I'll start it tomorrow...
Many of you will recognise this phrase, and, often, it’s connected to moving from a comfy spot, leaving a good company, or stopping doing something we’re enjoying. It happens to everyone, savouring the moment a little longer. And, generally, we do eventually get up and get on, and things get done.
But what happens when this process gets a bit bigger and out of control? What happens when we put off doing something really important? And, what if it’s something that would really enhance our lives, but we just don’t get around to doing it? That’s when it becomes a limiting factor in your life, and it’s time to find a different strategy.
How to stop putting things off and just start
So, what can you do? Follow these steps to successfully and easily overcome those obstacles.
The first thing is to check that whatever you’re procrastinating about is worth doing. That doesn’t mean it’s necessarily a pleasure, but you have to be motivated enough to do it. So, you might not want to do the cleaning, but if it means you can take pleasure in your surroundings, then it’s worth doing. You might be worried about contacting a coach to make some changes because you know it might take some work, but if it means you’ll make progress in your career, it’s worth doing. It’s possible that the motivation comes from a desire to help someone else, so the motivation might be about seeing the outcome for others; you might not want to clear your neighbour’s drive of snow, but you know they’ll be less likely to slip, so it’s worth it.
If, however, you can find no reason at all for undertaking the task, then it’s worth considering whether it’s worth your time and energy. It’s possible that you might have to give something up in order to put the time and effort into something, so it’s important that this is ok, or at least taken care of so that you don’t get knocked off course. This might affect the timing of your activity too. Obviously, if the price is too high to pay for your goal, then you need to rethink your goal.
Once you’ve decided that you really do want to tackle the task, the next thing to do is picture the outcome, if you haven’t done it already. How will you know you’ve finished? What will it be like when you’ve achieved your aim? How will you feel? Who might be there when you do it? What might you notice about your surroundings? Have you got a tingling in your tummy; a sense of achievement? Really make this picture colourful, with all the sounds very clear. Keep that in mind. A really good way of keeping this in focus is to do a creative mood board – cut out pictures or articles from magazines, print things off, and use photographs, etc. to place on a board in any format you like. This keeps your target in mind and can be a very visual prompt.
The third thing to do is to cut the task down into chunks. Often, we procrastinate because the task seems too big, too daunting. Sometimes, it just seems too big to even begin, let alone see what the end looks like. So, it’s important to break it up into smaller pieces. If these pieces are too big, cut it up again. Imagine all the blocks that will make up your final goal. Get detailed about them and you can probably break them down even further.
Once you’ve broken things down, find an action that you can do now! Something that you can complete before you go to bed; there you are – you’ve made a start! Sometimes, drawing this out can help. There are many tools to use to do this; search for 'spidergrams' or something similar.
Then, when you’ve decided what you want to achieve, make sure you’ve got the tools and resources to complete it. Get everything ready at the start, and make sure you take care of things like time. There's nothing better designed to put us off track than finding we haven’t got an important resource. At best we have to stop and start again, requiring even more effort; at worst, we might lose momentum entirely and set ourselves up to fail. It’s also worth, at this stage, acknowledging that we might be worried about undertaking something, or a part of it. If that’s the case, get honest about it and tackle it, or talk it through with someone.
Finally, who will you tell about what you’re doing? At best, you’ll have someone to celebrate with when it’s complete; at worst, you’ll have someone who will hold you to account; someone who might check in with you to make sure you’ve made the progress you promised yourself.
Now that you have a guide to beating procrastination, when will you start?