065: Stop Putting Things Off
If you were to be completely honest with yourself, what would you say is the number one thing holding you back from achieving a goal or a dream?
I think many of you would say time, finances, lack of knowledge or skill, or other people’s priorities.
However, I think when you deep dive into the real reason I believe a lot of the time it’s just good old procrastination. Often we start with the best of intentions only to get sidetracked by procrastination. Oh, I know, you may be saying “No! It really is my lack of time or some other factor that is holding me back.”
And that may be perfectly true. But, I do feel we often use these things we perceive we lack as excuses to put off what we should be doing to achieve our goal or dream.
I have had so many goals and dreams over the last few years that could have been achieved more quickly and easily had I just committed to doing the work and actually following through.
However, I’ve let myself get sidetracked by so many things. And that has led to procrastination. Even on the days when I feel super motivated and excited to get things done, I’ve let my self procrastinate the work until I could no longer avoid it.
Before I go any further, I’ve got to give you a disclaimer. I’m a work in progress when it comes to procrastination. Just the other day, I knew I needed to work on this episode. However, instead of doing the work I needed to do, I procrastinated by watching a video about how to overcome, wait for it, you’ve guessed it… procrastination!
Yes, I could justify it by saying I was doing research for this podcast episode. But we all know what I was really doing. I was just putting off the work. It’s the truth and I knew it when I did it.
When you look up the definition of procrastination you’ll see that it says it means to defer action; delay.
I also think procrastination can become a habit if it’s something we do regularly. And it’s a habit we certainly don’t want to keep.
We all know procrastination can hold us back in life. It hinders the achievement of goals and dreams, it causes frustration for ourselves and others, and it can lead to an unfulfilling life because we are not taking advantage of the opportunities we have before us.
In my own life, procrastination has led to other habits that I do not like. Putting off cleaning my home, not meal planning on a regular basis, and not taking advantage of certain opportunities has led to discouragement and depression at times in my life. I don’t know about you, but I certainly don’t want to live this way anymore.
Pablo Picasso once said, “Only put off until tomorrow what you are willing to die having left undone.” That’s a pretty powerful statement. When you think of procrastination in this light, it certainly helps us see how we should get to work doing the important things in life.
So, what can we do about procrastination? How do we overcome tendencies to procrastinate and how can we embrace a more proactive lifestyle that helps us achieve our goals and dreams and provides us with a content and satisfied life?
Before we can figure out a solution to procrastination, we have to understand the root causes first.
Six common causes of procrastination
- Not knowing what to do
- What you need to do is hard so you just keep putting it off
- Not being invested in or excited about the goal or task you need to do
- Letting other people’s priorities keep you from doing what you should be doing to achieve your goal or dream
For me, I tend to deal with the causes of fear, perfectionism, and letting other peoples’ priorities take precedence over what I need to do.
I wish I could say I had a magic pill or formula that would instantly cure any procrastination tendencies you may have. If I did, I’d be a very rich woman. Just think about all of the books, blog posts, and podcasts there are that talk about dealing with procrastination. It’s obvious this is a common hindrance for many people.
There are a few things we can do to keep procrastination from becoming a habit.
Four strategies to minimize procrastination
Pick one small step that you can take that will get you going.
For instance, let’s say your kitchen is a mess with dirty dishes in the sink because the dishwasher needs to be unloaded, papers piled up on the counters, and other items lying around that don’t belong there.
If you just walk into the kitchen and see that mess, you can be overwhelmed at having to clean it all up. So to help keep you from turning around and leaving it all for another time, find one small step you can take that will help you make progress on cleaning up the kitchen.
If it were me, I would choose to empty the dishwasher so there would be a place to put the dirty dishes. After I emptied the dishwasher, I most likely would be more motivated to load it again with the dirty dishes so one more area of the kitchen would be cleaned up.
See how that works? One little step could lead to another little step until the whole kitchen was cleaned up.
Set a timer.
Yes, this seems similar to our first strategy of doing one small step. However, if you have trouble coming up with a small step to take or aren’t motivated by that strategy, then setting a timer may work better for you.
Let’s go back to our messy kitchen example. Maybe you don’t feel like working on any of the messes but you know you need to. Set a timer for 15 minutes and work as hard as you can until the timer goes off. More than likely you’ll see a lot of progress in that short amount of time.
One of the ways procrastination is deceiving is that it feels easier to put things off because you think they’ll take a long time to complete. When you set a timer, you will see how much you can get done in a short amount of time.
The timer also works well for tasks and activities like working out, meal prepping, cleaning your house, and folding laundry. Set your timer, work hard, and then give yourself permission to stop when the timer goes off. Chances are you will see enough progress that you will most likely want to continue the task until you finish.
Have a plan.
You knew I’d have to throw something in about planning didn’t you? I’ve mentioned in this podcast before of my love for time blocking. The days I block off time to work on specific tasks are the days I get the most done.
You don’t have to be super rigid with this though to reap the benefits. You could do something as simple as a schedule on an index card. Writing out the things you’d like to do on a given day and assigning times to do them improves your chance of follow-through significantly.
Think about it, if you don’t have a plan, then it’s hard to figure out what to do. And it makes procrastination so much more likely. After all, isn’t it easier to choose to do the tasks that are the quickest and easiest to do? When you schedule the more difficult tasks in your day, you’re more likely to at least make progress on them.
Find an accountability partner.
This is such a great strategy for those times when you’re really struggling to get things done. When you know that you’ll be checking in with someone on your progress, then you are more likely to follow through with your tasks.
I am currently employing this strategy in two ways. First, I have a business coach I meet with every 4-6 weeks. We go over what I said I would do after our last session. Then I make plans for what I’m going to do before our next session. With her help, I have made so much progress on my goals. Without her, I probably would not be as far along as I am.
Another way I’m using this strategy is by doing an Insta Story in the morning showing a task that I’m trying to complete, then checking in at the end of the day to report my progress. Typically these tasks revolve around a decluttering or organizing project. This has certainly helped me to get some things done around my home.
This strategy is the one that helps me the most when it comes to combating procrastination.
I hope at least one of these strategies is resonating with you. I encourage you to put it into place even as early as today.