How to stop procrastinating in 3 easy steps

An easy, three-steps method to tackle procrastination on a specific project.

Motivational quote on procrastination.

I realized that I was procrastinating big time about writing a blog post when I started to detail-clean our budgies’ water container with dozens of cotton swabs.

Your trick maybe organizing your closet or your inbox that was messy for years but now cannot wait another day.

Or maybe re-watching all the episodes of your favorite show …

Or keeping yourself so busy with urgent stuff that you literally don’t have a minute to spare.

But procrastination probably has some bad effects on you…

  • Tons of stress
  • Missed deadlines
  • Damaged professional reputation
  • Lost opportunities
  • Disappointing your boss and others
  • Feeling bad about yourself

And some projects just need to be done. Now.

In this post I’d like to give you quick 3 steps to help you with that. Get that job done.

Step 1: Find your motives

Find your reasons for procrastination

Think about your project and start writing down your feelings and problems about it. Check what makes you resistant. It can be a lot of different stuff. Some examples to get you started:

  • It would take long time to finish.
  • You are worried about the end results… maybe your work will not be good enough.
  • You want to make it perfect so you want to do some more research.
  • There are tons of options to choose from.
  • You feel overwhelmed by other things in your life.
  • This is new territory for you, it requires a lot of learning.
  • This project is boring.
  • This whole thing is irrelevant to you personally, it was just pushed on you.
  • There are others involved and teamwork is not going smoothly.

Be as specific as possible, okay? Then highlight the top 3 reasons that have prevented you taking action this week.

Find your reasons for acting now

Okay, here comes the other side. I want you to imagine that you have finished your project yesterday and all went well. Hooray! You are done, you can move on, that heavy weight is off your back.

How do you feel? What are the benefits you got because you have finished your project? Write them down.

Some examples could be:

  • Feeling relieved.
  • Feeling less stressed or rushed.
  • Feeling proud because you worked through the challenging parts.
  • Getting appreciation from people close to you.
  • Maybe you saved money or time.
  • You can clean up the mess after the project and enjoy your space again, either real or virtual.
  • You can enjoy the end results of the project.

Now highlight the 3 most important benefits and keep them in mind.

Step 2: Write a contract with yourself

Write a goal for this project

I want you to write a goal that is specific, measurable, realistic, motivating and has a deadline. You can use this goal formula or create your own:

I will [ do thisthat is/has [these features and quality] by [deadline] because I want [these benefits].

Add your action steps

Now go back to step 1 and revise your obstacles. See if any other came to your mind and write those down, too. Number your obstacles.

Now for every single obstacle, write down what you will do about them. Action steps, baby.

For example, if your obstacle was that you have no clue how to do a specific task in your project, figure out how to learn it. Who can help? YouTube, a coworker, a book, your teenager? Your action step is that you set a date when you get access to your helper and do the learning.

  • Obstacle 1: I don’t know how to…
  • Action step: I will google it tomorrow after work and try it a few times. Also, I will ask X the day after to check if I’m doing it right so I won’t be worried about it.

You need to keep writing action steps until you are confident that you dealt with all your obstacles and ready to start working. You can do it!

Side note on certain obstacles

Sometimes our obstacles are actually not in real world, only in our heads. It happens to all of us I think.

  • Doubts if we can do it at all,
  • worries that the results are not going to be good enough,
  • that we cannot find the perfect solution,
  • we only have one option and we hate that so why bother,
  • feeling that it is not worth trying because it will all turn out badly anyway,
  • and even if we finish on time no one will ever appreciate our work.

If it sounds familiar to you, I have good news and bad news.

The bad news is, these obstacles are the hardest to fight. They are our hardwired reactions we learnt ages ago. Perfectionism, self-doubt, negativity… Again, most of us have them to some extent.

The good news is, we can still change them. It is doable.

Sure it’s not going to happen in a week. But if you can get help from a therapist or life coach, you can definitely decrease their affect on your life. So don’t give up! You don’t have to listen to these depressing voices in your head for the rest of your days.

Step 3: Be accountable

The last step is to pair up with someone.

  1. Get hold of a good friend, family member, supportive co-worker or a life coach.
  2. Let him/her know about your goal and action steps.
  3. Come to an agreement that you will keep them posted on your progress.
  4. Be specific! Decide together how often and what way you will report to them, i.e. by email, on every Friday until the project is done.

And this is it. A three steps method to take control of your procrastination.

Give it a try on a project that seems difficult but manageable, and can be finished in a week or two.

Takeaway

Step 1: Find your motives

Look at what is holding you back and what will motivate you to start working.

Step 2: Write a contract with yourself

Write a specific goal with a deadline and add your action steps.

I will [ do thisthat is/has [these features and quality] by [deadline] because I want [these benefits].

Step 3: Be accountable

Find someone who will help you stay on track by expecting you to send progress reports to them.

Download a StopProcrastinatingAndFinishTheProjectWorksheet for this 3 steps method.

Take care,

Livia, life coach in Calgary

 

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