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Last Updated on January 11, 2021

How To Stop Procrastinating and Get Stuff Done

How To Stop Procrastinating and Get Stuff Done

OK, I’m done with procrastinating. I’m done with the guilt, anxiety, stress—and, of course, the not getting stuff done.

I’m tired of answering “what’d you do today” with “nothing”. Of course, it’s a lie—I did do something, just not anything important – not anything that made me feel happier, more complete, or more relaxed.

What I did today was spend 8 hours kicking myself, putting myself down, and telling myself “I’ve really got to do. . .”.

Why Procrastination Is Always Easy to Do Right Now

Psychologists tell me that the reason I procrastinate is because it feels so darn good. Can you believe that? All that guilt, stress, and bad self-image feel good?

It does though, doesn’t it? Not the self-recriminations, but the excuse-making and the excuse-fulfilling.

Here’s why:

  1. When we procrastinate, we tend to do stuff that we know how to do—there’s no risk. And avoiding risk feels good—our brain loves it when we don’t do stuff that puts us out in the open, stuff that makes us vulnerable.
  2. Most of the things we do while we procrastinate are fun, offering an immediate payoff—instead of the deferred payoff of the routine, boring, or lengthy projects we’re putting off. A little thrill now makes us feel better than a bigger thrill at some point in the distant future.
  3. Procrastination helps prevent success, and we fear success. Success at anything important means change, it means becoming someone different, it means growing as a person—and all that stuff is really, really hard. Futzing around, on the other hand, rarely accomplishes anything important, so I can stay comfortably me.

I can’t tell you how much I hate knowing all that about myself! I bet you’re not all that thrilled about it yourself.

And I didn’t even mention the part about how we hate our parents and would hate even more for them to see us succeed since that would validate their years of torturing us into passable adults.

So What’s a Poor, Lazy Sod to Do?

I can’t tell you how to deal with your obvious childhood resentments, but maybe there is a way to get around procrastination without expensive and time-consuming therapy? Therapy that you’ll probably just use as another excuse not to do whatever it is you’re procrastinating in the first place? (“I can’t write my novel until my analyst says I’m ready.”)

Sure there is. When it comes down to it, all we have to do is a) minimize the rewards of procrastination, and b) maximize the rewards of non-procrastination. How hard could that be?

OK, maybe a little bit hard. So how do we do it? What’s the program if you can’t stop procrastinating? Let’s see if we can figure this out.

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1. Make Lists

You knew I was going to say that, didn’t you? You know I love the lists. Lists are good—they’re fun to make, and even more fun to throw out when you’re done.

Lists are very useful if you can’t stop procrastinating because they help us deal with at least two of the three factors that cause procrastination risk-aversion and rewards.

Here’s how:

  1. Making a list feels like you’re doing something. Bing! You’ve got your reward.
  2. Crossing something done off your list feels good. Bing! Another reward.
  3. Making a list reduces the risk that you’ll forget to do something—and therefore that you’ll screw up and fail. Bing! Your brain likes that, a lot.

You can’t make just any list, though. As I never tire of saying, lists should be concrete, granular, doablethe first item on your list should be something you can glance at and immediately do.

Don’t know how? Then it shouldn’t be the first thing on your list; figuring out how to do it should be the first thing on your list. Or, rather, “Use Google to find out how to do x”, or “Go to the library to get books on x”, or “Take a class on x” should be first on your list.

Then, the next thing on your list should be something you can glance at and immediately do; and the third thing, and the fourth.

If you can’t start doing something within two minutes of reading it on your list, it’s not concrete enough. Call it “The Other Two Minutes Rule”.

2. Get Motivated

There’s lots of advice on how to get motivated; whatever it takes you to be motivated, do that thing.

Here’s one idea: play the best-case/worst-case game.

What’s the best possible outcome of whatever it is you’re (not) working on?

Visualize it. Daydream about it. Ok, put that aside for a minute.

