Procrastination makes easy things hard, hard things harder. Mason Cooley
If I tell you that I've been procrastinating for a week to start writing this article, you would say: How can you write about the best ways to stop it if you are precisely that - procrastinator? Well, I know the struggles, as overcoming this problem was (still is) one of my pains that I'm working on getting rid of.
I gathered much information about becoming more efficient with the set goals, and I'm testing them daily to succeed with the planned tasks. Procrastination can be one of the most significant barriers when trying to make progress with tasks that can be a bit harder or more out of the comfort zone.
I'm making steps forward, but as being one of them, procrastinators, I know how hard it is to break out of these patterns. But not impossible.
Does it mean that I'm just lazy?
What is procrastination? By the Google dictionary, procrastination is the action of delaying or postponing something. Simple. But could we call it just being lazy?
Not really. You consciously decide to procrastinate with a specific task; you choose a different one and put the one you would need to focus on, on your plan aside. While being lazy means that you are just unwilling to work or use energy.
When you consciously decide for procrastination, you choose to push aside a more unpleasant task, out of your comfort zone task, but would most like to bring you forward, closer to your goal, with a more pleasant task. A task that you enjoy more at that moment and it gives you more pleasure; you need way less effort to start with it. When you consciously decide not to do something that you should, the feeling of guilt is almost inevitable.
Recognize that you procrastinate and figure out why
Tomorrow (noun): A mystical land where 99% of all human productivity, motivation, and achievement is stored.
The most important and first step is to recognize it. Procrastination can be quickly buried under excuses as I would do it, but I'm so busy! The day doesn't have enough hours to deal with this! It can be true, but this can also be a sign that you need to take a step back and ask yourself: Is it really, or are you so busy because your planning skills suck, and you are just all over the place? Are you so busy, or are you avoiding doing some tasks because they are out of your comfort zone? Would you be less busy if you prioritize some tasks?
Recognize the when, how, and why you are procrastinating
There can be numerous reasons to keep you back, and identifying them means that it will be easier to overcome them. We like to find all possible external factors that we blame for our misery, but that's not the whole reality; there is a lot of internal reason we are purely responsible for, so it's important to tackle those and not run away from them.
When you ask yourself all these questions, you can start making changes. Know what you're doing and work on optimizing your time and energy. Remember, the time you spend on certain things that perhaps have no real impact on your life are just distractors from what you need to do; this time, you will never get back.
Usually, we are also procrastinating on tasks that will have a more significant impact on our life. Things that we want to change, but we need much more will-power than for the things that we are doing daily, like robots. That's why we must make that click in our heads and decide to be better. The sweet feeling of achieving something hard for us gives us much more satisfaction than the tasks we are doing all the time.
When working on my procrastination, I came across many great tips on dealing with this issue and becoming more productive.
Eat the Biggest Frog first
Eat that Frog is an excellent productivity method developed by Brian Tracy in his book Eat that Frog! 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time. The idea behind this method is to deal with the most important task first.
If, for example, you need to write a short blog post and it is something that you usually are pushing away and trying to avoid, you should do this first thing in the morning. In this way, you will have this significant victory/accomplishment out of your list, so you can also focus on things that are maybe more enjoyable for you throughout the day.
Define your goals and write them down
Being transparent with the goals you want to achieve is essential. You need to figure out what's the most important for you, so you can pursue these tasks and leave the less important behind.
Break down your goals into actionable steps
Breaking down your goals into actionable steps will help you to tackle them one by one. It will help you know what you need to do precisely, and with that, eliminate the possibility to push this goal aside because it's unclear or you are not entirely sure how to start it.
Steps need to be achievable in the chosen time-frame; they need to be measurable, so you can see the progress you are making and trackback, and they need to be meaningful; each step has to bring you forward, closer to your overall goal.
You can make a to-do-list or schedule your tasks on a calendar, or take this to another level and use the OKR method to set your goals. It is one of the most reliable ways to align your daily action items to your overall goals.
