A day? A week? Maybe two? Well, it wasn’t actually that long once I got started. But writing or starting a task can feel difficult at times. If you’re a serial procrastinator, you may not know why you struggle to start in the first place.
I’ve heard and used all the excuses…
- ”It’s not due until next week”
- “I can start it tomorrow” (you say… for five days in a row)
- And my favourite, “I work better under pressure”.
Yeah, sure you do. Because waiting until the last minute has always given you the best results and it gave all the time you needed to finish it properly </sarcasm>
The truth is that once we start a task, we rarely feel it’s as difficult as we think. Getting started changes our perception of the work and it creates some momentum. And when we do get started, our task can turn out to be more interesting than we first expected. So starting earlier would have given you more time to do a better job.
Having been a serial procrastinator, I know the triggers that extinguish any activity and the steps you can take to get going again. The first one is a biggie…
1. The Fear
Yes, damn fear.
All those insecurities (or one in particular that keeps coming back) come to the forefront of our minds. We convince ourselves there and then, that progressing this important task can be delayed because… well, see above.
Instead, what you should do is just… stop.
For that one moment, just stop.
Before giving into short-term feel good and doing something more fun – because that’s precisely what you do when you put things off – just stop, acknowledge your fear and get started.
2. Why are you being held back?
Write down your fear. It has less power when you do. Then ask yourself the Five Whys. This will help you determine the root cause of whatever is troubling you by repeatedly asking the question, “Why?”
Here’s a simple example of how it can work –
Why can’t I get started on this task? >> Because I don’t know where to start
Why? >> Because I feel overwhelmed
Why? >> Because there’s too much information
Why? >> I don’t know what comes first
Why? >> There’s no structure
However big or small the root cause is, you now have a logical reason. And hopefully something actionable. Do this one thing (for above, create a structure) to get you started. If you see a common cause as you go through this a number of times, it might be wise to address this problem further.
3. Record the benefits
To help you start and keep going, focus on the real benefits of completing what you have to do. Not just for the client or whoever you’re doing the work for, but for you too – this is very important as it will act as a key motivator.
For example –
- The client will be happy with the work and give me a glowing testimonial for the website
- I will get me more work with the same client
- I will feel…
- More confident
- Relieved, etc.
- I will get referrals to new clients
Sometimes we can get roped into a job where we don’t know why we’re doing what we’re doing. If you can’t see where your task or project sits in the big picture, it can result in inaction and procrastination. Don’t get caught in the trap.
Write down the positive outcomes and the successes that come from what you’re doing. Feeling those happy feelings and visualising yourself at the finish line will motivate you to get more things done. And get them done on time.
4. Just starting
There are a few things you can do to get started. For one, register for the freebie on this page. It will get you thinking and help you take action immediately.
You should set your environment so everything is where is needs to be and you have no excuses not to start. Beginning with your Most Important Task (MIT) every day will get you motivated and on track to reach your goals in no time. Well, in a little time.
The Pomodoro technique is a timeboxing exercise that gets you focused for short periods so you can begin and keep going. It’s amazing for productivity.
Be sure you are using the correct tools and applications for the work you’re doing. When you find the right software or hardware, don’t fool yourself into thinking you have done something already.
Just get started and you will finish!
I hope this blog post gave you 4 steps to help you overcome procrastination and get more things done!