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Now, what’s the worst possible outcome? Don’t be afraid—spill it. You finish your project and now what? Now ask yourself—how likely is that? Really? Be honest here—chances are you haven’t undertaken something that you’re wholly unsuited for. OK, that’s better.

Now, ask yourself if the best-case scenario makes the worst-case worth the risk? I’ll bet it does (note: if there’ a chance that successfully completing your project might well kill you, please, try un-motivating yourself. I kind of like having you around!).

Another way of getting motivated is to relive past successes.

How did you feel the last time you finished a project? What did you have to do to get that one done? How closely did the outcome match your fears? Yeah, not too closely, right?

Moving on.

3. Reward Yourself

Some people say that rewards aren’t good motivation. Don’t believe them. Those people are probably criminals.

OK, maybe not—but they’re only right about external rewards, a.k.a. “bribes”. As it happens, offering rewards to employees often doesn’t increase motivation.

But offering rewards to yourself—well, that’s just good common sense. You need that Bing! moment—you are, after all, simply a giant hairless ape with a yen for gourmet coffee and a laptop. This is a good hack if you just can’t stop procrastinating.

Researchers placed monkeys in a cage, with a button that, when pressed, dispensed a piece of food. “Yum!” said the monkey when he pushed the button. So he pushed it again. And again. Monkeys are, of course, just small hairy people without coffee or laptops, so they learn pretty fast.

Then the researchers added a twist: every third time the monkey pushed the button, he’d get an electric shock! “Ouch!” said the monkey—then he ate his treat. “Ouch ouch!” he said, the next time—then he ate his treat.

The moral of this story is that we’ll put up with quite a bit of crap, as long as we get our treat. Your challenge, then, is to find a treat good enough to hit the button for, even though you know it’s going to hurt like heck.

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4. Be Accountable

Shame, guilt, humiliation—they can be effective motivational tools. The problem is, when they’re directed at ourselves, they’re corrosive, undoing motivation as fast as they create it.

It’s hard to convince yourself you’re not going to fail when you’ve also convinced yourself you’re a no-good lazy stupid son-of-a-…badger.

My advice: outsource your guilt and humiliation to someone you love and respect. The world is flat, after all. It’s what Tim Ferriss would do.

What do I mean, exactly?

Simple: tell someone—tell lots of people—what you’re doing, when you’re going to be done, how excited you are about it, how important it is to you, and so on.

Now you’ve got risk. You fail, and everyone is going to know. Put that fear of failure to good use! Now, what’s going to prevent the negative payoff of everyone knowing what you want to get done?

5. Do It for Three Minutes

Aside from, say, breathing poison gas or watching reality television, you can do anything for just three minutes, right?

Get a kitchen timer (I don’t actually advocate stealing from your grandmother, but you do what it takes), set it for three minutes, and work. Since you aren’t likely to be procrastinating something you could do in less than three minutes, you have no reason to fear the successful completion of your project.

And you can promise yourself whatever you want when the timer goes off—a cup of coffee, a game of Minesweeper, a half-hour of porn surfing, whatever. Bing! You get your reward—and guess what? Having gotten three minutes of work done will feel pretty good, too. Bing bing!

Next time, shoot for five. Then ten. Eventually, dare I say it, you might be able to put in as much as 25 minutes of solid work without dying—all in a row!

There’s something else, though. Sometimes, once we start working, it feels so good to be working towards our goal, we don’t stop when the timer goes off. We start making excuses—”just one more sentence, I promise, then I’ll play Minesweeper”—in effect, procrastinating our procrastination. Bing bing bing bing bing!

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6. Learn to Embrace Change

Last but not least, you need to get past the whole fear of success thing.

Jonathan Fields, a guest contributor here at Lifehack, offers some tips in his article How to Sell Yourself on Lifestyle Change, and he should know—he’s had quite a few successes in his life, and all of them have drastically changed his life for the better.

