Do you put stuff off all the time and wish you didn’t? Have you ever wondered why? Here are 5 tips to help you stop procrastinating and get on with it instead.
1. Ask yourself why you procrastinate
Instead of beating yourself up, question what goes on when you procrastinate. What do you say to yourself as a task comes up? Do you procrastinate with all tasks or only certain things? How do you feel when you put something off and find 5 days later that you now only have a day left before the deadline? How do you feel when you get something done well in time?
Write your answers down.
2. If the job looks too big, break it down
If you procrastinate because the job just looks too big and you feel discouraged. Break it down and tackle each bit one at a time.
Let’s say you have to write a long report. I’m sure that this report will cover more than one topic or aspects of one topic. Write down the contents first. You know: introduction, background, etc. Write the ‘body’ of the story. Yes, report tells a story. Maybe a boring story but a story nevertheless (it’s up to you to make it interesting).
Then for each section, write down the key ideas. The key things you will be talking about. Then tackle the sections one at a time and write the introduction / conclusion at the end as they should summarise some of the other parts.
So next time, rather than feel daunted by the size of the job in front of you, get to work and break the work into smaller more achievable tasks.
3. If you don’t know where to start, plan
Another problem with a job being too big is that you may not know where to start. Well, the good news is that if you have broken it down as explained in step 2, you will be able to see somewhere you could start. Often, it doesn’t matter where you start. What matters is that YOU START.
If the job is complex and you really must start in the right place, then spend some time pulling a plan together. Spend some time looking at everything you need to do (after you’ve broken the work down into tasks) and ask yourself what logical order you should do things in. What tasks depend on each other? What tasks inform each other? For example, you need to get hold of the ingredients before you bake the cake.
If you’re not sure, find someone who has achieved what you are trying to achieve and ask them what order they did things in. Then pull your own plan together and follow it.
4. Maybe it’s fear? Or lack of confidence?
Most of the time, we put things off because we don’t find them interesting. But sometimes, we do it because we are scared. It’s important that you figure out which one it is. Maybe there is an underlying fear linked to the task and maybe, just maybe, not doing it, keeps the fear at bay.
Let’s say you want to move house but you’re just not doing anything about it. You think you’re just plain lazy but in reality, moving house is a little scary for you. For example, you are afraid of taking on a bigger mortgage.
If fear is keeping you stuck, then you’ll need to address the fear.
5. If you think, you’ll feel like doing it tomorrow, realise you won’t.
But, most of the time, putting things off is not really fear, it’s just that we can’t be bothered. My tax return falls into this category. It’s really not scary. It’s exactly the same every year and I make provisions for it so it’s not a fear thing.
So, why do I take months to get it done? Because it’s booorrrringgg! And I have more interesting things to do with my time.
If this is the problem then there are two things you can do. The first one is if it’s really not urgent, like my tax return. Make a plan for when you’ll do it and forget about it. I always plan to have it done by September (it’s due in January).
If, however, the thing is urgent or it is important that you get on with it. Like making a start on moving your big dream forward. Then what you have to realise is that if you find something boring, you will still find it boring tomorrow and the day after that. The task will not suddenly become more interesting. If you don’t feel like doing it now, chances are you won’t feel like doing it tomorrow either, so pushing it off only just increases your stress and bad feelings.
In this case, there is only one thing you can do: get on with it! It’s the only way to feel good.
If you found this post helpful, let me know and leave a comment below.