Do you keep finding excuses not to start work?
Do you constantly push deadlines back, and find yourself wasting time without realizing it?
Some days I still get the feeling that I can find distraction everywhere I look.
Then the end of the day comes and you realize that you barely got any important work done.
Why does procrastination happen?
One reason for procrastination is the fear of failure. Many people develop this fear either because people in their lives have been overly critical of their work, or because they are hard on themselves when they fail – they feel a lot of shame when they screw up projects.
There are many other reasons for procrastination including:
- helplessness in the face of complex choices
- lack of motivation
- not knowing where to start
Here are some excellent ideas to help you eliminate procrastination right away.
1. Make concrete choices at the start of the work period or the start of the day
A good way to think about your to-do list is as a series of choices that will lead either to success or to failure.
Each day, make the best choices you possibly can with the information available to you. Stick with these choices, and realize they’re the most important things to you right now. You don’t need to be doing anything else – there is time later for other things.
2. Realize that making decisions is progress.
When you finally decide to do something, you are making a leap to getting something done.
Don’t think of progress as something that is done little by little – it is actually done in big leaps, when you make decisions to get things done.
So make decisions as soon as you can (don’t put them off), and have conviction in what you believe in for you work. Conviction is a common trait among well-paid business people.
3. Get everything out of your head
Sometimes it’s hard to focus on your choices and what you need to do, and you find your mind wandering around the room.
In this case, a great technique I use is externalizing my thoughts. I fill a note pad with every thought on my mind.
I write about what is distracting me, and I write about my work for the day. I write about the benefits of the work, and I start to brainstorm ideas I have for the work. This is a kind of ‘on-ramp’ for work, and it takes about 5-10 minutes. It can really help to turn your focus to what you want to be doing at any given time.
4. Forgive yourself for making mistakes immediately.
If you blame yourself for mistakes, you’ll start to fear making them. If you start to fear making them, you’ll never want to start projects anymore for fear of failure.
The solution to this is to simply chalk mistakes up to learning experiences – realize that you did the best you could with the information you had at the time, and tell yourself that next time you won’t make the same mistake again.
You’ve just learned a lesson that will make you better at your job.
It is also important to ignore the critics in your life – if somebody offers you criticism that is not constructive, you need to learn to ignore them.
Concentrate only on the effort that you put in and on how much you are learning, and you’ll be successful – concentrate on what other people think of you, and you’ll spend your entire life trying to please others, never making any progress for yourself.
5. The 20 Minute Rule
I’m not exactly sure where I first learned this technique. There are many names for it – including the ‘Pomodoro’ technique or the 33 minute rule.
It is a great way to start work when you don’t feel like working, because after exposing yourself to work for a certain number of minutes, you naturally get into the flow of working and you actually start to want to work.
To use the 20 minute rule, simple set a timer for 20 minutes, sit down at your desk, and start your work.
The rules are that you are not allowed to do anything else except:
- sit there and stare at the wall
- or drink water or coffee
If the 20 minutes are over and you still don’t want to work, you can take a half-hour break (by doing something active such as a jog or walk preferably) and try again later.
But chances are you’ll start work and you won’t want to stop, or you’ll get bored enough that you’ll want to start working. Try it out for yourself and see how it works for you.
6. Don’t Stress Yourself
One of the reasons many people worry about procrastination is because it is stressful when you realize you should be getting work done, but can’t bring yourself to do it.
Procrastinating all day can exhaust you, even though you’re not getting any work done. It can even become painful for some people.
Of course, it makes no sense to be stressed, and it does not help you.
You probably already know this, but I think it is an important point to repeat. When you find yourself getting stressed over procrastination, remember to take 10 deep breaths, and write down exactly what you want to get done over the next hour.
7. Purpose: The Real Solution To Procrastination
If you want to cure your procrastination for good, you need to have a powerful purpose in your life.
The truth is that if you have something that you want to dedicate your life to, you’ll never feel like you’re procrastinating again.
Most people have a ‘default mode’ I call ‘investigation of choices’.
They spend a lot of their time thinking about what they want to do. It is a mode of indecision, and it can create havoc in the mind.
If you choose a purpose for your life, however, your purpose will become your default mode. With purpose, everything else in your life becomes secondary and indecision disappears.
You purpose is something you love to do, and would like to dedicate your life to. For most people, it is something that they are good at, but it doesn’t have to be (you’ll become good at it eventually, anyway).
8. If you still have a work ethic problem
In this case, you need to create stronger emotional attachment to your purpose and build a habit around it.
One way to become powerfully emotionally attached to something is to imagine it in vivid detail and in positive light.
Imagine the end state that you want to achieve by building a rich visual world in your mind.
Try this exercise.
Say you want to play the piano every day and eventually become a master pianist.
Visualize every sentence in your mind and make the visual world as rich as you can.
Imagine how good it feels to sit down on the piano bench and relax after a long day. Nobody else is around, and the room is dark except for a chandelier on the ceiling above you that lends a comforting, warm glow. Feel the bench under you and feel the smoothness of the white keys as you run your fingers along them from right to left. The piano is a wonderful old grand that has obviously seen decades, if not centuries of use, but when you strike the keys it occurs to you that the tone is still rich and flawless. You can feel the slow vibration of the low notes through the bench. They are deep and ominous, and the high notes are bright and joyful. You think of the short chorus of a beautiful song you’d like to play, and you begin. It seems as if your hands know how to play the piece all by themselves. You play every note perfectly, and as you finish the sound of the piano gives you a rush up your spine.
Don’t you want to go and sit at a piano now?
This gives you positive associations with what you want to do, so that you’ll want to do it more often. Just apply this technique to your own situation.
But remember to focus on the process, and not the end goal of what you’re doing.
Repeat this every day and add more details and soon you’ll find you won’t be procrastinating anymore. You’ll replace procrastination with desire to work at your dream.
To learn more about how to increase your focus and stop procrastination, read about how I did it here.