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Seven ways to beat procrastination, Origineurs podcast episode hosted by communication expert, Loretta Milan

Seven ways to beat procrastination

Do you ever procrastinate?

When there’s something important you need to do, does procrastination come calling?

Does it urge you turn your attention to something far more appealing?

Maybe it’s that social media feed. Maybe it’s a call with a friend, something on TV, or a chore that never felt compelling before this very moment. Maybe you simply find yourself staring into space.

In the back of your mind is that nagging voice. Get the job done. The thing you really need to be doing is far more important.

You’ll miss that opportunity. You’ll miss that deadline. You’ll lose out.

If there’s not an immediate pressure – like a boss on your back or a looming deadline – procrastination can be worse. That thing that truly matters to you, will it ever get done?

Just how do you beat that battle with procrastination and stop it getting in the way of all those things you need to do?

We’re going to share some great ideas that will not only get you moving, but also feel good in the process!

What is procrastination...really?

Procrastination in its simplest form is the habit of delaying something important, usually by turning your attention to something less urgent. This could be something you find relaxing, enjoyable or easier.

We all know the voice of procrastination. It speaks to you in a quiet, innocent-sounding like voice. It’ll say something like…

“I’ll just take a quick look at Facebook.”

“I’ll just watch one short video.”

“I’ll just check my messages.”

This voice is usually followed by “…and then, I’ll get on with that important thing.”

But that’s not usually what happens.

A quick scroll on social media turns into fifteen minutes of cat videos and your friends’ photos from their fabulous holidays you wish you could be enjoying. One video turns into three. Checking your messages leads to you sacrificing what’s important to you to what’s urgent for someone else.

All this time, that important thing remains undone. And then, guess what happens? You blame yourself. Maybe you tell yourself you should be more disciplined. You shouldn’t be so weak minded. So lazy. So pathetic.

To help you feel better, procrastination calls to you once more to do something else tempting. Then, when you’re in the mood, you really will get that important thing done.

But every time you delay, the thing that matters to your slips further from reach. That project you care about isn’t happening. The book isn’t getting written. That business isn’t getting off the ground.

Whatever the important things you need to do, let’s beat procrastination so you can get started full of motivation!

Seven feel good ways to beat procrastination.

1. Wise up to procrastination’s intentions.

Getting clear on the true reason you procrastinate will help you outsmart it.

When you think about the important task ahead, what’s really holding you back? Why does procrastination want you to avoid it? Is it that you don’t know where to start? Does it seem so big it feels overwhelming? Are you afraid you won’t do a good job? Are you worried about what people will think?

Procrastination is often a form of stress relief. This is why it tries to distract you with something that will make you feel better. When you know what’s causing procrastination, it’s empowering to face up to it and then find a more productive way to feel better about what you need to do.

2. Make it harder to procrastinate.

The urge to procrastinate is often very spontaneous. Creating enough space between you and your favourite procrastination tactics can interrupt the urge. It gives you a chance to catch yourself on the brink of temptation and stop it.

Simple ways can be to put your phone in another room, or at least out of arm’s reach. Turn off the TV. Use focus tools that block your web browser for a set period.

3. Focus on the feel good.

One of the simplest ways to motivate yourself to get started, is to pause for a moment. Close your eyes. Imagine how good you’ll feel when you’ve completed your important task. Feel that satisfaction.

Every time you’re tempted to procrastinate, do the same. Close your eyes once more. Breathe. Feel that great feeling.

If the task is really important to you, don’t forget to remind yourself that you really deserve this. You and your goals matter.

4. Get comfortable with discomfort.

Procrastination is trying to help you avoid discomfort, whether it’s stress, fear, overwhelm and so on.

Try acknowledging the feeling and moving it forward. For example…

“I know I’m worried about whether my efforts will be good enough but I have experience and I can trust in my abilities.”

“I know this task ahead seems massive but all I need to do is pick one bit and start there. The rest can follow.”