It can be hard to imagine coming to terms with what success will mean for you, but here’s my promise: you’ll know how to deal with success when you get there, even if you can’t imagine it now.

Final Words

It is traditional, of course, to end a post on procrastination with a sly joke about how you should start putting these tips into action, first thing tomorrow.

But you know what? Procrastination can be serious stuff and many people just can’t stop procrastinating, so I’m not going to do that.

Instead, I’m going to tell you to turn off your monitor for a minute, get out a piece of paper, and write a list of what you should be working on next. And then start doing it.

Because, believe me, you’ll be a better person afterwards. And that’ll feel great.

Bing!

More Tips If You Can’t Stop Procrastinating

Featured photo credit: Dai KE via unsplash.com

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Last Updated on April 8, 2021

9 Strategies To Stop Putting Things Off And Start Getting Things Done

9 Strategies To Stop Putting Things Off And Start Getting Things Done

Life is exciting, and it offers many opportunities to experience moments of pure exhilaration. You’ve no doubt experienced that feeling of being in the clouds as you think about all the good things happening in your life. It’s also frustrating when things don’t work out as planned. It’s common for unexpected challenges to send our minds into a dark spiral. It feels like nothing is going right in moments of challenge, and everything around you is falling apart.

We all start each day, week, month, and year with good intentions. We know that to experience the benefits of accomplishing our goals, we have to stop putting things off. However, the daily work that it takes to achieve our major life goals is not always straightforward. It’s hard work, and for that reason, too many people settle for a “good enough” life.

The good news is that there are definite strategies you can use and mindset shifts you can make to stop putting things off, accomplish every goal you have, and live a life most people will only dream of creating.

Here are nine essential ways to accomplish your goals and stop putting off the work it takes to create a life of success and accomplishment.

1. Start With a Vision for What Accomplishment Looks Like

People often don’t accomplish their goals because they don’t have a clear picture of what success and accomplishment would mean to them. Successful goal setting starts with clarity on what you want to accomplish. Putting things off can be traced back to a lack of clear goals.

Your vision fuels your purpose and the action you take each day. To stop putting off working on your goals, take some time to get very specific about all the things you’d like to accomplish in your relationships, work, business, finances, friendships, health, and social impact.

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Creating a vision board can help because we as humans are visual by nature. That can be as simple as changing your phone screen saver to an image of what success and accomplishment mean to you. You have to know where you’re going if you hope to get there.

2. Set a Realistic Plan and Stick to It No Matter What Is Thrown at You

Being organized can be your best strategy to put off procrastination. Along with being clear about your vision for accomplishment, you should have a realistic and specific plan for how you’ll spend each day and take action. Whether it’s a once-a-week planning session or spending some time each night planning out the next day, have a roadmap that takes the stress out of what action to take and how to take it.

When you plan, you wake up with a purpose, which helps you avoid endlessly wandering through your days not knowing what you should be doing. When you have a plan, don’t let the unexpected challenges of life throw you off. Commit to following your plan and not putting things off.

3. Start Each Day With Things That Are Just for You

The needs and desires of others tend to dominate our priorities. We start our days with urgent requests and the things other people want from us. Starting your day with other people’s tasks is the quickest way to put off working on your goals.

To accomplish your goals and stop putting things off, start every day with tasks, goals, and moments that are just for you. Spend the first part of your day doing what you want to do and on the things that move you closer to your goals.

As you start your day by prioritizing yourself, you’ll accomplish more of your goals and then be able to give to others from a place of strength. Don’t put others first and end up with not enough left for yourself—that’s when you’ll put things off because you won’t have the necessary energy.

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Make yourself and your goals a priority. Your dreams, desires, and goals should have the primary position in your decision-making. What you want to accomplish is important and deserves your full attention.

4. Commit to Making Consistency Your Only Option

The best way to accomplish your goals is by embracing and committing to consistency. As you do the daily work over a period of time, you’ll take a step back and realize you’re closer than you think to accomplish your goals.

