How to Stop Procrastinating

IHow to Stop Procrastinating

How to Stop Procrastinating  – 10 Proven Tactics for Success- written by Alan Anderson

I am living proof of the old saying ‘procrastination is the thief of time’.  In fact, that’s why I felt compelled to share my ten time tested tactics about how to stop procrastinating. Who wouldn’t want to be more productive and focused without any extra stress?

If you don’t learn how to stop procrastinating, it may also become the thief  of your dreams.

We human beings are hard wired to avoid activities we think might bring us pain. In fact, we embrace activities that seem pleasurable or neutral, even if they are wasteful.

What’s Your Driver?

It is this pain and pleasure principle that is at the root of nearly all procrastination. We procrastinate when we put off doing important tasks that we know we need to complete.

For some reason, we perceive these tasks as overwhelming and painful. So, we avoid them because its easier to focus on less important tasks that we perceive as more pleasurable.

In the end, our procrastination catches up with us. We start missing deadlines and then experience the pain of guilt. With the right tactics it is possible to overcome procrastination and it’s associated guilt.  Set out below are ten proven tactics I use every day to beat procrastination to achieve success.

10 Proven Tactics for Success

So, here are my ten proven tactics for overcoming procrastination. Each tactic makes sense as a stand-alone idea. However, I highly recommend working through all of them in order, as each concept generally builds onto the next.

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How to Stop Procrastinating  #1 – Reflection

‘Know Thyself’… Socrates

Before you take any steps towards beating your procrastination, it is important to understand your own task avoidance behavior. Understanding when, where and why we procrastinate can help us to focus our efforts to alter this avoidance behavior.

This reflection tip is all about collecting your own data about what, when, how and why you procrastinate. Just start keeping a brief note in your diary every time you procrastinate. This is not so you can judge your behavior, but to understand your specific patterns of avoidance.

Self awareness will help you to learn when you may need to employ the following procrastination busting tips. Now, move onto the next tip and make a commitment to yourself to read and apply each of these in order.

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How to Stop Procrastinating  #2 – What’s Important?

We must make sure our precious time is spent on our most important tasks. Look at your priorities every day and rework them regularly as priorities can change. So, build a new habit of prioritizing your important tasks in your diary every day.

When you have a priority task, make sure that your use a smart goal setting process. Each task should be Specific in nature, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time Bound. If you have an important task that you avoid regularly, make sure you set a very clear deadline. Now go straight to Tip #3 and apply it next.

How to Stop Procrastinating #3 – Start Breaking It Down

We often procrastinate because the task seems so challenging or stressful. In fact, we perceive it to be more painful to even try the task than not achieve it. Of course, we miss the deadline and feel the pain of guilt pangs.

The key here is to break down any task into tiny micro tasks.  This same technique also helps to keep you motivated and enthusiastic on medium to long term goals.

Breaking a challenging task down into micro- tasks, reduces the perception of pain that creates avoidance behavior. Once you have broken down your important task into micro-tasks, go straight to the next tip#4.

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How to Stop Procrastinating #4 – 180 Action Plan

‘In essence, if we want to direct our lives, we must take control of our consistent actions’   -Anthony Robbins

The 180-action plan is one of the most powerful tactics for beating procrastination. The basic concept is that about committing 180 seconds to starting your first micro-task. One hundred and eighty seconds is only three minutes. This means anyone can easily commit three minutes of time to start any task.

At the end of that three minutes you will find you have built up momentum. Then, it easy to just keep going as the task begins to flow. Hey presto, you complete tasks you wanted to avoid.

The power of the 180-Action Plan also lies in the fact that you have taken action and started the task. In fact, this is one of the most positive habits you will ever form. So, start your 180 Action plan today.

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How to Stop Procrastinating  #5 – Environment

Our regular work environment often becomes a source of unwanted distraction from colleagues wanting your time. So, it’s important to let your colleagues know when you don’t want to be disturbed.

One of the best technique I found was to use a large yellow plastic X on my desk. My colleagues soon learned the meaning of that large colorful ‘X’. When it’s on my desk, it means I’m working on a deadline and don’t want to be disturbed. This is a fun way of letting people know you are focused on completing a key task. Not only is it fun, but it works.

On some tasks, it’s a good idea to lock yourself away from the distractions of your regular work environment. I used a range of solutions from my spare bedroom office at home, to booking a meeting room.  Another idea that links to your environment is covered in the next tip#7.

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How to Stop Procrastinating  #6 – Motivation

‘Winners make a habit of manufacturing their own positive expectations in advance of the event’… Brian Tracy

It is so easy to beat yourself up when you procrastinate. I prefer to keep myself motivated so that I don’t slip back into the bad habit of procrastinating. One very powerful technique you can use is to apply visual cues to your work environment. These should inspire and motivate you to act and stay positive. Psychologists call this heter0-suggestion.

Take a good look at your work environment. How many strong images or personal items are part of this environment?  Any images of family? Any inspirational images or  quotes.

