See if this rings a bell: you have clean your house or office and know that when it’s clean you will get so much more done in your life and business, but for some reason each time you think about actually doing it, you find something else to do. Maybe you eat junk food, or watch a movie, or whatever. Even though you know doing something else is getting you further behind in what you need to do… for some reason it happens again and again until you are so far behind it may not even matter anymore (or at least you tell yourself that). Today, I want to help you understand why you procrastinate as well as 3 ways you can overcome procrastination immediately as well as change so that you procrastinate less in the future. These tips will help you no matter who you are or where you live or what you aren’t getting done; anything from preparing for an exam, writing a report, cleaning your house, or talking to a family member or roommate about something important, right to starting your own company and breaking free from the handcuffs of employment.
Why do you procrastinate? This is the question I’ve asked myself for about 15 years. I still catch myself procrastinating every once in a while. My desire to break free from procrastination is one of the main reasons I got a master’s degree in psychology. The biggest reason you procrastinate is that there is a strong emotion attached to the action that you don’t want. It is most likely shame, fear, or frustration of some kind. I’ll give a quick example. When I was little my parents made me take piano lessons and the practice every day for about 30 minutes. I hated that time. My ‘practice’ sessions were filled with tears and frustration and anger. Fast forward 12 years… I was living in Sweden and decided to learn how to play the guitar (along with every other 20 year old on the planet). I immediately ran into a problem. While I was definitely motivated to learn to play the guitar, for some reason when it came time to practice certain chords or songs, I found it really difficult to do. I eventually began to understand that every time I thought about ‘practice’ I felt emotionally overwhelmed. I didn’t want to practice because practice, to me, meant anger and frustration. I overcame this, and so can you, but you first need to understand it for yourself.
Like I just said, there is good news: You can learn skills that will prevent you from derailing areas of your life because of procrastination. Here are three great tips that, if followed, will lead you to so much more freedom in life!
1. Learn to make decisions! Making a decision isn’t about thinking about what you want to do. It is about taking some action. Often, the only thing we need to break out of procrastination is to simply take the first step. So take action and do something…. anything that will move you toward building momentum in a different way in your life. If you need to write a paper for school or clean up your garage or office…. simply take the first step and commit to write for at least 5 minutes or clean for at least 5 minutes. You will, quickly discover that the simple task of beginning will help you work on it for much longer than the original 5 minutes. One method that helps most of my clients is working for 25 minutes and then taking a 5 minute break. You can challenge yourself to try and complete 3 sessions of this today, but you need to take that first step
2. Make a short list of the most important things to do today and arrange them starting with the most important. Don’t make it more than 4-6 items. Then… take action on the first, most important thing. Again, don’t worry about whether it’ll get done or not, simply begin. When you complete the first item, move to the second. This seems almost too simple, but it works almost like magic! When you get that first item done you will feel great and be in a completely different frame of mind and you will most likely find that you complete your list faster than you thought you could. Focus on one item at a time until it is done.
3. This last tip is a little different. If you find that you are procrastinating about certain types of activity (like me with practicing the guitar) then you can change how your mind attaches emotions to that type of thing. Here’s what you do: begin to practice visualizing yourself having completed the activity and bring in your emotions to this imaginative exercise. Picture yourself having completed the activity and feeling great about it. The more you focus on how great it will feel to complete or master something, the more you will move toward it rather than away from the uncomfortable emotions that are currently attached to it.
Remember, most of the population procrastinates and is frustrated with themselves. It’s normal and has nothing to do with your character or your something wrong with your personality. It is simply a pattern that you have learned at some point in time. Remember also that you can unlearn this pattern and learn the pattern that brings you far more joy and hope and freedom in your life. Lastly, remember to take action immediately. Right now, as you finish these words, take action on something you’ve been putting off for just 5 minutes. You will begin to build momentum in the direction you truly desire to move in.
Make this a brilliant day!