Procrastination: 7 Simple Tips to Stop Procrastinating in 2021
Ah, procrastination. The bane of my existence.
Yup, even as a productivity coach, I’m a total procrastinator.
I’m a procrasti-napper.
I’m a procrasti-cleaner.
I’m a procrasti-reader.
Basically, when I don’t really want to do something, my mind convinces me that I could just do something else instead, justifying the procrastination.
But it’s still procrastination, no matter how you look at it.
It’s also totally normal. We all do it. In fact, it’s in our nature to do it.
That doesn’t mean it’s a lost cause, though.
So today, we’re going to take a look at why we procrastinate so we recognize when it’s happening. Then we’ll come up with some easy ways to beat the procrastination bug and get more done.
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Why Do I Procrastinate?
So first of all, procrastination doesn’t hit because we’re lazy. Yeah, we all have our lazy moments. But most of the time, that’s not why we’re procrastinating.
Instead, we procrastinate because of the negative emotions we associate with different tasks.
Common sense, right?
But rather than deal with why we have those negative emotions around doing something, we just beat ourselves up over it. And we can be pretty brutal with ourselves here.
So no. You’re not lazy. You’re not worthless. You’re not going to amount to nothing.
You just need to figure out why you resist doing certain things and then flip the narrative.
Reptilian Brain (AKA Lizard Brain)
So where does this resistance come from? Well, a lot of science (and Seth Godin) believes it comes from your reptilian brain, which some people call your lizard brain. And this is the oldest, most primitive part of our brains whose function is to warn of us danger without the rest of our brain needing to process the information.
Think fight or flight and survival of the fittest. Gaining that split second and reacting faster allowed our ancestors to survive.
And while we don’t necessarily need this built-in security today, it exists nonetheless.
And it isn’t something that you can just get rid of. Instead, you need to learn how to work with it by simply becoming aware of the resistance in the first place.
How to Stop Procrastinating
Becoming aware of something like that isn’t always easy because it happens on a subconscious level. So let’s take a look at some of the more common reasons procrastination happens and how to deal.
Want to dive deeper here? Then check out Chris Bailey’s book, The Productivity Project.
So first off, if a task is boring, you have very little motivation to keep going.
For example, if I’m writing something that I have absolutely no interest in it’s like pulling teeth getting words onto the page. I will find absolutely anything else to do other than write.
Whereas if I’m writing about something I love, something I’m passionate about, I can write for hours on end.
So how can you overcome this?
Look, there is no getting around doing stuff that isn’t particularly interesting. Or stuff that you just don’t want to do. Life’s fun like that.
But you can find ways to make boring work more interesting. You can incorporate your interests into it. Or give it a fun twist. Or daydream that you are doing something else entirely if that’s what it takes (and no one will get hurt…).
The most important thing you can do, though, is recognize beforehand that this task is going to bore the crap out of you and plan accordingly.
Maybe schedule in short bursts to work on it. Or reward yourself for just busting through it in one sitting.
But by acknowledging beforehand that you aren’t going to enjoy doing it and having a plan in place, you will prevent yourself from procrastinating.
Also, if a task is frustrating, you’re probably going to procrastinate doing it.
For example, I can’t stand doing small, tedious tasks. Like getting the stickers lined up perfectly on my son’s Little Tikes car. I will give myself an anxiety attack trying to get it perfect and it frustrates the crap out of me.
The key here is to recognize why something frustrates you so much.
So why do small tedious tasks frustrate me? Because I’m a perfectionist. If I have to do something like this, I force myself to accept the fact from the start that it won’t be perfect and just wing it. It’s not the end of the world.
Another common reason that tasks are frustrating can be overwhelming. Think of a massive project, for example.
Everything you need to do to get it done can be totally overwhelming. So rather than looking at the project as a whole, it’s helpful to break it down into its most basic components.
All the different steps you need to take to get it done.
Then, look at each little piece of it by itself. This will make it a lot less overwhelming and hopefully, a little more appealing to get done.
Another reason we procrastinate something is if it’s difficult. This goes hand in hand with something being frustrating because difficult tasks are usually pretty frustrating.
But what if you can’t break a task down into its most basic components? It’s just too tough to figure out what those parts may be.
