How do we beat procrastination? How do we stop putting things off? How do we get ourselves to do the things we know we should be doing?
Let's talk about it because this is a really important topic that many of us struggle with.
I think you'll agree that we, as humans, are busier now than we've ever been during the entire span of recorded history.
Yes, sure, we all love technology. And with all of its rapid advancement, you'd think that it should have made life easier for us.
But let's face it…
What it has really done is made everyone flat out busier. With text messages and e-mails buzzing in our pockets, our constant availability for phone calls, and shiny new apps and social media on our phones, we've become more distracted, more unfocused, more overwhelmed, stressed and anxious than ever before.
As if that wasn't enough, we also have a problem with too many choices, too many options, and despite our "best efforts," we find ourselves not following through on any of them.
So what do we do about this?
Well, I'll be the first to admit that I don't have it all figured out. I'm a constant work in progress and I face the same challenges we all do on a daily basis.
But over the years, I got better at committing to the things that mattered to me and following through on them, and saying no to the things that didn't.
So in today's article, I'd like to share with you a few things that I've learned on my own journey. These three simple ideas will help you finally beat procrastination, get things done and transform your life in the process.
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1. Find Enough Reasons
My mentor Jim Rohn used to say that, "Reasons come first. Answers come second." But what did he mean by that?
You see, so many times I hear people blame their laziness, their lack of time or their lack of discipline for not following through on what they've set out for themselves. And while I understand their reasoning, I also want to suggest that the problem isn't their laziness, their lack of time or their lack of discipline.
The real problem is that they don't care about this thing enough to get it done. You need to have enough reasons to succeed at this challenge. You need to find something that matters to you more than your excuses.
So let me give you an example.
Imagine that I have a ten-inch-wide, thirty-foot-long plank that I put on the ground in front of you and I tell you, "Look, if you walk the entire length of the plank, I give you fifty dollars." Would you do it? Of course. That's an easy task, that's an easy fifty dollars, right?
But what if I took that same plank and I put it between two HUGE skyscrapers, would you still do it? Unless you're an extremely adventurous person, I bet that you wouldn't, right?
However, what if your child was on the opposite building, and that building was on fire, would you still walk the entire length of the plank to save him? I think that in this scenario, without a shout of a doubt and without any questions, you would do it. With or without the fifty dollars, am I right?
So let's analyze what changed in that set of events. The circumstances were the same. The risks and the dangers involved were the same. What changed?
Your reasons. Your motive for wanting to do it changed.
In other words, you need to find reasons that are bigger than your excuses. In fact, I want you to write this down: If it's important enough for you, you'll find a way or you'll make a way. If it's not, you'll always find an excuse.
If it's important enough for you, you'll find a way or you'll make a way. If it's not, you'll always find an excuse.
. . .
Tune Into Your WHY
You've heard about willpower, don't you? Well, when it comes down to overcoming procrastination, your “Why Power” is your most powerful weapon.
- Why do you want to change that bad habit?
- Why do you want to finish that report?
- Why do you want to write that book?
- Why do you want to climb the mountain?
- Why do you want to travel the world?
- Why do you want to start a new business?
What are all the intrinsic and extrinsic reasons for doing what you've set out for yourself?
How will you personally benefit from succeeding at this challenge? Will you achieve greater health, freedom, happiness, financial security, or greater respect and admiration of your community?
Besides that, there are probably people who depend on you and are affected by your choices, right? So ask yourself, “Who else will benefit if I succeed at this challenge?”
Is it your family, your friends, your coworkers, your employees, or your community? Can you imagine how your life will be transformed if you succeed at this challenge now?
What will this goal make of you to achieve it? Who will you BECOME in the process?
In other words, whenever you feel like giving up on your endeavor, always remember WHY you started in the first place.
Whenever you feel like giving up, always remember WHY you started in the first place.
. . .
2. Break it Down
No matter what task is before you – whether that’s finishing an important report, writing a book, working on that new product, or starting a new business – breaking it down into manageable pieces is the way to go.
How much is manageable? That’s completely up to you, and it really depends on the task before you.
Stephen Guise, author of Mini Habits suggests that you need to make it stupid small. In other words, it should be too small to fail.
- If you have a goal of doing 50 push-ups a day, that’s great. But why not start with only one push-up?
- If you want to workout for 30 minutes every day, why not start with only 5 minutes?
- If your goal is to write 1000 words a day, why not start with only 100 words a day?
- If you want to read for an hour, why not start by reading just ONE page a day?
That’s the whole idea here: By making it so small, you are almost assured to do it consistently, because here’s the thing:
You probably know already that the hardest thing is to start. But you also know that once you start, it is easier to keep the momentum going.
That’s Newton’s 1st Law.
The beautiful thing about making it stupid small is that it makes it incredibly easy to go from rest to motion. By using this approach, you will literally set up yourself to win.
Most importantly, don’t worry about what’s off in the distance some place and focus on accomplishing what’s right in front of you.
Follow this course of action consistently and then work your way up from there. Once you’re comfortable with that, set the bar a little higher and persevere.
Don’t settle for less than you’re capable of. Always remember that as long as you’re doing your best, everything is going to fall into place.
. . .
3. Set Yourself a Deadline, But Stick to a Schedule
Have you heard of Parkinson’s Law?
That’s why one of the best ways to stop procrastinating and commit to the goal you’ve set is to set yourself a deadline.
Just think about it. How many times have you procrastinated on an important project and then worked your ass off like crazy when the deadline was right around the corner?
You suddenly found the time, the energy, and maybe a few dozen cups of coffee to finish that damn project. Isn't that true?
That’s the way our brains are wired to function. If we don’t have a clear deadline, we tend to put it off indefinitely.
But here's a little SECRET. . .
What research suggests is that we often give up if we don’t reach our goal by the initial deadline.
To counter that, you need to set yourself a schedule you can follow on a consistent basis. In other words, set yourself a deadline, but focus on the schedule, on the daily practice.
In practical terms, if writing is your thing, stick to a schedule of writing. Whether that’s writing a certain number of words a day, make sure to stay consistent with it.
If exercising is your thing, then stick to an exercise schedule. Decide on the days you’re going to workout, and then stick to it.
What I’m trying to suggest is that it’s all about the practice and the actions you take on a consistent basis, not about the end result that you’re getting.
It’s all about the daily practice and the actions you take on a consistent basis, not about the end result that you’re getting.
Be consistent with your practice. Be consistent in your daily actions. Don’t focus so much on the end result. Focus on the process, on who you are becoming along the way, because what matters is the journey, not the destination.
. . .
You don’t need to worry about tomorrow, or the next day, or what’s going to happen at the end of the month. Take it one day at a time, and handle successfully the tasks for that day to the best of your ability.
Remember that it’s less about ONE brave act, a BIG leap or a HUGE commitment you make on a Sunday morning.
It’s more about what you do every single day. It’s about the accumulated effect of those small things you do on a consistent basis.
Every single minute counts because in the end, your minutes make up your life. And successful minutes turn into successful days, which in turn build a successful life.
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