We all procrastinate and we all have a long list of excuses for why we do it, but how do you overcome it?
Whether it’s writing your novel, cleaning out your spare bedroom or completing a work or school assignment, you can try out these five steps on a task that you’ve been putting off.
1. Acknowledge why you are procrastinating.
Honesty time! You don’t have to share your reasons, but take some time to really think about why you don’t want to do the task. Write it down on paper for the best results. Ask yourself why? And then ask why again. And again until you get to the root of the issue. Understanding your real reasons and thoughts behind your actions is a huge part of making lasting change in your life.
“Nothing is so fatiguing as the eternal hanging on of an uncompleted task.” William James
2. Articulate your why.
Now you know why you don’t want to do the task, now ask yourself why you do want to or why you think you should do the task. Write those down too. How do they stack up against your reasons for not doing it? Any revelations there?
3. Visualize your end result.
Now take a moment to imagine that the task is done. It’s behind you now. How does it feel? Tune into your body and notice how it feels. Lighter, happier, relieved, looser? Take some time to fully embrace this feeling of accomplishment. Write down your description of how it feels to have finished this task.
4. Breakdown tasks into bite-sized, easy tasks.
Now that you know why you have been procrastinating, you know your reasons for completing the task and what you will feel like when the task is accomplished, you are ready to make some real progress on it. Whatever your task may be, break it down into incredibly small tasks. Each one should be easy to do and take less than 5 minutes to complete in the beginning.
For example, if you are dreading cleaning out a closet, the first bite-sized task could be collect some bags or boxes that you will need to sort your clothing. The second task could be to put those bags and boxes next to the closet door. The third task could be to label those bags and boxes and so on and so on.
This might seem kind of silly or it may feel like you’re dragging the project out, but breaking the large task into smaller tasks that seem easy to do will get you a lot further in the long run than and large and overwhelming task.
5. Treat yourself and strategize for temptation.
We all love rewards and a little bribery now and then can help keep you motivated. You can give yourself a special treat once the task is complete or at different stages of completion to keep you motivated. And sometimes punishment works as well, like if you don’t complete a task you have to do something you don’t want to do like give money to an opposing political candidate or clean your partner’s car.
Other things to try is listening to your favorite music while you work on your task, wear you comfiest clothing or make it a party by inviting friends over to help.
And keep your why for doing the task at the forefront of your mind. Keep visualizing how it will feel when your task is complete.
You also need a good strategy for when things get hard. You know yourself better than anyone and you know the excuses and stories you can tell yourself for not doing a task, so be prepared for that by building in some precautions and pre-planning what your reaction will be if those excuses start coming up.
For instance what if a common excuse is that you’re tired. Schedule your tasks when you feel most awake.
If one of your excuses is time, schedule in time for your tasks into your calendar and block off that time as sacred.
If another excuse is overwhelm, then break your tasks down even further until they seem less overwhelming and more doable.
“Tomorrow is often the busiest day of the week.” Spanish Proverb
Following these five steps can help you to tackle that task you’ve been dreading and even some of those tasks that you might want to do (like being creative) but haven’t given yourself permission to do.
Let’s do this!