Stop Procrastinating in 5 Simple Steps

How are your New Year’s Resolutions coming along? Are you still focused and full of energy? Or is your motivation starting to fade?

Procrastination costs us a lot of energy with no real gain. We don’t do the thing we keep meaning to do, and then we beat ourselves up for not doing it, and it’s still not done. Phew! That’s a lot of mental and emotional energy for nothing in return.

If you’re finding yourself beginning to fall back into old patterns but want to make changes this year read on for five simple steps and lots of different tips and tricks to help you stop procrastinating and make it happen!

Paper, pencil, coffee and a sharpener symbolising procrastination

1. Plan

Perhaps you’re familiar with the expression “Failing to plan is planning to fail”? Making a plan is the key to increased efficiency and effectiveness. Knowing what you want to accomplish is the starting point, making it happen requires planning and follow-through.

Plan each day in advance, either by taking ten minutes the night before or ten minutes at the start of the day. If whirring thoughts tend to keep you awake at night then making a few planning notes the night before can help release the tension, knowing that your great ideas and areas for concern are captured on paper to be dealt with tomorrow, leaving you the opportunity to get some much-needed shut-eye.

Planning also provides the opportunity to cross items off your list as you complete them. How satisfying does that feel?!

Be realistic in your planning and consider any potential obstacles you may face, such as last minute requests from your boss or interruptions from colleagues. Decide how you will deal with obstacles so that you can keep on track. Having a back-up plan is hugely empowering and also removes the tendency to say, “Well it wasn’t my fault, so and so happened and I couldn’t avoid it”.

2. Focus

Decide on the top three things to focus on today. Which three things will have the biggest impact? Not what is easiest or what would you rather do, but what contributes most significantly to your overall goal? Be honest with yourself.

Create a sense of urgency. Imagine you need to leave town for a month. This can help you to focus on what really needs to get done.

Create the right conditions for concentration. If you have an important report to write or project to work on, switch off your email alerts and send your phones through to voicemail for the time you need to work on it. You’ll complete it quicker and with more accuracy.

Don’t multitask. I know, I know, we’ve been told that women in particular are fantastic multi-taskers, and we’re filled with admiration for people with super-power juggling abilities, but research now shows that multi-tasking isn’t all it’s cracked up to be and often results in longer, sloppier completion of a task. Focus on the job at hand and don’t start anything else until you’ve completed what you need to do.

3. Accept

Procrastination is often linked with perfectionism. If I can’t do it perfectly, I won’t do it at all. Or, when I have/am xxx, then I’ll do it. Recognise that it doesn’t have to be ‘all or nothing’. That simply making a start and doing your best will move you on further than doing nothing at all.

Accept that you probably can’t do everything. Practice positive procrastination and learn to let go of less important activities. Be really clear on what’s most important to you, it will help you let go of the rest.

When you create a sense of urgency by imagining you are about to head off on holiday, as mentioned earlier, you will have to let some things drop. Drop them, don’t dwell on them, and move on to what’s most important.

If you’re facing an overwhelmingly complex task, break it down into manageable chunks, and treat each step as an action item to add to your daily planner.

To help capture the great, but perhaps not-important-right-now ideas, use a ‘parking lot’. The parking lot is a journal or even just a sheet of paper, or a whiteboard or flipchart, where you can record ideas to pick up later. It helps keep you focused without losing the fantastic ability your mind has to trigger one idea from another.

4. Do

Lady running in Istanbul

Dive right in. If you have a task that you don’t particularly enjoy, do it first. Imagine how good it will feel when that’s done and you still have the rest of the day to work on more fun things.

Don’t over-think things. It will only allow you time to generate reasons why not to do something. Cut the mental chatter and let yourself go on automatic pilot. For example, exercise first thing in the morning before the day gets in the way.

Get started. If you find yourself dilly-dallying, take an easy route and tell yourself you’ll just do the activity or task for ten minutes. You may get into the rhythm of it and before you know it you’re done.

Make it super easy for yourself. Get your gear ready the night before, whether that’s your gym bag packed ready to hit the treadmill, or your sandwiches made so you can be sure to enjoy a healthy lunch. Being prepared makes it a no-brainer and helps to establish good habits, which over time feel natural and seem to require no effort.

5. Flow

Understand your natural ebb and flow of energy. If you have better concentration in the mornings, schedule your more intellectual tasks for that time of day. If you know you dip in the afternoon, why not head out for a quick fifteen minute walk in the fresh air – plan it in as a meeting with yourself, or even take your meeting outside and spread the benefits of getting moving!

Build in breaks. Anticipate that you will need some down-time to re-charge, so in your planning make sure not to cram every moment of the day with difficult tasks.

Mould your day to suit the activities and tasks required. For example, if you know a certain project will require several hours of strategic thinking and doing, get your meetings out of the way early on, to give yourself a chunk of time to really focus on that project.

Create your own deadlines to suit your natural working rhythm. One tip is to push meetings towards the late afternoon and decide that you will complete your daily tasks before the meetings start. Feeling on top of things will increase your creativity and productivity in the meetings.

And finally…

If you’re still struggling and want the extra accountability and support of working with a coach, drop me a line.

About the Author

Sarah founded Happiness Express Coaching in 2009. With over 3000 coaching hours and an ICF Master Certified Coach (MCC) credential, she specialises in personal branding, leadership, and wellbeing. Sarah also mentors coaches to achieve their ICF credentials.

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