Use the 20/80 rule, called Pareto Rule
This principle states that you tend to get 80% of your results from 20% of your work. So try to prioritize the 20% of the tasks that are the most important. Don't focus on the easy 80% and procrastinate on 20% of the most important ones.
Set up a productive environment
Emphasize your skills, and make sure to set yourself in the right environment to do your task. If you need to start writing, find yourself a quiet space that allows you to have enough privacy, and you can spend a couple of hours without distractions. Put your phone on flight mode, have everything you need ready next to you, so you don't need to look for any excuses to leave your desk.
With this, it will be easier to start and harder to stop once you get started. The environment can significantly influence our work, so it's crucial to find the most convenient ways that work for us the best.
Find your rhythm and do what works best for you
Take a break when you see that you are not moving forward and when your productivity is going down. You don't force it. Taking 30 mins to break, going for a walk will do much more than pushing yourself when you are low on energy and totally out of focus.
Think positive and try to motivate yourself.
Establish a routine and plan according to your productive cycles
Establishing an easy and convenient morning routine can help you to start the day right. You can drag yourself from the bed, spend one-hour scrolling on social media, take a couple of hours to start the day. Or you make it better and can start your day with meditation or a quick exercise, reading for a couple of minutes, write a short daily journal, plan your day. This will help you to start with more energy and clarity.
You can have a couple of productive hours in the morning if you find this is the best time for you and your creativity before checking your phone and go through the emails.
Keep in mind; we are all different, so you need to figure out your most productive cycles and plan your day according to that.
Use time-boxing and set deadlines for your tasks
Time-boxing is a great technique where you 'box' a particular time in a day to deal with a specific task. Let's say you need to upload new products to your Shopify store, and you were postponing this task for a couple of days. Make a fixed appointment with yourself and schedule a one-hour time box today in the afternoon, when you will deal with this task.
Time-boxing helps you allocate a particular amount of time for a task you were avoiding; it helps to be less overwhelmed and only think about it without adequately addressing it. One of the main benefits of time-boxing is that you do not waste time on a task as we normally tend to use as much time for a task as its available (Parkinson's Law).
It also allows you to prevent dragging some tasks throughout the week when you can accomplish them in just an hour.
One of the known time-boxing techniques is called the Pomodoro technique. Pomodoro is a method of breaking down work into intervals, 25 minutes in length, which are separated with short breaks.
Combining timeboxing and setting concrete and realistic deadlines will ensure that you plan and schedule your task to accomplish them on time. Deadlines used in the right way should encourage us to finish the task before the deadline, not to start on the day of the deadline.
Think long-term goals to make the right decisions now
Think about your long-term goals to make the proper steps now. You should align your long and short-term goals to make the most progress. If you know why you are doing specific steps now and know the direction you are going to, you will become more motivated, and you will have less space for procrastination.
You need to be excited about it and believe that this is the right way for you. If not, then what's the point of doing it. Once all these parts are aligned, you will have more will-power to cope with daily steps.
Get an accountability partner
I believe that this is the ultimate step to reduce procrastination. At least it was for me that going into the accountability partnership encouraged me to deal with tasks that I was successfully pushing away.
Having someone accountable for your goals will dramatically increase your actions' success rate. You can arrange daily check-ins or weekly calls to discuss your progress. It's important to stay honest and not look for excuses why you didn't do specific tasks. An accountability partner will give you this extra drive and motivation to keep on track with your daily plans and commit better to the goals you set to achieve.
Procrastination is a tough cookie to break, but if you decide to make the change and are ready to follow some more out of your comfort zone steps than the things you are doing now, you can successfully deal with them. It's all about figuring out your patterns, identifying the problems, and systematically address them to get out the best results.
Do you feel ready to dive deeper!? Check out our full video course on "Goal Setting for Success: How to Set, Track, and Achieve Any Goal with OKRs". See you inside.