“I’m worried what people will think of my work but, if I get this out there, it could really help someone. That matters to me more”

5. Let go of guilt and shame.

If you’ve given into procrastination in the past, or even today, the first thing you need to do is forgive yourself.

Okay, so you checked in on social media when you should have been working on that important thing. That wasn’t how it was meant to go but you can’t change that now. So, let it go.

Don’t let regret stop you moving forward. Remember that procrastination hooks onto any bad feeling – like regret – to distract you.

Start again. Start now. Start fresh.

6. Fill your ‘creative well’ regularly.

One of the biggest blocks to getting going with something important is not knowing where to start. This is especially common in creative industries where there is nothing physically present until you produce it.

Keep a notebook – or use a note taking app – to collect ideas, inspiration and thoughts. This is your creative well. Keep it filled up – no matter how small some things seem.

I keep an ‘ideas book’ and take it everywhere. Some of the most helpful ideas I’ve brought to you on the Origineurs podcast have come to me on walks, in restaurants, in conversations with my children, and while travelling – and they’ve all be recorded in this creative well ready for when it’s time to do something with them.

Chances are, when you’re feeling stuck, you can send a bucket down your creative well and reel it back it back up full of ideas if you use this technique.

7. The Ten minute miracle.

This final idea for beating procrastination is my favourite. Why do I like it so much? Because, for me, it is the one that works most of the time.

Remember how I said earlier that procrastination loves to say “I’ll just… check social media, I’ll just watch that video. I’ll just…, I’ll just…, I’ll just…”

Well, what I tell procrastination in response is, “I’ll just work on this important thing for ten minutes…and then I can do something else if I want to then.”

What happens, in that moment, is that big task that I need to do suddenly feels like a small task. It’s just ten minutes. Even I can do that. It feel easier. Lighter. Less stressful.

The miracle is that, once I get to the end of the ten minutes, I’ve usually got into the task. Sometimes the ten minutes passes without me noticing and I’m half an hour in or half done. I’m certainly closer to the finishing line so I may as well keep going. Maybe then I’ll check my phone or watch that video. But usually, I don’t.

And, if there’s no miracle and ten minutes later, I’m still not into that important task? I know now never to berate myself. Procrastination would love that, it would be an excuse to offer up another distraction. There are much better options such as…

  • One of the earlier ideas I shared today.
  • Or, I could start the ten minute exercise again where I am now or at a different point so it feels fresher and less frustrating.
  • Or, I could do something else productive on my list for a while and come back to the important thing later.
  • If the task can’t wait, I simply keep repeating the ten minutes over and over until I get there. I took this very approach when I climbed Mount Kilimanjaro. It got particularly tough close to the summit. I was freezing and had lost the feeling in my fingers. My legs were killing. The air was so thin it felt like I had a bag over my head. But I was determined to get there and did it in ten-minute chunks, over and over!

The ten-minute miracle is especially handy when you can’t complete a task in one chunk, for example if you’re having to do it around meetings or around your family’s needs. When you put the important task down, leave a quick note to yourself to remind you where you were and, when you can return to it, use your ten special minutes to get you back in the flow.

When you’ve finished, don’t forget to take a moment to pause and enjoy the feeling of satisfaction. Really savour it. Not only does it feel good, it’ll strengthen your belief that you can do this and it’ll also give you the motivation you’ll draw upon next time.

Whatever the important tasks or goals you need to complete today, I know you can do it. So, go for it!

Key takeaways

  1. Procrastination is your mind’s way of avoiding stress and discomfort. It’s trying to be helpful but it’s not. Listen for it calling out to you asking you to ‘just…’ do something else. Stare it in the eyes and figure out what it’s telling you about how you’re feeling.
  2. Use the seven procrastination-busting ideas shared today to help you find a productive alternative to procrastination that will make you feel so much better longer-term. Never berate yourself if you cave in. Forgive yourself and move forward.
  3. Whatever approaches you decide to use to beat your procrastination, be sure to celebrate your success when you’re done. You’ll enhance your self belief and will remind yourself that you can do this!

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