As a business coach, I come across procrastination quite often. It is one of the biggest issues my clients have with managing their time and getting things done. What they don’t often realize is that procrastination also adds unnecessary stress and anxiety into their life as well.
Most people engage in unconscious procrastination. They procrastinate without thinking about it. As a result, they procrastinate on the big, hard, valuable, important tasks that can have significant long-term consequences to their lives and careers. Very often its not that people do not know what to do to be more successful. Many people are quite clear about the steps they could take to improve their lives or their work. The problem is that many continually find reasons not to do it today until it is too late.
In order to know what steps we can take to overcome procrastination, it is important to understand why most people procrastinate in the first place. I find it usually comes down to a few main reasons:
• No clear deadline
• Inadequate resources available (money, materials, information, knowledge, etc.)
• Don’t know where to begin
• Task feels overwhelming
• No passion for doing the work
• Fear of failure (or success)
• It’s HARD
So what can we do about our natural tendencies to procrastinate? We need to create new habits of setting priorities and getting our most important tasks completed quickly. Here are seven tactics you can use to overcome procrastination.
- Eliminate – What are some things on your list that you can simply remove? These are things that have little to no consequence if they never get completed.
- Delegate – If you deem a task to be important, ask yourself if it is really something that you should be responsible for. Can the task be delegated or given to someone else that may complete it just as well, nearly as well, or maybe even better than you can? If it is not essential to your work or your personal responsibilities, give it to someone else.
- Do It Now – Postponing an important task that needs to be done only creates feelings of anxiety and stress. Do it as early in the day as you can, so you can clear it off your list and stop worrying about it. Develop a sense of urgency to get things done.
- Ask for Advice – Asking for help from a trusted mentor, supervisor, coach, or expert can give you some great insight on where to start and the steps for completing a project. This will help you push through the excuses of overwhelm, knowing where to get started, and the fear of failure.
- Obey the 15-Minute Rule – To reduce the temptation of procrastination, break each project down into actionable steps that take no more than 15 minutes to complete. Finding time for a 6 hour project becomes much easier when you are only looking for 15 minute increments instead of a whole day. Seeing progress also creates momentum and motivation to keep you moving forward.
- Have Clear Deadlines – Assign yourself a deadline for projects and milestones, then write it down in your planner or calendar. Make your deadlines known to other people who will hold you accountable. This helps you create a sense of urgency.
- Give Yourself a Reward – Celebrate the completion of project milestones and reward yourself for getting projects done on time. It will provide positive reinforcement and motivate you toward your goals.
By creating the habit of setting priorities, overcoming procrastination, and getting started with your most important task is a skill that is learnable through practice and repetition. It feels hard at first, but once it becomes a habit it feels easy and automatic. It’s up to you to decide, to begin, and to persevere over procrastination!