How to Stop Procrastinating Right Now
Rita Mae Brown, author of RubyFruit Jungle, once said, “If it weren’t for the last minute, nothing would get done.”
In school, procrastination is why you start studying for exams the night before you take them. Or maybe you just binge watch Ozark on Netflix instead and hope you listened well enough to scrape by.
Worst case, you can take the class again, right?
Tonight you’re gonna relax and have fun.
Deadlines are a ticking time bomb
When a deadline approaches, your state of readiness determines whether it’s an imminent train wreck or a welcome opportunity to prove you’re ready.
Ben Franklin wisely said, “You may delay, but time will not.”
Time doesn’t care if you’re scared. The ticking clock is no respecter of your distaste for what you have to do. It’s up to you to decide how you’ll live your life and what you’ll accomplish.
It’s a big responsibility.
What stops us from getting stuff done?
We blame procrastination. And yes, it does stand in our way. But why? What motivates us to put things off?
Procrastination’s Many Forms
The website Alpha Efficiency says there are 4 types of procrastinators.
The perfectionist. You want your work to shine, to dazzle. But what if it misses the mark? Can you live with that?
Stanford University Professor John Perry thinks procrastination is good for perfectionists. When you have all the time in the world to dream how perfect your work will be, you never start. Let me prepare a little more, you say. Let me do more research. Let me plan every word so that it sings.
That is like editing while you write. If you want to slow down the process so it takes ten times longer, this is your golden ticket.
Look at what you’ve done before. Was it really perfect? If you set your inner critic loose on it, you’ll find some flaws. A better question to ask is, “Did my work accomplish my objective for it?”
If you can answer yes, it’s close enough to perfect.
When you limit the amount of time you spend on your work, you force yourself to stick to what matters. After all, the goal is to get it done, right?
Fun Procrastination. You’ll get to work as soon as you watch a few cat videos. Or maybe you’ll spend a few minutes on Facebook. And while you’re at it, you should probably check your email.
What you’re looking for is relief. Life is hard. You can’t be all work and no play, can you?
If you don’t want fun to derail your productivity, schedule it. Work doesn’t have to be without rewards. Have balance. Then you’ll know that for all the time you spend focusing on what you have to do, you’ll have some time to do what you want to do.
Plenty of time. When you think you have forever, tomorrow is an eternity away.
I”m old enough now to know that decades can pass in a blink. Your baby turns thirty while you’re chasing after more stuff. Retirement looms and your savings have been battered by recessions, layoffs, and other unfortunate turns.
Dan Ariely theorized that if he let his students choose their own deadlines, they’d wait until the last minute.
The ones who set earlier deadlines and announced them publicly got better grades and finished their work. Why? Accountability. They knew they’d have to answer when their friends asked, “How’s your school work going?”
Fear of embarrassment and failure are powerful motivators.
Anxiety. This is the one that lies underneath them all. Or maybe if you’re more inclined to be nervous, it stares you in the face.
Neil Fiore, author of The Now Habit, says you should schedule fun before work. Now we’re not talking about hours of fun here. Just give yourself a little escape before you work. Maybe you play a game on your phone for 15 minutes. Check your social media if that’s your habit. It’ll give you a distraction that puts off your fears.
Maybe that’s not such a bad way to procrastinate.
It reminds of what Dr. Gary Goodman suggests you do to calm the jitters before giving a speech. Just say to yourself, “You’ll have time to get nervous later. Not now.” Then you can turn your nerves into excitement. After you press through the first minute or two of your talk, you’ll forget you were ever nervous.
All you need for this to work is to prepare well enough to know what to say.
We all need a balance of work and play. Don’t live a lopsided life. If you’re going to procrastinate, put off the stuff that keeps you from doing what matters.
3 Hacks to Jump Start Your Productivity
Now that you know what you face, here are three ways to bypass your fears and get stuff done.
My son and I do this during the summer when we want to cool off in the pool.
The water in my parents’ pool is covered by shade half the day. Unless it’s been 100 degrees outside for a month, it’s gonna be cold in there. So instead of creeping in and feeling the difference 30 degrees makes on your skin, we bypass that pain by jumping in.
The shock lasts ten seconds.
The refreshment is instant.
And we end up enjoying the pool by immersion.
When you have something to do, follow Mel Robbins’ advice. Count down from 5 to 1, then start. In her book, The 5 Second Rule, she says she has used this simple procedure to transform every part of her life.
“The moment you have an instinct to act on a goal you must 5–4–3–2–1 and physically move or your brain will stop you.” — Mel Robbins
It’s as simple as that. Movement leads to results. Procrastination leads to regrets.
“You don’t have to be great to start, but you have to start to be great” — Zig Ziglar
What will you start today?
Focus with all your might
You’ve heard you should turn everything off when you’re at work.
When I write, I often use the Pomodoro Method. It works like this:
- Turn off all distractions. Clear your desk. Gather only what you need to do your work.
- Set a timer for 25 minutes.
- Let nothing apart from emergency steal your attention. If you work at home, let your family know that this is work time, and you’ll be available later.
- When the 25 minutes ends, take a 5 minute break.
Then you start the process all over.
Focus is essential for tough projects. It can also drain your energy. That’s why these breaks give you a chance to get up, walk around, and catch your breath. Every 4 cycles, take a longer break, say 15 to 30 minutes. What you’re building is stamina. Work marathons are for crises. They shouldn’t be the norm.
With this method, the time you spend working is time well spent.
Then you’re free to enjoy your time off with little to no guilt.
A Picture to Motivate You
If you really want to feel the gravity of how what you do today affects your future, put a picture of your future self on your desk.
I drew one of these for an art project years ago. The idea behind this is working backwards. If you know what you want your life to look like years from now, you know you have to do things now to make that happen later.
Want to use technology to create a picture of the older you? In this article, you’ll find 11 you can use on your phone:
11 Free apps that make you look older (Android & iOS)
This year the apps that make you old were just booming everywhere. Every single person seems to upload a picture of…
Now Do This
Now that I’ve taken your excuses away, what will you get done?
Start now. Today. Put off procrastinating until tomorrow. Build the better you that fills your dreams.
We need you to unleash your greatness.