It doesn’t matter whether you want to quit smoking or create a VIP Mastermind course, procrastination has always been the natural enemy to those who want to get things done. And the more you resolve you’re not going to give in to it this time, the quicker you find yourself sucked back into your own favorite form of avoiding something you need to complete.
Procrastination has killed more businesses than lack of capital or misidentifying markets. It saps that most precious, non-renewable commodity – time – and drains away our lives. So why does almost everyone fall into that particular trap and more importantly how do you get out of it?
STEP ONE: GET CRYSTAL-CLEAR ON YOUR “WHY”
Sometimes it’s not a particular anti-procrastination strategy that you need, it’s the reasons behind why you do it and why you can’t beat it.
If you know the ‘why’ behind your own procrastination habit, you can deal with the cause instead of dealing with the result (i.e., eternally putting off tasks and actions you need to take). Putting things off is just the symptom. In order to eradicate it and restore your life balance, you need to find and root out the cause.
Here are five of the most common reasons people procrastinate (especially entrepreneurs and coaches who are attempting for the first time to add passive income or expand their reach).
1 – Venturing out of your comfort zone
Most people find that scary – from small children in a new playground to top surgeons tackling a new type of tumor.
The fix is relatively simple: Acknowledge your fear and apply rational reframing to the little voice in your head. Identify the fear-generating thought. For example, “What if my shopping cart software isn’t set up right and it messes up my launch?”
You can quickly deal with this type of fear in whatever way feels best to you. You could say, “I’ve tested it three times with three different people. Chances are it will be fine, and even if it’s not, I’ve gone out of my way to include contact information and set up a help desk. We’ll deal with it if there are any glitches.”
Or you might find another solution feels better to you. For example, you might feel the weight lift from your shoulders if you say, “Setting up shopping carts is really not my thing – and really not the best use of my time. I’m going to hire a VA who specializes in setting up my specific cart system. Then I won’t have to worry about it.”
But until you identify the fear-generating thought that is causing you to imitate an ostrich and stick your head in the metaphorical sand, you can’t come up with the simple and obvious solution.
Or realize that it’s a fear you may not even have to tackle at all! You may just need to tell yourself, “This isn’t fear: It’s excitement!”
2 – Fear you are not good enough
This soul-sucking brand of fear includes impostor syndrome, lack of practice, the bad habit of comparing yourself with others, and more. Fear of rejection. Fear of getting fired. It’s essential, if this is your reason, to pinpoint the exact cause and type of concern.
If you do, you can formulate a targeted plan to deal with it. And the fix is usually the same as for venturing out of one’s comfort zone: Reframing your fearful thought into an objective, realistic one, with a touch of pointing out that “the boogeyman just has a paper bag on his head and isn’t real” thrown in.
3 – Perfectionism
Procrastination is an intense source of shame to perfectionists. It goes against their most passionate belief – that they ‘should’ be perfect.
Perfectionists are usually afraid of failure in any form. They are often top experts in their own right whom others envy for their expertise and how easy they make things look or feel. Acquaintances often express surprise when they find out their favorite mentor and expert has the same fear of failure as they do.
This deep-seated fear comes from possessing a tendency to be perfectionists over just about everything: Not solely over a new and unfamiliar task. They are also traditionally overachievers, which usually goes hand-in-hand with perfectionism and procrastination.
The crucial step with a perfectionist personality lies in accepting accountability and acknowledging your perfectionism. If you feel you are a perfectionist, determine your own cause – voices from the past? A competitive personality? OCD? (If you can’t, a counselor or psychologist may be useful.)
Once you identify yourself as a perfectionist, you can work on letting go of it. Deal with the perfectionism and you will then be in a prime position to deal with and let go of procrastination.
There are plenty of books on perfectionism on platforms like Amazon. You’re bound to find one that resonates with you.
4 – Hating what you are hiding from
This is the only time you need to either question why you are doing it and/or get rid of the hated task … especially if it is not one that directly generates income or aligns with what brings you the most joy.
Delegate it, outsource it, put it on autopilot. Or just dump it, if you can get away with that!
5 – Addiction to pleasure
Some may argue that this is a complication of procrastination rather than a cause, but I’m going to touch on it precisely because it compounds initial procrastination.
