How to Beat Procrastination

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how to beat procrastination

Are you a procrastinator? Hiding from those tasks won’t make them go away!

Setting clear goals is a great way to get things done. But, whether our goal is something we really want, or it’s something that we have to do, procrastination is a habit that holds us back and gets in the way. To achieve your goals, you need to beat procrastination. So how do you know if you’re procrastinating?

Here are some of the signs:

  • Filling your day with unimportant tasks or distractions
  • Saying ‘yes’ to other people’s requests so you become too busy
  • Waiting for the ‘right time’ or until you’re in the ‘right mood’
  • Doing more research. Then more. (Analysis Paralysis)
  • Waiting until it’s perfect
  • Convincing yourself it’s not important
  • Talking a lot about what you will do, but not actually doing it

Recognise any of those? What other great procrastination techniques do you have?

So how do you beat procrastination?

Well, you could start by understanding why you procrastinate. Here are some of the common reasons:

  • The task doesn’t interest you
  • The thing you want to do feels too difficult
  • Avoiding the task feels safer and easier
  • You’re disorganised or easily distracted
  • It seems too overwhelming
  • Fear of failure, being embarrassed or being ‘caught out’
  • You’re worried about making the wrong choice or making a mistake
  • Fear of change
  • Fear of being visible, standing out, or getting more attention than is comfortable for you
  • Perfectionism

Think about the goals or actions where you know that you’re procrastinating. Is it due to any of the reasons above, or something else? Understanding yourself, your motivations and your fears is a big step towards moving forward.

Practical steps to beat procrastination

Look at the tasks or goals you have set for yourself, particularly the ones you’ve been putting off or avoiding. Ask yourself these questions.

  • How important is it?
  • What are the consequences of not doing it?
  • What are the benefits of getting it done?
  • Is there a deadline?
  • Who else could help?
  • Is there a clear plan to get this done?

Once you’ve established what’s really important, and you’ve defined the reason for your procrastination, here are some of the ways to overcome those avoiding or delaying tactics.

Choose the most important – Not just in terms of urgency, but think about the consequences of doing nothing or the benefits of getting it done. Especially if this a goal you have set yourself to make a positive change in your life.

Get the most difficult task done first – Mark Twain is quoted as saying that if you eat a live frog each morning, you can go through the rest of the day knowing that’s probably the worst thing you will have to do. So if a task feels difficult, but it’s important, get it done first. Eat that frog!

Break it down into small steps – How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time! If a task seems overwhelming, take one tiny step at a time and if it helps you, reward yourself upon completion of each step. Celebrate every success.

Set your own deadlines – If a task doesn’t have a deadline, set your own. A goal or action step without a deadline is likely to keep being delayed in favour of other tasks.

Be accountable – If you’re a procrastinator, or even if it’s just this one thing that’s causing you to delay, being accountable to someone else is a good way of ensuring you get the task done. At work, we often have managers who we report to, but in our personal lives who holds us accountable? Working with a coach, or having an accountability buddy to check-in with, is known to help us take action towards our goals.

Work on your mindset – Practice focusing on your goal or the outcome you will have, and how you will feel when you have achieved it. Even if that outcome is simply that the difficult task will no longer loom over you. Think of how much clearer your mind and time will be once this is done. Get yourself in your best state for taking action, know your deadline, and take that first step.

Ruth Randall is a Life and Leadership Coach, and Team Development Specialist. Ruth works with teams to help them to build trust, develop strong working relationships, manage stress, and increase productivity and job satisfaction. She also coaches individual clients who want to make changes in their lives, careers and relationships.