Get Inspired

Work out what inspires you to keep working and striving? It might be an image from your next vacation destination, or your family.

Start adding powerful personal and inspirational images and items around your work environment.

The key is that when you look at these images, you should instantly feel a strong powerful emotion like joy, happiness or even love. During the day glance at these items and let the powerful constructive emotions shift your mind state. This is hetero-suggestion at work and can be a powerful way of keeping you motivated to stay on task.

Remember that we often spend many hours each day in our work environment. So, start adding personal inspirational items today and then go start on tip#7.

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How to Stop Procrastinating  #7 – Flip It

Rather that punishing yourself for procrastinating it’s time to flip it. As the old song lyrics go…’Accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative’. If you keep beating yourself up when you procrastinate, you are potentially doing long term damage to your self-image and self-esteem. This is not a good idea.

A much better way is to work out a simple reward system for completing challenging tasks on time.

Come up with a range of items to develop your own reward program. These can be anything that you might consider a treat or discretionary. When you complete a task that you might normally put off, chose a small reward from your list.

When you do procrastinate, you don’t need to beat yourself up. Simply recognize that you won’t be getting anything from your rewards list. You are much better to miss out on buying yourself something than damaging your self-esteem.

If you have tried all the first ten tips and still have problems completing your tasks, make sure you use tips #9 and #10.

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How to Stop Procrastinating  #8 – Help?

If you have tried to apply the first eight tips and you still can’t get through your priority tasks each day, it may a source of indirect procrastination that’s impacting you.

There are three potential solutions to this problem. The first is to re-prioritize your task list. Are there tasks that can be dropped off your list?

If not, the second is to seek help from others. Are there any tasks where you could ask for assistance from colleagues, or that you could delegate to others?

of course, it’s much easier to delegate tasks if you are the boss for team leader. However, you can also delegate tasks back to your manager or team leader by showing them that your time is fully committed on other critical tasks.

I did mention a third option. This has come about because of the explosion in technology and is covered in the final tip#10.

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How to Stop Procrastinating  #9 – Finding Leverage

I used the technique of leverage to increase my productivity by at least ten times without any extra stress. When all else failed and I couldn’t find any way of getting assistance or I had no one to delegate tasks too, I utilized a powerful new technology called outsourcing or online freelancing.

Like most people you will have only heard of this in terms of corporate outsourcing. That’s where whole divisions of companies are contracted out to other organizations. Of course, this has had quite a bad rap in the media.

Let me try to break this myth right now!

There are now thousands of individuals worldwide offering online freelance support services that are very cost effective. These new online market places make it very easy to outsource or delegate individual tasks to people with specialist skills who make a living as freelancers.

My Favorite

Freelance markets like Upwork allow you find expert and effective support services for small tasks or complete projects.

I started using Upwork for my overflow tasks and now use it regularly to find a range of skilled freelancers. Once you learn the basics of how to filter out the best service providers, you will find you can get high quality and effective support.

I could have ended these tips here, as this can help begin to break your avoidance behavior.

However, we live in a time where there seem to be overwhelming sources of distraction that destroy our focus and take us away from our important tasks. Go straight to tip#10 and take on another important reality check.

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How to Stop Procrastinating  #10 – Reality Check

 It is our choices that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities’ J K Rowling

Now it’s time for a big reality check, which for many people can be quite confronting. On the up-side, we live in an amazing time in history where we have so many powerful time-saving devices available to us. On the down-side, we have the largest ever potential for distraction from the important tasks in our life.

Overload from email, text and social media often create extremely compelling reasons to spend more of our precious time engaged with them. However, when you take an honest review of this activity, most of it does not actually help us to complete priority tasks.

So, please take a few moments to think about your own level of technology distraction. Just like the prioritization completed in tip#1, it is equally important to prioritize the use of technology that directly supports your major goals and tasks.

Top Tip

The best tip I learned to overcome this massive area of distraction, was to set a calendar meeting each day for myself.  I allocated 30 minutes at the same time each day to check emails and texts and respond to them. Social media was banned outright until after work hours.

This process required me to train myself, my colleagues and customers. Very soon everyone learned that I responded to emails and texts at a set time each day. This is a powerful way of avoiding huge distraction from achieving your priority tasks.

This may seem quite extreme at first glance, but the critical point to remember is that your time is precious. Once you give your time to anything it cannot be taken back. That’s why its important to regularly take a  reality check of how you allocate your precious time.

Getting Real

What choices do you make each day and how do they impact who you are? Ask yourself the question…’ Is this activity moving me forward to my larger goal? Is this helping me to complete an important task?

The choice here is simple. Continue to allow the onslaught of email, text, messaging and social media to take up your most precious resource, or learn to manage it.

How much of your precious time you are willing to commit to being distracted on low or no impact activities? The choice is yours.

Here are some related posts you may like to read.

Productivity- 7 Powerful Improvement Tips

How to Be Successful and Supercharge Your Life

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