It’s that time of year again: national procrastination week! There seems to be a week, month, or “holiday” for just about everything nowadays. I’ve noticed that a lot of them are less random than they seem at first glance. This week is perfectly timed between the high of New Years resolutions wearing off and our nation’s favorite April deadline.
If you tend to put things off, try celebrating national procrastination week this year by doing the things you’ve been procrastinating on instead! This repeatable procrastination assassination process will help you achieve peak productivity.
Step 1: Decide and commit to change your procrastination habits
In order to change something, you have to want to change it. How does procrastination negatively impact your life and the people around you? How does it feel to procrastinate? What would it be like if you were someone who almost never procrastinated? If you believe your procrastination is a problem, want to fix it, and are willing to do something different to change it, you can check the first step off your list!
Step 2: Make a plan with clear steps
Sometimes we procrastinate because we don’t know where to start and/or we feel overwhelmed. Concentrating on little steps is the cure for overwhelm. The best little step to start just about any project is making a plan.
Take a moment to write out everything this project entails in a stream of consciousness style. Next, revise it into a list of action steps in chronological order. If any of the steps are giving you anxiety, try starting it with a doable verb like “call” or “Google” rather than fuzzy or daunting words like “finish” or “do.” This can help you break down each step into the right size for you.
Sometimes a step is daunting because it’s going to take several hours, even though you know exactly what to do during that step. In these cases, write the step as something like “make a dent in” or “work on” when you copy it onto a daily to do list. This way you can scratch it off even if the whole step isn’t completely finished yet. Some big chunks of projects are inevitably going to take several days. It’s just as important to feel accomplished when you’ve made progress as it is to keep track of what you need to get done.
Step 3: Add the steps and/or deadlines you invented to your calendar
Have you ever thought about the phrase, “waiting until the last minute?” It’s not literal. It’s the point in time when panic has set in. The deadline is dangerously close, but far enough away that the task could feasibly still get done if you start now and work really hard. It’s usually pretty arbitrary.
It’s possible to use the deadline-driven trait many procrastinators share in a better way. Invent your own deadlines for each section of the plan. These are now the new “last minutes.” Put them on your calendar so you’re focused on finishing each step by its deadline. When you see a deadline approaching, use it to light that metaphorical fire under your butt.
Calendars are one of the most powerful and effective time management tools. What get scheduled gets done. If you are not deadline-driven, try scheduling when you’ll get each step done instead of the deadline. One way to do that is to make an appointment with yourself by assigning an exact time on a certain day. Another way is to make a note on a certain day.
Step 4: Take a moment of mindfulness to beat the temptation of distraction
The anguish of procrastination comes from being pulled in two directions: part of you wants to get the thing done, and part of you just doesn’t feel like working on it right now. The time to get crackin’ rolls around but the mood to work does not strike. For many people, this the absolute hardest part, even with a clear bite-sized steps. They find the siren call of distractions as deafening as it is irresistible. When this moment arrives, don’t try to force yourself to work just yet.
Freeze. Stop and think for just a few seconds. Say “no” to the distraction, for now. This is a key moment. Acknowledge the part of you that doesn’t want to get started. The mindfulness happens here. Observe your thoughts and feelings instead of just letting them happen behind the scenes.
Next, remember your feelings and reasons from Step 1. Grab the part of you that wants to get things done and yank them into the present moment. Take a deep breath. Think about how much worse the end of a two hour social media scroll session will feel than how getting started feels.
Now, see if you can hear this in your head. Or this. Or find your own productivity anthem that pumps you up for the tasks you have a hard time starting.
Step 5: Do a little bit. Celebrate! Repeat.
Now that you are in touch with why you want to make this happen now, set your work station up for success. Put your phone on silent and set it down so the screen isn’t visible. Get yourself a drink. Turn on your computer and open your document or whatever else you need to do. If you’ve gotten this far, give yourself a pat on the back! You’ve overcome a lot already.
It’s so much easier to get things done once you’ve already started. For some people, setting up their work station sucks them right into the task. Others find that psyching themselves into it thinking they’re only going to do a little bit of work is what they need to get over the hump of starting. The once they’re in the groove of the project, they get totally absorbed and feel like working. If you’ve set up your work station but are still having reservations about getting started, set a timer for 10 minutes. When it goes off, you are allowed to stop working, but you don’t have to. If you’re in the mood to keep going, go for it! If not, that’s okay. Either way, notice you’re that much further along! Woo! You’re now getting things done because you beat the temptation to procrastinate! If that’s not something to celebrate, then I don’t know what is.
Celebrating frequently is a crucial part of keeping the momentum up. It doesn’t need to be champagne and fireworks; a simple mental high five will do. The goal is to notice when you’ve accomplished something. Give yourself credit that you’re that much further along. Too often, people only look what they still need to do and then feel like they didn’t get enough done because they’re not finished. This is a real buzz-kill. Negativity is a slippery slope back into procrastination.
When you have a day that leaves you feeling bad about your productivity, you can dig yourself out of the well of self-pity by reflecting on everything you have done. Make a to-done list of everything you’ve moved from not done to done. Count every little thing from getting dressed to eating lunch to getting the mail out of the mailbox. Tomorrow is a fresh opportunity to get even more done. Set yourself up to take advantage of that by ending the day with as much positive reflection and gratitude as you can muster. Positivity fuels productivity.
Your new norm can be getting things done and then enjoying some stress-free relaxation rather than an anxiety-fueled Netflix/YouTube/Instagram binge that ends in half-assing whatever you need to do… if you want it bad enough. Procrastination assassination involves as much emotional awareness as logical thinking and planning. When we learn to acknowledge and observe ourselves, we can change our thoughts so our feelings will follow.
You have the power to define the “last minute” intentionally each step of the way. If you can’t take your own invented deadlines seriously, find someone to be your accountability buddy. If this is something you need help with, reach out to me at 608-571-7003 for a free discovery call.
What does national procrastination week have in store for you this year? How will you be celebrating? Let me know in the comments.
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