Overcoming procrastination may seem like an insurmountable task, but I can assure you that it is not – and better than that, I can assure you that you will see an immediate effect on your overall happiness and success. Similar to smoking, biting our nails and mindless snacking on junk food, procrastination is one of the worst habits we develop as young people that won’t go away without some serious work. Remember all the times you invented an excuse so you wouldn’t have to do chores or study for a test? A lifetime of inventing excuses to delay the inevitable has caused our brains to develop a real resistance to working harder than absolutely necessary in the moment – clearly, an undesirable trait for leaders and managers. So without further ado, here are five simple tips to help you overcome procrastination:
Tell yourself, I will do this for five minutes. When you’re in a relaxed state, you must overcome mental inertia and train yourself to act on a task even though it’s a hassle or painful. But all it takes is five minutes… you decide how you want to spend that time bettering yourself. Say it out loud; tell yourself that today you will do just five minutes of meditation or prayer, setting your goals and intentions, exercising, etc. The ‘five minute rule’ can help fix 50 percent of our issues of getting started. That sluggish first step will quickly lead to a longer, successful journey. Need more motivation? Pick up “The 5 Second Rule,” by Mel Robbins. This is one of my favorite books, and I recommend it highly. More than 10 million people have watched her TEDxTalk about the power of a “push moment,” and it’s easy to see why.
Break it down.
Procrastination is a natural reaction to any assignment that we perceive to be daunting and intimidating, usually because it seems to be too big. Take a few minutes and break it down into bite-size chunks. Do what you can, but in small chunks. The task will instantly feel more manageable for the brain and give you a boost in confidence after you accomplish something. If the thought of writing an email is daunting, relax and start small.
Check your thoughts.
To be certain, your success in overcoming procrastination – and your success in life, in general – has to do with your chosen attitude, and negative thoughts will keep you stuck in the mud. What you think is what you become, and when you constantly tell yourself that something is so boring or too hard… well, I think you can guess what the result is. If you’re willing to take the first step and give yourself five minutes of sustained action, then the next step should be to think about the potential results and the success that will come from your actions. Focus on the upside, but also on the why. People who love what they do, and are successful at it, can tell you exactly why they work so hard. Some people are motivated by money, of course, but compensation comes in many forms. Remind yourself, out loud, that when you take action, you’re going to earn something: you’re going to help your family and other families; you’re going to provide valuable services to people who need them.
Change your environment.
Your surroundings will absolutely influence your success. Too often, we find ourselves trapped by a messy house or cluttered desk, which leads to frustration and giving up – simply because it’s easier than tidying up. If you’re making the effort to take that challenging first step to overcome procrastination, then you must ensure that all of your tools are within reach and available. If you need to work in a quiet place, find one. If you need to send emails, clear the desk of distractions. Don’t have a web browser open, where you’ll be susceptible to notifications from Facebook or CNN. If your goal is to stop putting off exercise, make sure your running shoes are right by the bed. Sometimes we must knock down physical barriers, not only the ones in our head.
Humans are motivated by incentives, so don’t think twice about rewarding yourself when you accomplish a significant task or reach a goal. When you take action and end procrastination, you give yourself a major boost in authentic confidence. You’ll tell yourself, it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. Next time, you’ll be in control and know exactly what you need to do to succeed. You might even offer some helpful advice to a friend or colleague and share tips about how you fought the battle against procrastination—and won.