7 ways to move beyond procrastination

Almost everyone is held down by what some call the silent killer. Procrastination strikes everywhere. We all want to avoid the pain or discomfort of doing something we feel is boring, stupid, pointless, hard, complicated, risky, possibly really emotionally painful and so on.

But even though we know that we will have to do it eventually and that we’re just deluding ourselves we still put it of. Often with reasons we know deep down are weak and we really just made up. We get stuck in a vicious circle of doing too little of both what we want and what we don’t want. We get stuck. Here are 7 ways to squash procrastination and move forward.

1. Recognize that there is more pain in procrastinating than not.

If you have procrastinated a lot (like me) you might have discovered that:

You procrastinate to avoid doing something that is boring, hard or something like that. You want to avoid that pain.

But after having some experience with procrastination you’ll probably realize that procrastination itself causes your more pain than actually just doing what you were supposed to. Realizing the true amount of pain in the two choices will make it easier to get things done.

2. Force yourself to do it before you really absolutely have do.

And your self-esteem will go up. And the next time you feel like procrastinating remember that you forced yourself, but that you felt better when it was done. There was a nice reward when you were done. Whenever you feel like procrastinating remember this to get you to start moving forward.

3. Create a flow.

Instead of doing nothing, begin with doing something. Clean your desk, take out the garbage, wash the dishes. Just stack a couple of simple actions to create a flow, a momentum. When you’re in the flow, in that forward motion, getting started with what you have to do will be much easier. Also, cleaning up can get you too feel more motivated. A messy work-environment seems to often reinforce procrastination.

4. Get some leverage.

Sometimes we procrastinate on things that aren’t just dull tasks in the office or school. Maybe you are stuck, not able to take the next step fearing some deep personal pain. If you are thinking about changing jobs or career or taking a next step in a relationship you are probably focusing on what could go wrong. Instead, get some leverage to both push and pull yourself forward.

How to: Take a pen and a piece of paper. Write down as many things as you can come up with that you will miss out on, not just now but the next few years if you don’t take this step now. Really dig down into yourself and feel that pain that you will feel not just tomorrow but in a year and the next five or ten years.

Then write down all positive and wonderful things you will experience if you take this decision and move forward to where you want to go. Think about them and write down all those things you will experience and feel, not just in the next few days but in one year, in two, in five years or ten. Get the stick and the carrot to work for you. And put the problem in a longer time perspective to really give it an emotional punch.

5. How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time…

Don’t look at everything you have to do. One of the common sources of procrastination is feeling overwhelmed. Break it down into smaller tasks. Write them down as a list on a piece of paper. Focus on just getting that one small task or part of the big thing done. Then move on to the next. Take it one step at a time and don’t think about the rest. Before you know it you’ll be half way there.

6. Change your beliefs.

The problems that repeatedly put you into a procrastinating state might disappear if you change your view on reality. Examine your beliefs. Ask yourself if you could see things in a more beneficial and effective way for yourself.

Realize you can choose you beliefs about yourself and the world. The past is not the future. You don’t have to hang to limiting beliefs based on past experiences if you don’t want to. You are here right now and you choose and can change your habits.

7. Make a small deal with yourself.

Here is an effective one I first heard from Ed Bliss (well, actually now that I think about it I probably first heard it from a teacher back in school about ten years ago. It kinda rings a bell).

Here’s how you go about it: Promise yourself that you’ll work on something for just 5 minutes. After those 5 minutes you can do something else if you want to. But make a note on your schedule when you will come back to the task and work another 5 minutes with it. As Bliss notes, not matter how unpleasant a task may be, you can often talk yourself into working 5 minutes on it.

I’ve found this one to be effective to make a dent in those tasks you have put of for a longer while. After you’re done with those first 5 minutes the next 5 minutes will feel a little easier. And after that the next 5 minutes will feel even easier. Or maybe you raise the bar to 10 minutes of work. Getting some actual work done on that task, if only for 5 minutes, gives you a rush of exhilaration. Making a game out of how much work you can get done in those 5 minutes can also be a small but in its own way fun challenge.

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About the Author

Henrik Edberg is the creator of the Positivity Blog and has written weekly articles here since 2006. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Gothenburg and has been featured on Lifehacker, HuffPost and Paulo Coelho’s blog. Click here to learn more…

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  • Travis Stein

    You’ll never believe this, but I came across this while procrastinating ;). Very good list Henrick, I am going to try to put this to use with some of my more boring classes for my major until I get to (hopefully) the more exciting/interesting ones!

  • Great article! I am in support of everything you said, especially changing your beliefs. What I’ve found is that the actual “truths” within human beings, are probably the single most influential parts of our lives. I am a firm believer in changing beliefs, thus changing action. Great stuff!