The Ultimate Guide to Beating Procrastination

“My advice is to never do tomorrow what you can do today. Procrastination is the thief of time.” - Charles Dickens

I’ll just…

…watch this one YouTube video of a cat running around in circles.

…make one more cup of tea.

…post one more status update to Facebook. I mean, people need to know what I had for breakfast this morning.

…check my emails one more time. You know, just in case something really important happened in the last 2.5 seconds.

And then I’ll get down to work.

And before you know it the day, the week, the month, the year and your entire life has disappeared in a cloud of procrastination and you’re lying on your death bed thinking to yourself, “I could have done so much more.”

When it comes to creating a business and life you love, procrastination is the evil monster that will do its very best to keep you playing small and preventing you from realising your true potential.

Our lives are a battleground and we’re fighting a war that will never end: a war against ourselves. On the one side we have an intense desire to grow and to know and experience our own potential. And yet on the other, the force of entropy is constantly pulling us down.

“Each of us has his or her own urge to grow, and each of us, in exercising that urge, must single-handedly fight against his or her own resistance.” – M. Scott Peck, The Road Less Travelled

When you choose procrastination, you choose instant gratification over long term-fulfilment. And in the long run, when you consistently choose instant gratification over long-term goals you sacrifice your happiness.

If you are to realise your potential in this life, you must find ways to beat the procrastination monster. In this ultimate guide, I’m sharing 11 ways to help you put the procrastination monster in his (or her) place.

1. BE CLEAR ON WHAT YOU MISS OUT ON WHEN YOU CHOOSE PROCRASTINATION

When you procrastinate, your thinking goes short-term and you lose sight of the bigger picture.

The bigger picture (your big dreams and ultimate goals) always requires hard work and effort and that’s why, even though it may be something you really want, it’s very hard to stick to.

Ultimately though, it’s consistently choosing big-picture actions (the ones that will propel you towards your dreams and goals) that give you that awesome feeling of having accomplished something important in your day. On the other hand, when you choose procrastination and instant gratification, you’re left with that horrible feeling in the pit of your stomach that you’ve let yourself down.

I know you know what I’m talking about!

So what can you do about it?

Here’s a powerful question to ask yourself when you find yourself procrastinating to reconnect you to your bigger picture dreams and goals:

What do I lose by choosing procrastination?

Connecting yourself to those big dreams you’re sabotaging every time you procrastinate can be a powerful motivator to get the work done.

2. DON'T DALL DOWN THE INTERNET RABBIT HOLE

Through the power of the internet you have the ability to type any question you can dream up into Google and find an immediate answer. YouTube teaches you how to do anything you want, for free! And through this incredible digital world, you have the opportunity to connect, combine forces, and really make a positive difference.

The internet is a beautiful gift, that’s for sure.

But whilst there's beauty, there's also danger.

The internet can either be a powerful tool to propel your forward towards your dreams and goals or it can suck you back into procrastination hell.

Two minutes spent surfing the web turns into two hours and two hours turns into a full day. Before you know it, it’s dark outside, you’re tired and you’ve got no idea how you ended up on this website reading about how to make your own almond milk.

If you don’t take control, the internet will keep you stuck in procrastination hell. FOREVER.

Here’s what to do.

1. Know the next one most important task you need to complete.

2. Close down every single tab on your computer until the only things open are what you actually need. If you can complete your task without having your computer on, do that!

3. Complete your task. Resist all temptation to watch cat videos and make tea. Remind yourself constantly of the bigger picture.

This will take practice. The internet has become an addiction for most of us. You’re going to fail. It’s ok. Begin again. Train yourself to go for longer and longer periods of time without checking your email or browsing the internet. Your resistance muscles will get stronger with time.

3. DO YOUR MOST IMPORTANT WORK AT YOUR PEAK TIME OF DAY

For as long as I can remember I have loved early mornings and hated late nights. I remember one evening getting home to my apartment and looking through to the clock on the kitchen oven. It read 00:00. “Urgh, the clock’s broken”, I thought, until I realised that this was just a time I didn’t really recognise.

Generally speaking, I’m awake by 0530 or 0600 and I’m at my most creative and fuelled between 0700 and 0900 which means at that time I usually like to be sitting down to write.

Know what time of the day you are at your best and make sure to schedule doing your most important work during that time. Whether you’re a morning lark or a night owl doesn’t matter. This is about doing what works for you.

4. SELL YOUR TELEVISION

You think I’m kidding?

I sold my television in May 2013 and have never looked back. Television welcomes procrastination with open arms.

Here’s a great article from Man vs. Debt on the reasons to ditch your television.

Wondering what on earth you’d do with that big old blank space in your living room once you get rid of that time-sucking 42-inch television? Here’s an idea…

5. CREATE A PERSONAL INTERNAL COMMITMENT

If procrastination is an evil monster sent to stop you from realising your greatest potential here on earth, commitment is the powerful angel sent as your greatest tool to slay the monster.

In July last year I watched this video featuring Ultimate Coach, Steve Hardison. It’s a video about how, when we make a powerful commitment to ourselves about who we want to be in the world, nothing can stand in our way.

