability partnership with you because you’d be keeping each other on your toes and push one another to grow and that requires commitment from both ends.
6. Forget Perfection
Many find it hard to complete something because they worry about making it perfect. If you care about excellence, that’s great! I’m with you on that! But caring too much can be dangerous – it's called perfectionism! To continue moving forward, be willing to publish your work when it’s good enough even though it’s not 100% perfect (there’s no such thing by the way!) In time, you’ll see your progress as you keep on doing things. Learn to focus on the process more than the result.
7. Eliminate Distractions
Yes, you definitely need to take a break every now and then but don’t make the mistake of considering distractions as your “mini-breaks” because they’re definitely not the same. Breaks are scheduled and intentional. Distractions come at times when you least expect them and they disrupt your work. Don’t believe me? Well, I’ve got news for you. According to studies, once you get distracted, it takes about 23 minutes to get your brain in the zone again and get back to the task. So you might want to turn off those notifications and just check them during your breaks.
Here are some apps you can use to block notifications:
When you have hundreds of action items on your to-do list, how do you determine which one to start first? A great tool to use is the “Urgent-Important Matrix” which categorizes your tasks into 4 quadrants:
Quadrant 1: Urgent & Important – Do this first
Quadrant 2: Not Urgent but Important – Schedule this
Quadrant 3: Not Important but Urgent – Delegate to others
Quadrant 4: Not Important and Not Urgent – Don’t do this
Stephen Covey popularized this powerful matrix in his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Give this a try and see how it works!
9. Build Good Habits
Do you want to be consistent in taking action towards your goal every day? If so, train yourself to build a new good habit. Say, you want to publish a book. The best way to accomplish this is to establish a daily writing routine. In the book Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg, he explains that to create a habit, you need three things: the cue, the reward, and the routine.
The cue is your trigger, and it answers one or all of these questions: What time will this habit occur? Where will you be? Who else will be around? What emotion do you think will you be feeling?
The reward is a prize you give yourself at the end of the behavior. It’s important that it is something you truly enjoy and crave. Otherwise, you need to change the reward.
The routine is the behavior you want to become a habit combined with the cue and the reward. The simplest way to execute this is by writing it down first. Here’s a guide for you: When (cue), I will (routine) because it provides me with (reward). Try this for the next 30 days and see your new habit stick!
10. Make it Necessary
When you feel that you are required to do something, you feel like you have no choice but just do it because you NEED to. It is no longer a preference but a must. This is the feeling of urgency and necessity in situations like:
When your landlord is about to evict you because you missed three months rental fee, you’d do anything to find a way to pay the rent.
When your spouse has been convincing you to resign from your office job because he wants you to take care of your child at home but you just can’t make up your mind until your kid gets sick and there’s no one to attend to his needs, then you suddenly realize you really HAVE TO resign and focus on your baby.
These examples may not apply to the tasks you want to do. But the idea here is to ask yourself the PURPOSE of doing the work and make it ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY to deliberately push yourself towards your goal.
So those are the 10 Simple Ways To Overcome Procrastination. I hope you learned a thing or two from them.
“Don’t give up what you want most for what you want now.”
– Richard G. Scott
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