When “Stop procrastinating!” is easier said than done, try these three tips
Why would I do it today if I can do it tomorrow…?
There’s always a good excuse to reschedule, postpone, delay, or abandon your plan: bad weather, bad mood, wrong alignment of stars.
For a procrastinator every excuse is reasonable.
But once the procrastinator becomes a freelancer or business owner, delaying tasks might turn into a serious obstacle.
If you suspect procrastination might be one of the barriers in growing your business, try experimenting with these proven methods:
Start before you’re ready
I do realise that this is probably the worst advice you could give to a procrastinator. But it’s also the most effective one.
To stop putting off your tasks, you need to change your thought patterns. Quit overthinking. Give up the idea that everything has to be 100% ready before you make a call, launch a new project, contact a new client, or run a marketing campaign. 100% readiness is a myth. Why not try with 80% or 60% instead?
Whether you feel paralysed by number of variables that have to be in the right place before you start, or you’re overwhelmed with the number of choices you’re offered—there’s only one solution: take the first step. From there you’ll figure out how to move forward. Learn by doing or by consulting with other, more experienced people. That’s the key to progress.
Break your tasks into smaller pieces
Imagine your goal is to open an online store with yoga clothes. You’ve identified a niche in the market and your research tells you there’s demand for such products. You also happen to be passionate about yoga, so such a line of business would perfectly suit you. There’s only one problem: you know nothing about running an online store.
The whole process from purchasing products to displaying them online, and eventually making the first sale seems terribly complex. That’s why you keep procrastinating, waiting until you learn more about e-commerce or online marketing. Why not break your complex idea into smaller bits?
For example, you could first follow online courses on e-commerce, then find a website developer, or learn how to create a website based on a template (e.g. Shopify). Your e-store doesn’t have to be ready in one day, but there’s something you can do every day to take you closer to your goal. Even if it’s as simple as reading an article about effective marketing strategies.
No matter what you plan to achieve, be gentle to yourself and dissect big ideas into tiny steps. In this way, you’ll be slowly moving forward instead of being stuck in one place, unable to take any decision.
Another way to find out how to overcome your procrastination habits is by talking to other procrastinators. Full disclosure: I’m not in that group. However, in my mission to learn more about a procrastinating mind, I’ve engaged in long discussions with those who procrastinate regularly. That was an easy task, as for some reasons I’ve always been surrounded with people who adore delaying their plans.
One of the most common replies to “Why are you rescheduling everything for tomorrow”, was: “There are so many other, more interesting things to do”. Simply put, there are too many distractions.
There might be many tasks that need your urgent attention, especially when you work from home, and your business life is constantly intertwined with the family responsibilities. But you need to learn to set limits. Define your boundaries. Create your to-do list and stick to it. Eliminate distractions. How?
Start from these simple steps:
- Turn off all notifications and close your social media platforms when it’s time to work. If you use social media for your business, schedule certain time during the day when you only focus on social media marketing, scheduling your posts or connecting with your community.
- Make sure your workspace is as minimal as possible. Declutter it, remove all empty dishes, crumbs, or papers piling up in front of you.
- If disturbing thoughts or ideas come to your head, write them down, then come back to your to-do list. If another great plan comes to your mind while you work, don’t jump immediately to a new task. Put it on paper, schedule for later and return to your task at hand.
- Once you complete one task, reward yourself with a few minutes of daydreaming or mindless browsing, but do set an alarm clock to remind yourself when it’s time to go back to work.
There are no perfect conditions. There may never be the right time to start working on your project or new idea. You might just as well start now and see how it goes, adjusting, tweaking, and learning as you move forward.
As the writer Oliver Burkeman puts it: “Uncertainty is where things happen. It is where the opportunities—for success, for happiness, for really living—are waiting”. A healthy dose of uncertainty may become your effective strategy to reduce your procrastination tendencies.
What is your most effective weapon against procrastination?