“Tomorrow is often the busiest day of the week.”
“How soon ‘not now’ becomes ‘never’.”
“A year from now you may wish you had started today.”
One of the most common problems is procrastination. We know what we want to do and should do. But still we end up spending hours upon hours doing “easier” work or escaping via TV, blogs or music.
Now, nothing wrong with a little escape from time to time. But if you procrastinate too much you will not get the most important things done. And you will also send yourself into negative spirals where your self-esteem plummets and you spend your days or more in a vague negative funk.
So what can you do? Here are 7 timeless tips to help you to stop procrastinating and start living your life more fully. And if you want to then you can learn much more about becoming more productive, focused and minimizing stress in my training kit The Art of Relaxed Productivity.
1. Stop thinking. Start doing.
“To think too long about doing a thing often becomes its undoing.”
A bit of planning can certainly help you to achieve what you want to achieve. A lot of planning and thinking tends to have the opposite effect.
You think and think and try to come up with “the perfect plan”. A plan where you don’t have to make mistakes, where you will never be rejected, where there will be no pain or difficulties. Such a thing does of course not exist. But as long as you work on that plan you can protect yourself.
2. Don’t blow a task out of proportion.
“If you want to make an easy job seem mighty hard, just keep putting off doing it.”
”Putting off an easy thing makes it hard. Putting off a hard thing makes it impossible.”
George Claude Lorimer
By over thinking and putting things off you are not only trying to protect yourself from pain. You also make mountains out of molehills. The quotes above are so true it isn’t even funny. The more hours and days you put something off the worse it grows in your mind.
Because you are dwelling on it. And so it expands in your mind. And since you are putting it off you are probably thinking about it in a negative way. This makes a little thing a big Godzilla, a horrible beast that is threatening to ruin your life.
So plan a little and then take action.
Often you don’t even have to plan, you have been there before and you know what needs to be done. So stop thinking and just do it no matter how you feel and what you think. How you feel right now changes as quickly as the weather so it’s not the perfect guidance system or anything. And you don’t have to obey what it says (it’s not chains made of iron). You can just do what you know is right anyway.
3. Just take the first step.
“You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.”
Martin Luther King, Jr.
When you start to look too far into the future any task or project can seem close to impossible. And so you shut down because you become overwhelmed and start surfing the internet aimlessly instead. That is one of the reasons why it is good to plan for the future but then to shift your focus back to today and the present moment.
Then you just focus on taking the first step today. That is all you need to focus on, nothing else. By taking the first step you change you mental state from resistant to “hey, I’m doing this, cool”. You put yourself in state where you become more positive and open, a state where you may not be enthusiastic about taking the next step after this first one but you are at least accepting it. And so you can take the next step. And the next one after that.
The thing is, you can’t see the whole staircase anyway and it will shift and reveal itself along the way. That’s why the best of plans tend to fall apart at least a bit as you start to put it into action. You discover that your map of reality doesn’t look like reality.
4. Start with the hardest task of your day.
“Do the hard jobs first. The easy jobs will take care of themselves.”
Maybe you have an important call to make that you also fear might be uncomfortable. Maybe you know you have gotten behind on answering your emails and have big pile to dig into. Maybe you have the last five pages of your paper to finish.
Whatever it may be, get it out of your way the first thing you do.
If you start your day this way you will feel relieved. You feel relaxed and good about yourself. And the rest of the day – and your to-do list – tends to feel a lot lighter and easier to move through. It’s amazing what difference this one action makes.
5. Just make a decision. Any decision.
“In a moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing to do, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing.”
We feel bad when we sit on our hands and don’t take action because it’s unnatural. The natural thing is to be a decisive human and take action.
When you procrastinate you want to do something but you don’t take the action that is in alignment with that thought. You become conflicted within.
What you do always sends signals back to you about who you are. Sure, doing affirmations where you say to yourself that you are confident can help you. But taking the confident actions you want to take over and over again is what really builds your self confidence and a self-image of you being a confident person. When you procrastinate you lower your self esteem and send signals back to yourself that you are a ,well, a kinda lame and indecisive person.
6. Face your fear.
“Procrastination is the fear of success. People procrastinate because they are afraid of the success that they know will result if they move ahead now. Because success is heavy, carries a responsibility with it, it is much easier to procrastinate and live on the “someday I’ll” philosophy.”
I think this is true. It’s easier to live on that “someday…” thought. It’s harder to just take action. To risk looking like a fool. To make mistakes, stumble and not avoid that pain. To take responsibility for your own life.
The easier choice can come with a sense of comfort, with a certain level of success, pangs of regret for all the things you never dared to do and a vague sense of being unfulfilled. You wonder about what would have happened if you had taken more action and more chances.
The harder choice gives you, well, who knows? But it will sure make your feel more alive.
7. Finish it.
“Nothing is so fatiguing as the eternal hanging on of an uncompleted task”
“Much of the stress that people feel doesn’t come from having too much to do. It comes from not finishing what they started.”
Not taking the first step to start accomplishing something can make you feel bad. But not finishing what you have started can also leave you in a sort of negative funk. You feel fatigued or stressed and sometimes you don’t even know why. It’s like someone zapped your inner power.
If that is the case, go over tasks and projects what you are currently involved in. Is there something there you know you want to finish but haven’t yet? Try to get that finished as soon as you can you will start to feel a whole lot better.
Just be careful. Don’t think you have to finish everything you started. If a book sucks, read something else. Using this as an excuse to quit something that feels hard or unfamiliar is not a good idea. But there is no law that says that everything has to be completed.