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5 simple steps to overcoming procrastination

September 10, 2014

Whether it’s in a business situation or home environment, procrastination is a true monster that takes away confidence and ultimately undermines self-worth. It also saps vital energy, stifling you and your business.

Every time you delay something, you add imaginary weight onto your shoulders while the item joins the long queue of “to do” items: a burden of a promise you need to fulfil.

Over time this burden grows and grows and your self-worth shrinks in its shadow. You drag along a big suitcase of things you can’t seem to get around to doing, but which you want to, or think you need to, get done soon.

There are times when procrastinating is useful. For example, when you require more information or are unclear about what to do.

In each case, procrastination is, in fact, a real signal for taking specific action such as seeking advice or gathering further information.

Procrastination kills productivity

Perpetual procrastination on tasks that require immediate attention, such as paperwork, staff reviews, paying bills, completing VAT returns, updating your website or working on your business plan, kills productivity.

Jobs like this are important in a small business, yet can be easy to postpone. Tackling them head on means you are taking consistent action without having to be pushed by impending deadlines or final notices. As a result, you’re being highly productive because you are taking ownership of your decisions and actions.

5-Step Procrastinator Buster Exercise

If you are prone to procrastination, the good news is that you can beat it with this 5-step procrastinator-buster exercise;

Step 1

Take a deep breath. Good. Now take another one. And another. Exhale slowly each time. Allow your body to feel the benefit of your breath and the power that is growing inside you. Yes, you!

You are about to kick your procrastinator out. You will send it flying spectacularly into the sky, and as you do it you will feel the energy, confidence, lightness and motivation that remain in its place – the source of your productivity to accomplish whatever you need to.

Step 2

Now, write down a list of things you have been putting off. This list should include items that:

  • when accomplished, will improve your business, i.e. doing each one will move you ahead in some real way;
  • are things you need to do eventually or which you should have done by now and which only weigh you down e.g. your VAT returns, or your accounts;
  • can be done in roughly the same time it takes to contemplate doing them and letting the procrastinator take over e.g. phoning that potential customer;
  • you just can’t seem to get yourself to do even though you would laugh at someone else if they told you about it.

Taking action on the things you procrastinate on allows you to develop trust in yourself. No one will trust you enough unless you trust yourself first.

Be accountable, professional and trustworthy. The Procrastinator Buster is a muscle-building exercise. The goal of it is simply to build the necessary resilience to overcome procrastination and take action.

I do this exercise with individual clients to help them discover their power of resolve and self-integrity. Your goal is to tackle only one task and get yourself into the discipline of starting.

Most people can get themselves to do things at the last minute under the pressure of deadlines. This is different. By mastering your own procrastinator you are learning to take action in the moment.

This is vital to creating impactful results and getting things done. You do not need a reason other than you deciding to take action. Regular practice here will save you lots of last-minute rushes and will significantly increase your sense of balance and control.

Step 3

Having written your procrastination list, look at each item in turn and note down the exact reason why you’re not getting on with the task. Many people do this step on a computer as they often keep a long to-do list of tasks they need to complete but procrastinate on.

Your reasons might be similar to some of these common examples:

  • this is not very important in the scheme of things;
  • I don’t know how to get started;
  • I really hate this task;
  • It would be nice to get it done but I don’t feel like doing it;
  • I’m scared, nervous, confused, etc.

Step 4

Having named the real reasons you’re procrastinating, go through your list again and cross out all the items you noted that are not important right now. If they become important later, they will resurface on their own as real priorities.

Step 5

Now pick one item from the remaining list where you feel you can make immediate and worthwhile progress. It’s your turn to bust procrastination.

What this exercise teaches you

Doing this exercise will help you to realize that what you tend to procrastinate on are often actions that are relatively small and may not take very long once you start, but which often appear far larger.

This is normal. As you procrastinate, the thoughts about doing the actions grow. The actions balloon in size without the real work increasing at all.

The Procrastinator Buster helps you focus on the real action steps required to get the job done. Sometimes the action involves drawing a line in the sand and eliminating the tasks, delegating the work to others or breaking it down into work you can crack on with right away.

Your action will make you purposeful and productive

As you take purposeful action you become productive again and you beat the procrastinator within you.

Being able to take action is key to success. And you will feel amazing every time you switch from vague, indefinite delays and take control of what you create. With time, you will build a muscle without even thinking about the exercise – but you also need to be patient.

Eventually, your in-tray will get smaller, your inbox will be empty at the end of the day and you will actually have time to ask those important questions such as; What can I do to grow my business? How can I make my business more profitable? You will feel much better about your business and enjoy it more. Now that’s productivity in its best form.

About the author

This article is based on an extract from Get Productive! by Magdalena Bak-Maier (Wiley). Magdalena is founder of Make Time Count devoted to working with clients and organisations to develop talent and high level, sustainable productivity. A trained neuroscientist, Magdalena’s tools and models help businesses and individuals get results and feel good. See MakeTimeCount.com for more information.