Are you a procrastinator? Many of us have the tendency to put things off and no matter how often we beat ourselves up over waiting to the last minute to get it all done in time. Yet we keep doing it again and again. If you’re ready to finally beat procrastination and get ahead of the game, you’re in the right place. Try one of these simple hacks to motivate yourself into action. Give them each a try over the coming days and weeks and find the ones that make the biggest difference for you. Whenever you find yourself procrastinating, come back to this list and employ one or several of these hacks. Your productivity will soar.
But First, Forgive Yourself
I know it seems like a strange place to start, but forgiving yourself for procrastination should be the first step. There’s nothing you can do about the past except learn from it. Beating yourself up about not following the plan you made for reaching a goal does you no good. Quite the opposite actually.
If you stress yourself out and engage in negative self-talk, you make it worse. Those feelings of anxiety will enforce your habit to procrastinate again the next time.
Listen To Your Inner Voice And Change That Dialogue
The next time you find yourself procrastinating, tell yourself that it’s okay. It’s not the end of the world. Say it out loud (or write in a journal) and then promise yourself to try to do better. Look at your mistakes. What caused you to procrastinate this time? Learn from it and you will start to do better. There’s always something new to learn whenever we fail at something or slip back into a bad habit. At the very least we figure out that something isn’t working for us.
Or go up and do something else. Do whatever it takes to silence that voice. Nobody is perfect. We all have good days and bad days. The important part is to show up and try your best.
Over time that voice will speak up less and less unless you indulge it by paying attention to it and letting it ruin your day.
Next it’s time to tackle the voice in your head that tells you it’s much more fun to do just about anything other than what you should be doing.
The best way to diffuse this particular voice into something more productive is with “yes, and” statements. “Yes, playing video games sounds like a lot of fun and I’m going to play for an hour or so after I get this task done.” Use the suggestions this voice gives you as bribes if they sound like something fun. Ignore them otherwise, or put them off until tomorrow.
Set A Goal & Write It Down
Getting over procrastination takes action. Of course that is easier said than done. But using these next few steps will help you get off your butt and get more done than you ever thought possible.
It all starts with a goal. You have to know what it is you want to accomplish. if you don’t know what your goal is, it’s hard to know what you should be doing first or what you should be doing right now to move in the right direction. So what do we do instead? Anything other than the work we know needs to get done.
Your goal is simply putting what you know you need to get done into words. A good goal has defined parameters and a set deadline. That doesn’t have to be complicated.
Here’s a simple goal we all strive to accomplish: We have to file our taxes by April 15th.
You have a pretty good idea of what paperwork you need, would forms you need to fill out, and where you need to turn them in. You also know what your deadline is. In other words, you have a well-defined goal when it comes to filing your income taxes. And yes, I realized most of us still procrastinate when it comes to this particular task. That’s why the remaining steps are just as important as the first one.
For now I want you to think about one thing you need to get done and turn it into a goal.
Write it down. I don’t care if you find a random scrap of paper, use your favorite notebook, or type a note to yourself on your phone. The important part is that you put your goal into writing.
This does two things.
First of all, it helps you clarify what your goal is. You have to get pretty specific when you try to put what you want or need to do into words.
Secondly, writing it down gives you something to look back on. It serves as a reminder and as a tool that you can use when you are tempted to procrastinate.
Need somewhere to write out all your goals & tasks? Check my planner:
Break Down a Goal
No matter how easy/small a goal may sound, you can almost always break it down into smaller tasks. Write down every task you need to complete to achieve that goal.
Make Daily To-Do Lists
It’s easy to make progress every day when you know exactly what you should be working on next. Make a plan and then decide what you will do each day of the week. I find it helpful to do this the day before. Write it down in a planner and adjust daily as needed.
In the morning, you can see at a glance what it is you should be doing. Then get to work on it first thing before the day gets away from you. I find it helpful to start with either the hardest or most important thing & get it out of the way, or start with the easiest thing to build momentum.
Pick Something Small
One of the big reasons we procrastinate is because something feels overwhelming. There’s too much too do, so we choose to forget about it for a little while. It’s a coping mechanism, just not a very productive one. Instead, pick one thing, something small that you can do right now to move you in the right direction. This creates momentum and forces you to take action.
Don’t Let Things Or People Distract You Into Procrastinating
You wake up in the morning motivated and ready to tackle whatever it is you’ve been procrastinating on. Or maybe you’re excited about a new project. You drink your coffee, get dressed, and get ready to get to work. Then something happens.
Maybe you open your email, or worse Facebook and get sucked into spending the next few hours on your computer. Or maybe a good friend calls and asks you to go shopping. Or you get an alert that your favorite TV show dropped on Netflix. It doesn’t matter what it is, the point is that there are people and things that will try to distract you into procrastinating. If you let them.
When you find yourself putting something off, look back and see if you can pinpoint what caused it. Then take action towards preventing it from happening in the future.