Consistency has to be your only option if you want to stop putting off all the things you know you want to accomplish. Stop looking at the complete picture of what you want to achieve because that will overwhelm you. Focus on breaking your goals into bite-sized chunks that are digestible and lead to quick wins.

5. Stabilize, Optimize, and Expand

You create success when you use the “stabilize, optimize, and expand” growth strategy.

  • “Stabilize” means you get consistent with taking action on your goals each day. You get to a place where the resistance and struggle don’t keep you from putting in the work. You build healthy habits and make this work a lifestyle shift.
  • “Optimize” means you look at your planning, daily action, your goals and see where you can optimize each part of your process. Optimization helps expedite growth as you tweak what’s working and eliminate what needs to go.
  • “Expand” means you set bigger goals and commit to accomplishing the things that feel impossible. The expand phase is when you experience exponential growth because you’re moving beyond what’s comfortable.

This simple but effective framework can give you a roadmap to accomplish more of your goals and stay off from putting off the things you want to achieve. Your goals are complex and should be treated as such. You need to evaluate and adjust.

6. Celebrate Your Progress

One of the reasons people put off working on their goals is because they never celebrate their process. You’re not a robot.

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As you experience each win—no matter the size of that win—you should celebrate the progress as if you won the Olympics. You have to be your biggest cheerleader in the journey to becoming your best you.

While most people think accomplishing their goals is the key to growth and consistency, experiencing progress is the real driver. When you make progress, you’re motivated and hungry for more. Amplify that feeling by celebrating each moment of accomplishment.

7. Add More Fun Into Your Goal-Setting

“All work and no play” makes the work feel like work. It would help if you worked hard on your goals, but hard work can be sustained for more extended periods of time when you mix fun into your schedule. You put things off when you’re not excited about what you’re doing.

To accomplish your goals, you should add hobbies and activities you enjoy into your planning. It breaks up the pressure and helps you genuinely appreciate life and its experiences. Tapping into fun is a great way to build a successful life with balance.

You can also make fun a reward for not putting things off. When you make progress, you reward yourself with pleasurable experiences. It can be a motivating prize and the inspiration you need to stop putting things off.

8. Be Intentional About Living Your Best Life

You’ll accomplish your goals and stop putting things off when you’re intentional about your decisions and are committed to living your best life. Only you know what your best life looks like and what you want to accomplish, but intentional action to get there is how you’ll make a life of accomplishment your reality.

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Putting things off happens when your plan is not built with intention. You accomplish your goals when every action you take is aligned with your values and purpose. You create a remarkable life when you make progress and consistently pursue your goals.

9. Purge Negativity in All Its Forms

One of the most commons ways people sabotage their goal accomplishment is by letting negativity creep in. This can be:[1]

  • negative people trying to convince you that your goals are impossible because those people have already settled in their lives;
  • experiences you know will frustrate you, but you do them anyway because of pressure or a sense of obligation;
  • unhealthy relationships that don’t support your efforts to create a better life and are codependent.

No matter the negativity, purging it is the best way to stay focused and motivated to continue accomplishing your goals. It can hurt to purge things and people, but it’s the best strategy to stop putting things off and achieve your goals.

Final Thoughts

Nothing stops you from setting and accomplishing your life, work, career, relationship, or business goals. It’s not easy, but it is possible with a plan and commitment to doing the work to become the strongest version of you.

The question you have to ask yourself is, what happens if you decide to keep putting things off and neglect the goals you want to accomplish?

Don’t be the person that finds out the answer to that question. Work hard and refuse to settle for a good enough life.

No matter what you’ve been through, what happened in your past, or any setbacks you’re experiencing, you can accomplish your goals and live a life full of incredible experiences. It starts right now and when you stop putting things off.

More Tips on How to Stop Putting Things Off

Featured photo credit: Magnet.me via unsplash.com

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