5 Ways to Overcome Procrastination Right Now
Procrastination is a mind game.
We're talking ourselves out of doing something we know we should be doing. It could be due to fear of failing, lack of clarity or lack of purpose. Regardless of the reason, the more we think about doing it and don't do it, the more difficult it seems.
Here's the good news: Whatever you're trying to do isn't as difficult as you're making it out to be.
Here are five practical ways to fight procrastination and start taking action on what really matters:
1. Prepare in advance
Let's say I need to go for a run tomorrow morning.
I set out my shorts, shoes, headphones, and everything I'll need for my run right next to my bed. When I wake up the next morning all I have to do is get dressed, go outside, and start running within 5 minutes.
I don't even have the chance to talk myself out of it.
Let's say your goal is to write a blog post.
Briefly plan ahead where you will write it (in your favorite comfy chair, coffee shop, or office), what tools you will use (Google Docs, pen and paper, a typewriter), and what topic you will write about.
Prepare those tools ahead of time and plan exactly when the actual task will happen on your calendar.
When the time comes, all you have to do is sit down and start writing.
2. Start with 15 minutes
When I find myself not wanting to start a project because it seems too large or overwhelming, I start with just 15 minutes. Instead of focusing on the entire project, I focus on the first small task.
I have to write new text for our entire website?
Start with 15 minutes.
I need to do my taxes?
Start with 15 minutes.
I need to get in shape?
Start with 15 minutes.
Once I've started working on something for 15 minutes I often make enough progress to get over the initial hump.
Often working on the task becomes more enjoyable and I have enough momentum to work on it for a few hours.
3. Do a bad job on purpose
As a recovering perfectionist, I find that one of the biggest reasons I procrastinate is because I don't know if what I'm going to do is going to be any good, or that it will be too much work to make it great.
Instead of being afraid and never starting, I just tell myself that I'll do a bad job to get started.
Instead of spending 30 minutes on just the title of a blog post, I spend 30 minutes writing a terrible draft of the post. Once I have a complete something on paper I can refine it and correct it.
It's easier to fix a crappy rough draft than to create something perfect on a blank page.
4. Move toward discomfort
Instead of assuming that most of the work I do should be enjoyable, I've realized that doing work that matters means I have do to things I don't feel like doing. And that's actually a good thing.
When I feel resistance to starting a task I see it as a sign that:
The task may be truly important
It's a difficult task that will be rewarding to complete
The task requires personal growth and learning
Completing the task will build self discipline
Stop expecting to enjoy all of your work. Move toward that feeling of discomfort and you'll get more important work done.
5. Reset your brain
Sometimes I find that my other methods aren't working and I simply need to reset. Here's how:
Going for a walk, doing some pushups, or completing a 7-minute workout wakes up my body and gets my blood flowing to my brain again. Doing some physical exertion helps gear me up for some mental exertion as well.
Take a Power Nap
Taking a 15 minute power nap often does the trick. For me it's like restarting a computer. I decide what I'm going to do as soon as I wake up and have all my tools ready. Then I take the power nap and get to it.
Taking a freezing cold shower shocks my body awake and gets me used to doing something I don't want to do. I use this as an alternative to caffeine in the mornings. Bonus - once you've taken a freezing cold shower, you probably won't do anything more uncomfortable than that all day. Everything else will seem easy.
Don't overthink it. Just start.
I've struggled with procrastination for much of my life, but these tools have helped me to minimize this problem. I hope these ideas help you take action on what really matters.
Just get started. Now.
Tools & Resources
Quiz: Are you a procrastinator?
Mindtools offers a short quiz to help you identify what level of procrastinator you are. I found it helpful to see how I rank objectively.
Article: Benefits of Cold Showers
I mentioned that taking a cold shower help you reset your brain, but it has a lot of other cool side benefits. Check out this article from LifeHack.org to learn more.
Podcast: Break the Procrastination Cycle
This episode of the ADHD Experts Podcast explores the idea that procrastination is not a time-management problem but an emotion coping mechanism.