Sometimes one can deal with the cause successfully, but still find oneself sliding down the well-worn path to procrastination anyway. As well as being mystified as to why it keeps happening.
The simple reason is endorphins. When the procrastinative behavior taps into the pleasure centers of the brain, it becomes hard to let go of it. It is so much more fun to binge watch Netflix or play Candy Crush than to tackle a task you don’t want to do.
And now you’ve created a habit.
Habits are super hard to change, but it can be done. What you need to do is three-fold:
- Create a new habit.
- Stick to it every day for at least sixty days… no exceptions!
- Find hacks to help you change the habit into a better one.
One of the best procrastination hacks is to get clear on your ultimate goal.
This is taking your ‘why’ questioning further and to new depths. Determining why you want to grow your business will make it much easier to get past the “I don’t feel like it” attitude that can cause you to stall.
In this sort of deep ‘why’ questioning, you might find out that the goal is just not important enough to keep you committed. Or you might discover, with shock and surprise, that it’s the wrong goal for you altogether. You thought you wanted it, but you don’t. You’re doing it to please someone, to fit an image you’ve created for yourself or for some other reason. But when you look with clarity and open eyes into your motivations, you actually prefer to keep it as a dream.
If you absolutely do want the goal you are aiming for, then watch for reasons you’re afraid to reach it buried deep in your unconscious. For example, a poverty mindset might keep you from really believing you will ever have a million-dollar business, sabotaging you into procrastination. This type of thinking is often rooted in childhood conditioning and experience.
You’ll probably need to go deal with that before you do anything else. A coach who specializes in wealth mindset is one of the best choices you can make. You can also work on it yourself and an excellent way to start is with wealth mindset coach Denise Duffield-Thomas’ free mini-courses or her more intensive paid courses.
But once you realize what your real goal is and why it is important to you, it becomes easier to keep your eyes on it and to not procrastinate performing tasks and actions along the way.
And if you need to do work to uncover the exact reason for procrastination – do it. Hire a counselor who specializes in your ‘block’ area.
STEP TWO: THE 2-MINUTE RULE
Now let’s look at hacks for busting procrastination. The beauty of these is that you might not even need lengthy solutions, counseling or deep soul searching. Seriously, finding the right simple hack for you can change your life. So let’s examine two that have worked for others, starting with the Two-Minute Rule and continuing in Step 3 with a hack to trick your brain into acting.
Don’t let small tasks bog you down. For every to-do that lands in your inbox, immediately assess the time you expect it to take. If it’s less than 2 minutes, do it right now. That’s it. Simple as that.
No ‘to-do’ list.
If you can do it in less than 2 minutes, get it done.
STEP THREE: TRICK YOUR BRAIN INTO TAKING ACTION
Another common reason we often procrastinate is that we trick ourselves into thinking a task is hard.
Usually, it’s not. Sometimes it’s just dull. Sometimes negative voices are whispering from the past. Sometimes it’s just not as much fun as cruising your Facebook Group. But the critical point here is that you may not need to delve deeply into your whys and wherefores. You just might need to trick your brain.
Entrepreneur Mel Robbins discovered such a hack when she created her famous 5-Second Rule. She encourages her followers to countdown to action after realizing that the simple act of saying (out loud) “5, 4, 3, 2, 1!” can spur you into action where nothing else will – not even all the reasoning and therapy in the world. It’s a simple hack, but if you’re interested, she clearly explains the science behind it and how you can use it effectively in other areas of your life.
STEP FOUR: ONE TASK AT A TIME
Overwhelm is another common cause of procrastination. For example, large projects can cause you to procrastinate. Or having an ultimate goal that you are so far away from reaching that you just can’t focus on it or believe you’ll ever achieve it.
You cannot, for example, lose 35 pounds today – or even this week. But you can choose to go for a twenty-minute walk, today and every day.
Once that has turned into a habit you barely even think about, add some other small step toward your ‘big goal’ of losing thirty-five pounds. Like drinking a really delicious herb tea instead of a coffee with double cream, double sugar (or reducing it to a regular coffee).
Each of these small steps adds up and if you don’t allow yourself to obsess about your daily progress and just keep moving forward, you may find yourself suddenly close to your goal. And that is the most motivating inspiration of all.
