Putting things off for another day is something we all do quite well. Come April 15th, we rush to the post office to make sure our tax returns post-marked on time. We may wait until we have a cavity before seeing the dentist, and we delay cleaning the house until guests visit.
These examples seem harmless enough, but what about when we procrastinate on bigger things? Jill’s dream is to start a business; yet she’s talked about it for years without taking that first step. Bob has a great idea for a new website, but has yet to act on it. If you find yourself putting off a career change, life dream or major project, here are a few tips to help you battle procrastination traps.
How to Overcome Procrastination
1. Get to the root of your procrastination
Not all procrastination is the same. In order to face your procrastination head on, you’ll need to figure out the root cause. Is it a result of having too much to do or not knowing where to start? Do you have unreasonable expectations or worried about how things will turn out once you get started? Procrastinating is rarely about ‘being lazy’; there’s usually a very real cause behind it.
2. Give up on perfection
If you have perfectionist tendencies, you may fear not doing the best job possible and this can lead to procrastination. We fear that we’re not going to be good enough, so we want to make everything perfect first. To make anything happen, you can’t wait for perfect (perfection is unattainable, anyway). So, take a deep breath and just go. So what if you’re wrong? So what if there are little glitches here and there? Just go with what you have and build on what you learn.
3. Don’t worry about failing
Does the thought of failing make you feel anxious? People who fear failure learn it’s easier to slide along with the status quo than to take that important first step. If this sounds familiar, take some deep breaths, then take those negative thoughts of failure and refocus them into positive thoughts. Most importantly, think for a moment about all the opportunities and possibilities you leave behind by not trying. Consider what you’re missing out on. By never trying, you’ve failed right from the start.
4. Break it down to little steps
Large goals like ‘start a business’ or ‘launch a website’ can’t be accomplished at once. Success depends on your ability to break a daunting project into a series of smaller steps, ones that you can act on. If you find yourself struggling to get started on a project, break it down into the smallest tasks possible. Then get started on each of these tiny tasks one by one. With each small task you complete, you’ll be gaining momentum and getting a psychological boost.
5. Log off for productivity hours
There are a million and one things competing for our attention these days. Digital distractions can be a major time drain and lead to procrastination. If you’ve been putting something off because it requires undivided focus, dedicate chunks of the day when you unplug from the phone, email, Facebook, and Twitter to get some work done.
6. Let yourself goof off
Being "All work and no play" isn't effective (or fun) for anyone. One of the best ways to battle procrastination is to allow yourself time off. The key is to make your free time count. Have you ever denied yourself a trip to the gym or lunch with a friend ‘because you’re too busy’? Chances are that on that very same day, you spent well over an hour watching TV, looking at Facebook, or organizing your medicine cabinet. Busy work isn’t accomplishing anything and won’t recharge your batteries. Reward yourself by doing something you truly enjoy. You’ll not only end up being happier, but will get motivated to get something done as well.