How To Stop Procrastinating

FOMO, or fear of missing out, multitasking, information overload, low confidence, low energy, and the belief you “have to” do many things, are the arch enemies of realizing your dreams. In fact, they are all various facets of procrastination, delaying work on important tasks. Understanding your procrastination habits and adopting a more focused approach towards life can bring a powerful change to the impact you have on the world. Ability to focus, to concentrate almost single-mindedly on your most important task is the key to success. Everything you do revolves around this ability.

To achieve anything meaningful, you need to be clear of what you want to achieve. Without a clear goal, a vision, or a dream, you can’t expect to reach it. Just look at anyone who earned a measurable amount of success, and you will quickly see that they spent an enormous amount of time and effort to get there. Their passion and unrelenting focus often drove this effort. They sacrificed less critical things to achieve the most important goals.

So how do you do it? You set your big goals and then plan every single day with these goals in mind. Think long-term. Your most important goals will usually require a lot of effort and will take a long time. Don’t expect quick wins, and don’t rely on short-cuts. Accept that anything meaningful is going to take time, effort, and sacrifices.

As I wrote before, don’t rely on willpower and don’t wait to be motivated. Just get going and grit it out. Motivation is going to come later when you see the first glimpses of success. Work on your big goals every single day. No excuses. Do the biggest and most important tasks first and then deal with low priorities. Don’t procrastinate by doing small, unimportant tasks. They may seem like small, easy wins, but they are wins towards the wrong goals. They won’t move you closer to your ultimate dream. In fact, they will hold you back.

As Brian Tracy writes in Eat That Frog!, your “frog” is the most important and significant task. It is the one that seems unpleasant, and you are likely to procrastinate rather than tackle it. It is also the task that can have the biggest impact on your results.

Tracy summarizes his approach in two rules of frog-eating:

  • The first rule of frog eating: If you have to eat two frogs, eat the ugliest one first.
  • The second rule of frog eating: If you have to eat a live frog at all, it doesn’t pay to sit and look at it for very long.

To have a lasting impact, consider some of these tips and tricks. They will help you clarify what is important to you, where you can have the biggest impact, and even fight procrastination.

Stop wasting your time – we are all busy. We keep ourselves occupied so much that we often use busyness as an excuse for not focusing on what is truly important. Learn to evaluate any activity you do with a simple question, “Considering my life goals and what is truly important to me, would I start this activity today?” If the answer is “no,” you should probably stop doing it and use the time for something more aligned with your goals.

Focus on what you do – stop multitasking and focus on one thing at a time. Multitasking is a scourge that is draining your mental energy and is slowing you down. By focusing on what you are doing, you will automatically do a better job, get it done faster, have a better feeling about the activity, and even get to a state of flow when the time stops, and you are completely immersed in what you are doing. Not to mention the positive impact on those around you when you can have a focused conversation. When you work, work. When you play, play. Don’t try to do everything at the same time.

Focus on what is important – identify a thing or two in each area of your life, being it work, family, friends, health, spirituality, self-development, and give them enough consistent attention.

Identify your highest value activities and schedule them – those would be the activities that would bring you closer to your big goals. Schedule these activities into your daily routine. If your goal is to get healthy, schedule a gym every morning. If your goal is to write a book, schedule a time when you are going to write—every day. No exceptions.

Break tasks down – nothing significant can be done in one go. Even the biggest insurmountable goal can be achieved broken down into smaller, manageable pieces. Have the big goal on your mind but focus on the small steps you need to take daily. If you want to run a marathon, don’t try to get motivated by that itself. Find your motivation in your ability to run every single day a bit further than the day before.

Focus on mastery – procrastination is often caused by poor performance. If you know you can’t do something well, or you don’t even know how to do it, you will delay the activity as much as possible. By developing the necessary skills to be good at your job, you will automatically remove the need to procrastinate. With mastery comes passion. By getting better at something required to achieve your big goal, you also create implicit motivation to keep going. The moment you stop learning and growing, you start limiting your ability to achieve. You are creating a plateau, a ceiling of what you can reach. Never stop learning.

Understand boundaries – you can’t do everything, and not everything is under your control. Understand what your constraints and boundaries are and adapt. You may want to write a book, but you have a day job and a family to take care of. This puts certain constraints on how many hours a day you can give to writing. You may want to run a marathon, but you may have a medical condition that will put a constraint on how much you can train or how fast you can run. You can most likely still run the marathon, but the preparation will be longer, and your pace will be slower. Accept it and adapt.

Set deadlines – creating a slight pressure is often a good way of eliciting focus and bigger productivity. By creating a deadline, you build a sense of urgency for yourself. If you then share the goal and the deadline with others, you will create peer pressure that will give you additional incentive to get the work done. You don’t want to look bad in the eyes of others and backpedal on your commitment, do you?

Go dark – unless your goal requires you to be always on-line, learn to disconnect. By blocking a time offline, switching off your phone, internet, and locking your fridge, you help yourself stay focused. For some, it works to getting up early in the morning before the rest of the family or team wakes up. Some prefer staying late when everyone is already in bed. For some, it means being able to lock themselves in a room. Whatever your strategy, schedule regular blocks of uninterrupted time into your days to focus on your big goals.

Finish what you start – make sure your tasks are manageable in the time allotted to them, and then once you start, finish it. Every task requires a certain amount of time and effort to get into it. By leaving the task unfinished, you duplicate that effort when you decide to finish it later. Not to mention you lose the good feeling of marking the task as done.

Have a sense of urgency – learn to move with a sense of purpose and urgency in everything you do. That doesn’t mean to hurry or be constantly stressed out. On the contrary, it provides a sense of purpose. Once you decide to take action, you go purposefully after it. No distractions, no waiting. Moving with s sense of urgency will not only allow you to achieve your goals but will fill you with energy, vitality, and purpose.

Do things right – if you decide to do something, then do it right. Don’t make it a habit to do things halfheartedly and just so you can check the box. Anything you decide to do deserves to be done correctly. No short-cuts. Only then will you feel fulfilled not only by the outcome but also by the journey itself.

Develop routines – the more you can routinize your life, the better. By creating routines, you develop habits. Routines and habits will then make it easy for you to persevere and achieve even long-term goals. Routines will help you to rely on a system rather than on your willpower.

Catch yourself procrastinating – during the day, ask yourself a simple question, “Is this the most valuable thing I can do right now?” If not, then you probably shouldn’t be doing what you are doing right now. To be clear, this is not about saving the planet or getting humanity on Mars. It is about you specifically, and this day and this hour in particular. It might very well be that right now, the most valuable thing you can do is to prepare lunch for your children or reenergize and help your health by taking a brisk walk.

Putting it all together

Remember that some activities need to be done and can be done only by you and no one else. These are automatically high-value. Things like taking care of your health or taking care of and building relationships with those depending on you are important, long-term, and you can’t outsource them to anyone else.

With proper routines and habits, you will develop an addiction. You will be addicted to getting things done. You will be addicted to the good feeling of achieving what you set to achieve. You will be addicted to the constant stream of small wins you will have with completing each small step. You will be addicted to developing new skills and becoming good at things you couldn’t do before. You will be addicted to becoming something more than you thought you could become.

Do you agree? What are your thoughts on the topic? Do you procrastinate? What are your tips and tricks to get things done? Do you deal with the unpleasant tasks first? Or is there a better approach that works for you?

Photo: fietzfotos /

Follow me on Twitter: @GeekyLeader

Categories: Career, Productivity

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