“Procrastination makes easy things hard, hard things harder.”
It’s easy to rip a sheet of paper in half. But place one hundred sheets of paper together, and you’ll have a very hard time cutting that stack of paper in half.
Just as it’s easy to rip one sheet of paper, procrastination is like letting one sheet of paper fall on top of another, and then trying to tear the stack in half after 100 sheets have fallen, one on top of the other.
Procrastination. Saying, and reading, and writing the word produces a sense of uncomfortable dread in the pit of my stomach.
In this article, I’m going to change procrastination from a chronic, unsolvable mystery to temporary solvable problem: I’m going to teach you how to stop procrastinating.
Procrastination most often arises when you are having difficulty completing a task or are becoming overwhelmed and don’t know exactly where to start.
How To Stop Procrastinating
Tip #1: Kill The Procrastination Myth
“Procrastination is too high a price to pay for fear of failure. To conquer fear, you have to feel the fear and take action anyway. Forget motivation. Just do it. Act your way into feeling, not wait for positive emotions to carry you forward.” John Maxwell
Too many of us, myself included, are waiting for the magic bullet that will help us “feel” motivated to get things done.
The feeling may never come. Face it, and accept it. And then act!
Tip #2: Use The Five Problem-Solving Steps
Use these steps with the chart below.
To illustrate these steps, I’m going to use an example of being in debt.
Articulate the problem.
Describe the problem briefly as possible – one or two sentences at the most.
For example, “I have to get out of debt, and I don’t know where to begin”
List possible solutions.
In this column, brainstorm solutions. Don’t worry about how crazy they may sound. Just get your brain going.
Here are some solutions someone in debt might think about:
-Sell the house
-File for bankruptcy
-Talk to someone I respect, who seems to have their finances in order
List the pros and cons of each situation.
In this column, you’re going from brainstorming to more carefully/realistically analyzing. Try to figure out what will really happen if you pick the solution.
For example, here are some pros and cons for each of the above solutions:
Sell the house
+ I’d have a lot of cash, I could start over
– I’d lose x years on paying down my mortgage, I’d feel really depressed
File for bankruptcy.
+It would be a fresh start
-I don’t know what the legal ramifications might be
Talk to a financially savvy acquaintance
+Talking to someone would feel less overwhelming than filing for bankruptcy or selling my house
-That person might not know everything I need to do
Rate each solution.
Personally, I would rate the one that seems least overwhelming to carry out. Once I work on one solution, I gain control over my fear and inertia, and the solutions start piling up.
Implement the best solution.
Once you have rated each option on a scale of 1-10, review each rating. Look at the one that rated the highest. Determine if this is really the solution you would like to pick. If so, use the other skills you have learned (organizing, to-do list, calendar book). Then try it out, reflect on how effective it was. If needed, go through the problem solving process again, keeping the same solutions you had listed before, and adding new ones if needed.
List all the possible solutions that yhou can think of. List them even if you think they don’t make sense of your don’t think you would do them. Come up with AS MANY solutions AS POSSIBLE.
List the pros and cons of each solution.
After listing the pros and cons of each, give a rating, review the list, and give a rating to each solutions.
Feel free to copy this sheet and print it out, using more sheets as needed (even if it’s for the same problem).
Pros of Solution
Cons of Solution
Overall Rating of Solution
Tip #3: Break Large Tasks Down Into Manageable Steps
A lot of times, we will procrastinate just because the task seems too big and overwhelming! But if you can break a larger task into smaller “to-do’s”, you’ll find it’s easier to get started.
a. Choose a difficult or complex task from your to-do list (or one of your solutions from the table above)
b. List the steps you must complete
You can do this using small note cards, or plain paper. Ask questions such as, “What is the first thing I would need to do to make this happen?”, or you can ask, “What is my next action?” Or (I like this one), what is the next easiest action I can take to get this ball rolling?
c. For each step, make sure that it is manageable.
Ask yourself, “Is this something that I could realistically complete in one day?” and “Is this something that I would want to put off doing?” If the step itself is overwhelming, then break that step into other steps. Don’t be afraid to have more steps.
d. List each individual step on your daily to-do list.
How To Stop Procrastinating: Summary with Action Steps
Kill the myth that you have to feel like doing a task before you can get started. As a bonus for reading this summary, here’s a very simple strategy to counteract this myth.
Repeat to yourself in the morning and in the evening, 50 times, the phrase, “I do it now!”
A business person challenged John Maxwell to do this. John took him up on it, and found himself doing things right away. This one practice, combined with other success habits, taught him how to stop procrastinating and start getting things done.
Try it for yourself. I’ve done this for about two weeks now, and I’ve returned phone calls and tackled difficult projects I would have procrastinated on before.
Use the five problem solving steps to defeat procrastination. The mere act of writing your way through the steps will get you motivated!
Break down big tasks into easier tasks.
Christopher Parker half joked when he said, “Procrastination is like a credit card: it’s a lot of fun until you get the bill.” Invest in yourself. Slay the procrastination dragon NOW!
What have been some of your best ways to stop procrastinating?
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