Just break any large goal down into smaller mini-goals. If that’s still too daunting… repeat the process, breaking each level down into smaller and smaller mini-goals until you find you can tackle them and move forward again.
Back to the weight loss example: If mapping your daily progress inspires rather than depresses you, buy a Fitbit (if you haven’t already got one) and keep track of all the little weight loss habits you add. The key is to work with your brain, instead of fighting it.
Breaking a big project or goal into smaller pieces makes it easier to tackle and psychologically far less daunting.
STEP FIVE: CHANGE YOUR ENVIRONMENT
You might be surprised at how effective working in a different environment can be as a procrastination busting strategy. Sitting in your office every day – especially when you work from home – can be pretty uninspiring.
You should consider trying:
- Working in bed today instead of at your desk
- Working in the garden, if the season and the weather allow
- Getting away from your house to go work at the library or in a coffee shop
- Going to a park or a conservation area and working surrounded by nature
Suit this to your personality and work preferences. If noise and people all around inspire you (the way it did J. K. Rowling when she was writing Harry Potter), then you’ll probably find the coffee shop most appealing.
If you like solitude, silence and safety, then a library is ideal.
If you love the outdoors and the smells and sounds of nature, the right type of park should do the trick.
Changing your location breaks your patterns. And if your patterns include procrastination, this can be an effective procrastination buster.
When should you always change locations?
When you find working in your familiar spot physically painful. People with arthritis or other chronic pain syndromes and conditions are all too familiar with this not-so-common problem. In that case, allowing yourself to work in three or four spots during the day makes perfect sense.
You should definitely investigate whether or not it is time for a new chair – they do get worn out or cause sore spots on those who are not so mobile. A special insert might help or merely switching chairs during the day!
You can find chairs designed primarily for specific conditions and needs (arthritis, scoliosis, sciatica and more). These are well worth the investment if you do suffer from one of these conditions.
Consider purchasing a chair designated as a gaming chair. They’re designed for long hauls at the computer and often have handy features like built-in footrests.
People rarely think of this, but pain can become a problematic cause of procrastination. So make sure that wherever you decide to physically do your work, you feel comfortable, well-supported and relazed.
And here’s a tip for those who habitually work for a long time at their desks (apart from not doing that): Get up and take regular breaks!
STEP SIX: WORK WITH A COACH OR ACCOUNTABILITY PARTNER
Answering to someone else can motivate you to get your work done. That’s where accountability partners come in.
Before you dismiss this suggestion, consider that there is more than one way to find the right type of accountability partner.
You could choose:
- An Accountability Group.This could be a general accountability group or a specifically-for-procrastinators group.
It could be a Facebook group or a local meetup.
It can be a public group, a closed group or even a paid group.
The most significant advantage of groups lies in the fact that if one person isn’t available to cheer you on or hold you accountable, several more most likely will be available. There’s usually a great mix of personalities with all types of procrastinators and you will probably find yourself gravitating toward someone who has a particular understanding of and sympathy for your own unique challenges.
And it can be especially comforting or validating when more than one person expresses support or assures you that you’re not a ‘failure’.
Plus, seeing others grapple with your particular problems and realizing you are not alone can be the biggest morale booster of all.
Your accountability partner can be:
- A peer, friend or even your assistant.You will instantly be able to think of the right person to approach among those close to you – or even those in groups or membership sites you belong to.
This works best if you both have a personal stake in fighting procrastination. For example, you could both be members of a procrastination-busting group who have particular trouble with chronic oversleeping resulting in work days that are too short.
Or your assistant might have a highly personal stake in keeping you accountable because she won’t get paid as much if you don’t produce work for her to do!
- A Coach or Mentor. You might wish to cut straight to the starting line and hire a coach. One significant advantage of this approach: You are more likely to follow through if you are paying good money for being held accountable.
Plus, if you’ve chosen the right coach, she has seen it all when it comes to procrastination. She will have tips and tricks up her sleeve ideally suited to you and your personality.
But be sure to choose a coach that really ‘clicks’ with you.
As for mentors, dedicated groups (local and online) are the place to find these.
The Difference Between a Mentor and a Coach:
- A coach is systems or task oriented. This person helps you work toward a specific goal within a particular area.