Rather than throwing in the towel, try looking at the problem from a different angle. Or asking someone who might know more about the topic. Or Google it. That may sound like extremely simple advice, but I can’t tell you how often I’ve found the answer to something online that I just couldn’t figure out (like that damn Little Tikes car).
You might not always realize how difficult something is going to be from the start, though.
So if you find yourself in the middle of a project and it gets super tough, acknowledge that this may make you want to procrastinate the task, and then don’t let it. Find a way to push through armed with the knowledge that it’s going to happen before it catches you unexpectedly.
It’s Not Meaningful
Another reason we tend to procrastinate doing something is if it lacks personal meaning.
I used to be a freelancer, so I totally get this. I didn’t always work on projects that held any significant meaning for me. I was just pushing out work to help other people finish their projects Because of this, I didn’t always feel motivated to get them done.
So to overcome this, I had to make it personal. I added my own significance to it. Whether that was adding a new twist to an old story, considering how the task fit into a larger goal or mine, or simply the paycheck at the end of the day, the trick was to focus on why it mattered to me to get it done.
And I’m sure we can all relate to this when it comes to all the busy work in our lives. The stuff that isn’t as exciting. Like doing our taxes when we know we’re going to owe. Or organizing our computer files (I know digital entrepreneurs hate doing this!).
Again, the trick here is to focus on why it’s important.
On why you’re doing the task.
Because you don’t want the government to come after you. Because you hate all the time you waste looking for stuff on your computer. And so on.
Keeping this in the front of your mind will help you fend off the procrastination bug.
It’s Not Rewarding
Not only do a lot of things we have to do lack personal meaning, but they can also lack intrinsic rewards. And if you don’t feel personally satisfied at the end of the day, it can be pretty hard to keep going.
And personal satisfaction is highly subjective — what makes me happy may not make you happy. And what makes me happy now would not have made me happy ten years ago.
Because my priorities have changed. My goals and motivators have changed.
So if things like my priorities, goals, and motivators determine whether something is intrinsically rewarding for me, then that is a great place to start when trying to figure out why something doesn’t give me that same satisfaction.
If a task I have to do leaves me no satisfaction in completing it (or doing the work), is there some way I can tie it in with my big picture goals? Or find a way to relate it to my motivators?
And if not, maybe this task isn’t something that I need to be working on.
Unless it is absolutely necessary that I complete this task, I would probably just drop it from my to-do list. My time is valuable, and if something isn’t contributing to what I’m doing in my life, then I really shouldn’t be wasting any of my already limited time on it.
On the flip side, though, if something is intrinsically rewarding, and there’s another reason you are procrastinating, then a quick reminder of the satisfaction you will get from doing the work may be all you need to keep going!
We also tend to procrastinate doing something if what we need to do is ambiguous.
And this makes sense—if you don’t understand exactly what it is that you need to do, then you probably don’t want to do it.
So how do you fix this?
Well, if someone else gave you the task, then I would ask them to clarify exactly what it is that they want done.
If it were my own task, I would figure out what’s unclear about it.
Are there too many possible ways to complete the task? If so, which way is best?
Did I not make the end goal specific enough? If so, what am I hoping to achieve here?
Basically, rather than procrastinating the task because I’m not entirely sure what I need to be doing, I would take action and figure it out.
And finally, we tend to procrastinate doing something if it’s unstructured. If we aren’t clear on the different steps we need to take to get it done.
And really, this is probably the main reason why something is frustrating, difficult, or ambiguous.
So again, the answer here is to add some structure.
You can either outline or mind-map the different steps you need to take to get it done. Then group the like tasks together and organize them into a logical order. This gives you a clear action plan and gets rid of your chance of procrastination!
Stop Procrastinating Today
Ready to stop procrastinating and start getting mad shit done? Then sign up for my free Get Shit Done challenge! It will help you get a handle on your to-do list and get rid of all the stuff you don’t actually need to do, which will make it all a lot less overwhelming.
I know that sounds crazy easy, but it kind of is. You just need the simple framework to get it done. Which I’ll hand over for free in this super popular challenge.
So stop procrastinating and sign up today!
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