After watching that video, I painted this on my living room wall (in the space where my television used to be)…

PIC

And then I sat down and wrote out my commitment to myself and to the world:

To help as many people as I can get out of their own way so that they can shine their brightest light into the world and reach their highest and greatest potential.

I do the majority of my work in the same room as this painting. And every time I find myself procrastinating, I look over and get a powerful visual reminder about my commitment to myself and to the world. Because of what that commitment means to me, my procrastination is short lived and I’m able to get back on task.

What are you so deeply committed to that procrastination doesn’t stand a chance against it?

6. FALL IN LOVE WITH YOUR CALENDAR

Jon Morrow, creator of Boost Blog Traffic, and the course Serious Bloggers Only writes:

“You want to know how I’ve accomplished so much? Here’s my dirty little secret:

I have a calendar. I put the tasks on it that will help me move to the next stage. Then I do what the calendar tells me.

It’s boring. I hate a lot of stuff the calendar tells me to do. I also get really tired of having to schedule everything.

But you know what?

Nothing else works. Here’s why:

We are procrastinating fools.”

And I’ve gotta admit, Jon’s right. Nothing else works. If it isn’t scheduled, it doesn’t get done. You just keep making lame excuses about why now’s not a good time.

Whatever calendar system you use, make sure you do these three things:

1. Schedule your most important tasks in your calendar. (For more help on how to know what your most important tasks are, I recommend reading The ONE Thing.)

2. DO NOT MOVE THEM.

3. Start the task when the calendar tells you to. Stop the task when the calendar tells you to.

After years of sticking to my old school paper calendar I recently switched to Google Calendar and I’m loving it! Colour-coding for different task types, reminders to keep you on track, syncing with my online appointment system – the Google Calendar is an awesome tool and….it’s free!

7. STOP TELLING YOUR "I'M A PROCRASTINATOR" 

The problem with human beings is that we like to tell ourselves bullshit stories about who we are. 

Over time, your procrastination habits become a part of your identity story. You say to yourself (and to other people), “I’m such a terrible procrastinator” and it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

But here’s the truth. You are what whatever you believe yourself to be. You become what you think you are. You get to choose what you think and you get to choose the person you are in the world.

Fed up of being a procrastinator? Drop your “I’m a procrastinator” story and choose a more empowering story instead.

8. CREATE SOCIAL ACCOUNTABILITY

There’s one reason and one reason only that I manage to create and publish content to this blog every week on a Monday.

Because I told you I would.

Even though I know, if I wanted, I could just not publish content every week at the same time, my public commitment to you won’t allow me to do that.

By declaring my intentions I have created social accountability for myself. You can do it easily for any task you have to complete.

Here’s one creative way to create social accountability for yourself:

In September 2012, the father of a young man named Alex Sheen died of small cell lung cancer. Whilst giving his father’s eulogy, Alex chose to speak about his dad’s extraordinary commitment to keeping his promises.

From that was born the ‘promise card’ – an extremely simple but incredibly beautiful and powerful way to help people remember the importance of their commitments and goals. Click here to read about the many different ways you can use a ‘promise card’ to keep yourself accountable.

What are your most important tasks? How can you create some social accountability for yourself?

9. USE THE TWO-MINUTE RULE

Here’s what James Clear has to say about the “2-minute rule”:

“Most of the tasks that you procrastinate on aren’t actually difficult to do — you have the talent and skills to accomplish them — you just avoid starting them for one reason or another.

The 2–Minute Rule overcomes procrastination and laziness by making it so easy to start taking action that you can’t say no.”

Read everything you need to know about the 2-minute rule and putting it into action in James’s full article here.

10. REWARD YOURSELF

Sometimes the tiny things make all the difference. I try to give myself some sort of reward every time I finish a task or get through a block of my focused working time without deviating.

Small things make me ridiculously happy. Things like having a square of dark-chocolate that my housemate hand delivers to me from Switzerland each week; making a proper cup of coffee in my Bialetti coffee maker, or just lighting a candle and watching it for a while (yep, I actually do that).

Whatever works for you, plan a reward for yourself and focus on that until you get your task done.

11. TAKE A WALK

No human being can work effectively and efficiently for 8+ hours a day non-stop. Our attention span drops and we begin to feel tired. When that happens, remaining focused becomes a struggle and procrastination takes over.

When you feel your focus beginning to wane, get out for some fresh air, even if it’s just 10 minutes.

Julie Leitz, friend and professional coach, recently told me she’d been experimenting with working for a focused two-hour block before taking a break and getting out.

I have to admit, I was a little freaked out when she first told me about this and challenged me to try the same. Wouldn’t I be missing out on hours of valuable work time?

But when we get honest with ourselves, we know that the time we actually spend working vs. the number of hours we spend thinking about the work we should be doing is minimal.  

Working in focused blocks and then giving yourself permission to take a break before beginning again not only ensures you’ll be spending your time more productively, but that you’re really setting yourself up to run your business in a healthy and sustainable way.

OTHER RESOURCES

I’ve referenced a lot of articles in this post but there’s just one more that I want to mention because it actually had me laughing out loud. If you’d like to learn more about procrastination whilst being thoroughly entertained, I recommend this article.

Why Procrastinators Procrastinate