- A mentor provides a grounding, long-term relationship to support you through your professional life.
How to find the right coach to help you beat procrastination:
Your best bet is to ask for personal recommendations in your Procrastination or Coaching Peer Support group. Failing that, look online (or locally) for business coaches and add the word ‘procrastination’ to your search parameters.
Coaching organization directories like the one provided by the ICF (International Coaching Federation) can be helpful too in helping you find exactly the coach you want.
You can also just simply announce your intentions to the world. Let your mailing list and social fans know that you are holding yourself accountable as well, whether your goal is a personal one, such as losing weight, or planning to finally release that new training course you’ve been working on for weeks.
STEP SEVEN: SURROUND YOURSELF WITH WINNERS
If you want to be a successful speaker, join a Toastmasters club. Want to get in better shape? Join a running group. Want to run a million-dollar business? Hang out where other million-dollar business owners do. Constant exposure to that kind of inspiration will have a positive effect on your own business.
You’ve already taken the first steps if you’ve joined an elite group of fellow coaches and entrepreneurs at your own level (or higher).
Surrounding yourself with winners is also one of the most effective ways to find inspiration and strategies that work.
Keep in mind there are many variations on how to apply the seven ways to end procrastination and not every method will work for every person. Success is also based on one’s learning style and preferences, as well as on one’s personality type.
- If you are an audial learner, you would probably have more success listening to an audio book on your iPad via Audible.
- If you are a tactile learner (one who learns through hands-on methods), you might find you prefer a local group where you engage one-on-one with people.
- If you are a visual learner, you may prefer to take Udemy’s highest-rated course on this topic by Gregory Caremans titled Confessions of an Ex-Procrastinator. Visual learners will love the step-by-step approach and will appreciate the reinforcement of the on-screen video.
- If you are a linear learner who prefers strictly text, you might want to choose a good book on the topic, such as The 5-Minute Procrastination Addiction Cure: Eliminating Procrastination by Starting in 5 Minutes or Less, which many have noted has had an enormous effect on them for such a simple book.
And lastly, here are some extra tips for stopping procrastination:
- Use timers (digital or physical ones) for starting as well as stopping projects.
- Enable browser and mobile apps to block distracting websites.
- Start with either your most significant or smallest procrastination problem. Concentrate on busting either your most damaging or least important area of procrastination first. You probably already know which one you’d prefer to tackle and why that choice should work for you.
- Compliment yourself whenever you finish a task. Say it out loud. You’ll feel silly at first, but it will have a definite effect on your confidence and feelings of self-respect if you persist.
- Go smaller. If a task still overwhelms you, break it down into even smaller components. And praise yourself after each one is completed!
- Anticipate and plan for curves in the road. Do you always get derailed when your sweetie calls? When your favorite show comes on TV at 2 p.m.? If you check Facebook, meaning to spend five minutes there and only closing off two hours later?Whatever the most familiar and repetitive road bumps that cause distraction or flip you back into procrastination, anticipate them and plan for them. Install a Facebook-blocking app and enable it during working hours. Record that show and enjoy it later. Limit your call with your sweetie to five minutes, and arrange a time to chat then.
- Set regular work hours and keep them. Knowing you are going to knock off at six o’ clock, come hell or high water, can help you keep your attention on getting things done.
- Realize that the more tired you grow, the easier you’ll find it to procrastinate. Another good reason for keeping reasonable, set office hours.If you let yourself burn the candle at both ends, you’ll teach yourself to procrastinate just because you’re tired.
- Recognize procrastination in all its forms. Be ruthlessly honest with yourself and you may realize you procrastinate in other ways too like cleaning the bathroom instead of calling a challenging and negative client you plan to fire.If you’ve ever said, “I can’t be procrastinating – I’m busy,” then you’re fooling yourself. Accept responsibility and don’t seek excuses!
- Banish fear with knowledge. Procrastination and fear go hand-in-glove. Recognize that you’ll never be an expert at something until you practice and just go do it! Identify what you are afraid of, and work on busting that fear before you beat yourself up for procrastination.
- Say only positive/realistic things to yourself. People who procrastinate are more likely to indulge in negative self-talk, so watch out for that
So which of the seven ways mentioned in this post to end procrastination resonates most with you? Please feel free to share in the comments below.
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