For many of us, procrastination feels like the bane of our existence.
It’s the voice saying, “I know I should be…,” the project you just don’t have time for, or the dream going unfulfilled.
I used to procrastinate with everything. I’d drag my feet, wait until the last minute, freak out and then just before the deadline, get it done. But after awhile, I realized that my pattern was causing so much stress. I hated feeling the pressure and tension.
That’s when I decided to make some adjustments in how I approached my life. And here’s what I found most useful:
1. Just Start
What you’re dealing with is the mind, your own resistance to taking action.
Be gentle with yourself. Suggest that you do one thing, one small act: an email, a blog post, a phone call, a walk around the park, reading 10 pages of your assignment.
Do one thing to get you started.
For whatever reason, the mind is fearful- fear of change, of growing, of an unknown. And the best way to deal with fear is to take action.
When you don’t take action, you’re stuck in the loop.
The mind is always saying, “you know you should be reading, researching, walking…” You ignore the voice and watch TV, eat chips, do the crossword puzzle. But it’s still there, like a broken record.
I was most chronic with this about exercising. And one day my Dad said to me, “You’d have been done hours ago if you’d just gone for a run. Think of all the time and energy you’ve wasted thinking about it.”
Stop thinking about what to do and take action.
2. Small Pieces
Sometimes a project can seem or feel overwhelming. It’s a massive undertaking. Something you’ve never done before. Where do you start?
Break it down into steps or pieces.
Think about your project as stepping stones. What is the first thing that needs to get done? And the second?
When we put things into bite size pieces, it suddenly doesn’t feel as overwhelming or huge.
Now it’s manageable.
I took a writing class recently and the instructor was talking about completing a manuscript, which, as you can imagine, consists of many chapters. (and chapters are comprised of scenes.) She suggested you write the titles of every scene on scraps of paper, cut them up and throw them into a jar. Then when you’re ready to sit down and write, you pull one of your pieces of paper out of the jar and write that scene.
Talk about bite size pieces!
3. Schedule Time
There’s a huge project on your horizon. You’ve decided to break it into small pieces. Now make sure that you schedule it out.
Plot out over time exactly when you're going to do each piece.
When I was completing my Master’s program in Social Work, I was taking care of my family and had a full time job so time was tight. The only way I was able to manage the workload was to create a schedule.
At the beginning of the semester, I reviewed everything I was required to do: tests, papers, presentations, and then I scheduled them – when I would work on each one - which days, which projects.
And then I did it.
Some days I definitely did not want to, but it was what I had to do in order to stay sane and complete all the work.
4. Ask For Help
A number of years ago, I was tasked with accrediting the school my husband and I founded. That process required clearly communicating all of the school’s operating procedures and processes through writing and massive documentation.
I had never done a project like that. It was enormous and felt totally overwhelming.
I created a timeline and broke down each part so I knew exactly what I had to do by a certain date. But even then I watched myself delay.
That’s’ when I realized I needed help. I needed to understand exactly how to complete the accreditation paperwork. So I went and received professional training which I was able to do for free!
Getting the help you need can be key.
What do you feel like you don’t know? Who can help you?
5. Create Space
Where is your special spot for work, exercise, creativity?
Overcoming procrastination is about creating healthy habits and one of the easiest ways to do that is to have a designated space. When you go to this specific place, you’re ready to work, play, draw or run.
I know a woman who always carries her gym bag in her car. That way she has no excuse for not going to exercise after work. She creates the opportunity.
Clean off that desk, create a beautiful space for you to want to be in to get those exciting projects done!
As Robert Holden reminds us, “procrastinate tomorrow.”
Nowadays when I find myself not wanting to begin a project, I will actually say those words to myself and they help me get going. I pick one thing to start and before I know it, the entire day has flown by!
Let me know how it goes for you.