It seems like such an easy thing to do. Go to Google, type in “how to stop procrastinating,” and boom—up pops lots of tips and tricks to solve a problem.
But for many, those tricks aren’t much help.
Why is that?
I think it’s because most articles overlook the mental game of breaking the habit of procrastination.
The good news is that once you identify why you are procrastinating, it will be easier to break the habit and start making progress again.
Procrastination Is A Habit
Have you ever noticed the longer you put something off, the harder it is to pick it back up and get it done?
Take working out for example.
According to USA Today, 67% of gym memberships go unused.
You get busy and decide to skip going to the gym one week. You plan to get back to your normal routine and go next week. But next week arrives, and something else comes up. Before you know it, you haven’t been in 3 months.
You think, ‘Why bother going to the gym this week . . . It’s already been 3 months. What’s another week going to matter?’
Procrastination is a habit. And, like any habit, the longer you procrastinate, the harder it becomes to stop.Procrastination is a habit. And, like any habit, the longer you procrastinate, the harder it becomes to stop. Click To Tweet
If you’re really serious about learning how to stop procrastinating, you first need to identify the source of the problem.
3 Reasons We Procrastinate
In my mind, we procrastinate for 3 reasons:
1. It Doesn’t Seem to Matter If We Wait
We tell ourselves it’s okay to put off unimportant tasks in favor of other, more important or more urgent tasks. We think we have plenty of time, so why rush? The problem is, that extra time can disappear in the blink of an eye—and now you’ve got problems.
But, you’ll find it becomes easier to get going once you connect in your mind what you’re supposed to be doing right now with the awesome goal you’re really excited about.
You aren’t doing yourself any favors when you trick yourself into thinking little things like staying organized, keeping an eye on your finances, and simply following up on things aren’t important.
Little things may seem less important when you have appointments to get to and deadlines to meet. However, if you do the little things regularly, you will prevent a whole variety of problems that will eventually stunt your growth.
Figuring out what’s actually important does require some thought, though. Before you put something off, ask yourself the following questions:
- Will this have to get done at some point?
- Will this get me closer to my big goal—even if it’s just an inch?
- Am I doing what I need to do to stay organized?
- Am I checking up on things so that I will be aware of any problems before they become disastrous?
2. We Aren’t Excited About It
It’s hard to get excited about small goals . . . and that’s where we all go wrong. As the Bible says, “faithful in little, faithful in much.” Another saying related to this issue has to do with finances . . . “mind your nickels and dimes, and your dollars will take care of themselves.”
Everyone gets excited about big goals, but winners know they must also get themselves excited about reaching small goals and making daily progress.
Small goals add up to make big goals a reality. Without setting and reaching milestones, you quickly lose your enthusiasm for the whole project.Small goals add up to make big goals a reality. Without setting and reaching milestones, you quickly lose your enthusiasm for the whole project. Click To Tweet
3. There’s No Immediate Benefit
We don’t get good feedback from our environment on short-term goals.
You don’t immediately drop 5 pounds when you eat a salad for lunch, and nobody praises you for doing it either.
When other people don’t seem to care, we have a hard time caring. And when there’s no immediate benefit for us, it’s even harder.
We win when we can maintain our enthusiasm for the small, short-term goals that lead to big goals.We win when we can maintain our enthusiasm for the small, short-term goals that lead to big goals. Click To Tweet
If we want to stop procrastinating, we have to convince ourselves that each small step is important and exciting.
This is why super successful people are so fussy about details.
This is why they are accused of being perfectionists by people that don’t see the connection between the little things the leader is obsessing over and the big picture that everyone is working towards.
One thing that will teach you to care about details is reality. When you get sloppy, it leads to failure, and high achievers don’t like that. They say to themselves, ‘I’m not going to let that happen to me again,’ so all of a sudden they seemingly wind up making a big deal to people who haven’t learned those lessons.
3 Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Start Making Progress
Here are three ways to tackle the mental game of making progress and boost your enthusiasm for the all-important short-term goals that lead to the things you really want.
1. Write Down Your Next Step, Why It’s Important, and What the Benefit Will Be Once You Get It Done
Our brains process ideas differently when we write things down. Writing something down makes it seem more important, more real.
You don’t have to write a novel, just make some notes for yourself.
Start by writing down your next step. Even if it’s a baby step, remind yourself why it’s so important to get it done right away before moving on to the next, bigger step.
Create more motivation to get it done by also adding a comment about the payoff for doing it.
But don’t just write it down, put it where you can read it until it gets done—like a to-do list. Put it up on the wall or a prominent place to remind yourself and make sure you won’t forget what to do and why you are doing it.
In fact, there’s another step you can take on your to-do list when you are trying to break out of a particularly annoying procrastination stage.
Don’t just write this:
- Talk to Joe about problem with client
- Work on proposal for new business
- Exercise for 40 minutes
- Do a load of laundry
Instead, write this:
- Talk to Joe about problem with client: So he’ll be able to solve the next problem on his own.
- Work on proposal for new business: If we get this client, it will increase revenue by 20%, and I can finally hire an operations person to take some work off my plate.
- Exercise for 40 minutes: 33 days before the trip to Hawaii!
- Do a load of laundry: If you don’t, you’ll miss out on good family time this weekend!
You don’t have to do this all the time, but use it when you find yourself putting things off.
If you don’t take an important step right now, you may look back later and wish you had.
Opportunities are temporary. Time is limited.
Use this technique to remind yourself why you need to do something and keep reminding yourself until you get it done.
2. Give Yourself Permission to Be Excited About the Baby Steps
If you want to achieve a goal, you can’t only be excited about the end result. You have to be excited about the small steps along the way.
It can be hard to do at first, but it’s something you can learn.
How do you stay excited about the small, sometimes tedious, parts of goal achievement?
Give yourself permission to get excited about them.
Your project or goal is your baby. It’s okay to get excited about the baby steps. The more excited you are about the steps you took yesterday, the more excited you’ll be about the steps you need to take today.Your project or goal is your baby. It’s okay to get excited about the baby steps. Click To Tweet
What do we do when we’re excited about something?
We talk about it. We tell everybody about the new things our babies do. We tell people about promotions. We tell friends about the five pounds we lost. We tell people about the trips we’re planning.
We tell them because we’re excited, but we also get more excited when we talk about it.
Don’t be afraid to talk about your smaller accomplishments. Don’t be a bore, but don’t be so afraid of being boring that you don’t talk about the small wins you’ve achieved.
Give yourself permission, turn yourself loose, and try to get the people around you excited about whatever baby step you’re tackling right now. It might give you the boost you need.
3. Build or Find an Environment That Gives You Positive Feedback
If you don’t have people around you who can get excited about what you’re learning and accomplishing, week-by-week, as you push towards a goal, you’re probably not going to stick with it.
There aren’t many of us who can sit alone in a room and, by sheer force of will and internal drive, accomplish great things.
We are social creatures. We need community. We need people we can rely on to share our excitement about big and small wins.
If you’re in a dry, negative environment, and you’re trying to do a positive thing that nobody seems to care about, you’re not going to do it.
Think about this: at the heart of every revolution, there is a small core of people who are emotionally invested.
Build or find your community.
It could be just one or two people, or it could be an entire organization. It could be a couple of coworkers, your spouse and kids, a local group for writers, or a national organization for speakers.
Find the encouragement you need from people who will understand the importance of small moments of progress. It will boost your enthusiasm for the next small step.
Take a moment and think about what you’re actively not doing that you should be doing. To stop procrastinating, let yourself get excited about knocking out the small steps in front of you, because that’s the fastest way to get where you want to go.