One Big Thing
Also known as ‘eat the frog’ for some reason (?) – get the one biggest thing out of the way first.
This alone will make a huge difference in how your day goes, how productive you are, and it of course keeps you from procrastinating on those projects. Putting them off until the end of the day when you’re too tired to do anything is no longer an option. By doing this, I’ve found I’m less stressed the rest of the day as I’ve already been productive & I’m not worrying about that one big thing. Everything I do after this is basically a bonus.
Don’t Break The Chain
There’s something to be said about a chain or a streak. Record every day you don’t procrastinate on something. You can mark it on a monthly calendar, use a month/year at a glance grid. The goal is simple. Don’t break the chain.
Once you have a few days under your belt, you’ll be motivated to go the extra mile and do that one thing you need to do to avoid breaking the streak.
Set A Time And Go
There are two time-based practices for this: the Pomodoro technique & time blocking.
The Pomodoro Method is specifically when you work for 25 minutes straight, take a 5 minute break, repeat; and take a 15 minute break after 4 intervals. So set a timer; Your phone has one built in, as do most smart watches.
You could also tell yourself you’ll work on a project or task for ONLY 15 minutes. Set a timer & start working. When the timer goes off, you have permission to stop & feel good about your progress.
Time Blocking is simply scheduling yourself to work on a specific project at a specific time.
If your office is anything like mine and full of interruptions, you can try it on a smaller scale:
Chambers tend to have very different schedules with a lot of different interruptions. So you could also try setting internal Do Not Disturb hours. Whether regularly scheduled or just when you NEED to finish an important project, this is only known to you & our staff. This means we are not allowed to interrupt each other unless the building is on fire, we are not answering calls, we are not available for walk-ins, and we are not checking emails.
There’s nothing wrong with bribing yourself if that’s what motivates you. Work on a home improvement project for an hour and then watch an episode of your favorite show. Or promise yourself a new gadget or pair of shoes when you finish painting the living room.
Come up with something that motivates you and go for it. Remind yourself of the prize at the end of the project whenever you’re tempted to put things off for another day.
Find An Accountability Partner
Beating procrastination can be hard. We do well for a few days, but then old habits set back in, or we get frustrated with our lack of apparent progress. Nothing goes fast enough. If you face a small setback at this point, it may be enough to stop working on what you wanted to accomplish in the first place. Thankfully there’s something you can do to greatly improve your chances of success. Accountability.
Find someone else who’s procrastinating and start holding each other accountable. This could be as simple as checking in once in the morning to declare what you each want to get done, and then again at the end of the day to see what happened. Knowing you have to report to someone else makes you take action. It’s also motivating to see the other person do the same. Try it.
Measure Your Progress
As you start to make progress on the things you know you need to be doing, you should feel your anxiety reduce. Instead you will feel your confidence go up. Don’t be surprised to feel proud of your accomplishments. Instead use those feelings to propel you forward to more procrastination free days. Procrastination is a habit. It’s something you learned to do, which means it’s something you can unlearn. Stick with it, make progress every day, and enjoy those feelings of accomplishment.
Start by tracking what you do. You can do this via a simple habit tracker. Use a box for each day of the week and check it off or fill it in when you do the thing you told yourself you would do. Keep tracking until it becomes a habit or until the project is done.
For larger projects that you may or may not work on a daily basis, it helps to write down your goal and then break it into milestones. Record your progress and how much closer you’re inching to each of your goals.
When you’re working on something long-term like losing thirty pounds for example, it can be tempting to procrastinate because it doesn’t seem like you’re making much progress. Instead, prove to yourself that you are getting closer and closer by tracking or measuring it. Make a chart, use a spreadsheet, keep a journal. Find a way to measure your progress and use it to motivate yourself to keep going.
Remind Yourself Of Your Why
There’s a reason you’ve decided to do that thing you keep putting off. Think about why you want to get it done. Is it so you get your tax refund? So you can run around with the kids? So you can find the clothes you actually want to wear? Find out your why.
Write it down and then keep it front and center. Look at it every day before you get ready to get to work.
Just Get Started
Last but not least, it’s time to get started. That’s often the hardest part, isn’t it? You’re tempted to skip your workout until you lace up your shoes and get started. Once you’re off and running, it’s much easier to keep going. Once you have your goal written down, think about something you can do right now to move you in the right direction. Go do that. Then come back and do something else. Each morning, start by looking at your goal and challenge yourself to take action. Before you know it, you will have made some serious progress. And you’re starting to beat procrastination.
Hear this. Just get started. That’s right, sometimes all you have to do is just get moving in the right direction. Do something. Do anything. Even if it’s something super small. You get over that initial hump and start to build some momentum.
Give each of these procrastination beating strategies a try and see which ones give you the best results. Like anything else, procrastinating is a habit and you can get out of it and turn yourself into the motivated and productive version of yourself you want to be.