Procrastination: It’s the thief of time; it derails our focus and completely upends our carefully-laid plans.
I’m not completely immune to it either. But, over time, I’ve learnt to identify some core principles about procrastination, why we do it and how to overcome it.
And it’s due to a lot of reading, a lot of trial and error and constant improvement of systems and habits.
In today’s post I will try and explain how procrastination affects the best of us and how we can learn to nip this impulse in the bud.
Additionally, I will recommend some resources and tools that have helped curb this tendency rather effectively.
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So, how do we tackle procrastination?
Before we answer that, let’s first picture procrastination.
I’m going to share a scenario. Tell me if you can relate. Ready?
You sit down to work at something.
You have all the energy and passion and determination to focus.
You promise yourself you won’t get distracted by anything.
You start working. In 5 minutes you decide to look up and check Instagram for that latest post from your feed. “It’s just a minute,” you promise yourself.
Before you know it, 20 minutes have passed! You curse yourself and get back to work. This time is going to be different. You won’t budge from that chair until you’re done. Promise!
10 minutes pass and you feel like getting up for a drink of water. “Hey, I was TOLD to stretch every 30 minutes. I NEED to do this!” is your line of defence.
You leave your chair and decide that it’s okay to quickly peek at Whatsapp- you know, just for a second. It won’t derail your focus.
Well, I don’t need to go on. You get the picture.
And you’re probably guilty of procrastination, just like everyone else.
How does Procrastination actually affect us?
When we put things off for a later time, it’s usually because of two core beliefs:
A) We think we can do it later, since what we’re doing right now is more interesting.
B) We don’t enjoy the prospect of the task, so we figure that it’s better to put it off.
Now, there are a number of problems with both these approaches.
We end up multi-tasking and get absolutely nothing done.
We end up doing the work in a frenzy and closer to a deadline and do a shoddy job of it.
We put off the job so often that when we finally get around to it, we have lost the will to actually see it through.
This isn’t unique to bloggers. If you’ve ever studied at the last minute for an exam, you’d know what this feels like.
But hold on. Don’t feel guilty and don’t beat yourself up. It’s time to dive into the next section.
Now, let’s talk about why we procrastinate.
WHY WE PROCRASTINATE
James Clear explains this beautifully in his book ‘Atomic Habits’.
We are, at the heart of it, two people: The Present Self and the Future Self.
The Future Self is who you want to be- the one who is fit, reaches your goals, completes all her tasks and is a better version of yourself.
The Present Self is the one who has to do everything in order for that future self to exist.
The challenge and WHY we procrastinate is this:
The Present self wants instant gratification and rewards and returns: Like that really tempting sugary dessert or scrolling through Instagram.
The Future Self knows that it’s persistence and hard work that will actually see the results it needs: a fit and healthy body or a blog that makes money.
I’ve lost count of the number of clients who come to me asking for tips on growing their blog and making money.
But I also know that only a handful of them actually listen when I tell them the following:
1. Focus on your blog every single day. Study courses, make changes to your blog and improve the user experience.
2. Don’t waste time on Instagram especially if blog traffic is your goal. Commenting on 20 posts a day or indulging in follow loops or engagement pods won’t get you far. Those followers you gain through follow loops? They aren’t really interested in your content.
Any wonder then that the ones who actually make money are the ones who don’t procrastinate? The ones who put their heads down and work on their content and their blog day after day?
Set up a very reasonable coaching call with me if you’d like some clarity on your blogging goals.
In the next section, I share how you can stop procrastinating.
This book by S.J.Scott is absolutely fantastic when it comes to handling procrastination.
Check it out on Amazon India here: How to Stop Procrastinating: A Simple Guide to Mastering Difficult Tasks and Breaking the Procrastination Habit
Buy it on Amazon(US) here: How to Stop Procrastinating: A Simple Guide to Mastering Difficult Tasks and Breaking the Procrastination Habit
HOW TO STOP PROCRASTINATING
There are probably more than 5 tips I can share on the topic, but let’s focus on these 5 important ones for now.
1. Find the job you truly, deeply enjoy doing
Start your day with that. It’s a fact that when we do what we enjoy, we make time for it, free of distractions, come what may.
For instance, I LOVE to blog. I absolutely love the entire process- the writing, the coming up with ideas, adding of images, the research, the creation of pins, the SEO- ALL of it!
As dry as it may sound to most people, this gets my blood rushing.
Once you complete that enjoyable task, your system is ready to tackle an important task that you’ve been putting off for a while.
2. Tackle starting trouble
Most procrastination happens because we have starting trouble. So let’s handle that first.
Start with that favourite job and do it for JUST 3 minutes, at first. Set a timer for 3 minutes. When the timer goes off, you’d have already gotten into the deep flow state. So you’d be tempted to see it through.
Take the example of working out.
Just take three minutes to wear your workout clothes, your gym shoes, fill your water bottle and pack your gym bag. By this time, your mind is already primed to work out. You can’t put it off any more.
Here’s another tip to write a long-form blog post like this one.
This post is approximately 1700 words long.
However, I don’t always write all 1700 words at once. Here’s my process:
- I quickly note down bullet points for a blog post in a notepad.
- I open the laptop and create a draft in WordPress and jot down those points.
- Later, I block off time on the calendar to write the post.
- I open up the draft and then flesh it out completely.
- Within 2 hours, the entire post is done and ready to publish and be shared with the world.
This includes my 20-point post publishing checklist which I run on every single blog post for SEO purposes.
* Download your free copy of the checklist here
3. Use a Habit Tracker
A visual cue is a great way to beat procrastination. Create a calendar for the month and put it up where you see it every single day.
Pick ONE habit for 30 days and tick it off on the calendar when you’re done.
Does the 30-day goal seem too intimidating? No problem; start with 7 days.
When I did my yelling less challenge back in 2013, I started with one week and it was so easy to do that it spurred me to push for 30 days and then 100 days and finally I wound up going 1000+ days without yelling.
Break the goals down into simple, actionable ones and see the difference it makes to your procrastination.
4. Visualise your Long Term Goals
Train the mind to look at the long game. It’s VERY tempting and very easy to switch to thinking about getting 500 likes on your Instagram post today.
Instead, train the mind to prepare yourself as an authority in your niche.
Work on creating quality content that will have people turning to you and your blog when the time comes.
Does writing itself pose a challenge for you?
Do what I do: Write daily on a hobby blog or Medium.
I write 300 to 400-words on Medium every single day. This exercises my writing muscle so that writing on this main blog becomes much easier over time.
What would you rather have?
5000 followers who are following you JUST to boost your numbers and never engage with you?
Or an authentic audience that genuinely engages with you, values your suggestions and follows what you post?
Remember that an authentic audience takes time to grow. But once you do it, they will be your most loyal readers. Don’t take it for granted.
5. Eliminate distractions
While we didn’t have this problem 20 years ago, it’s pretty rampant now. Our smartphones! They are always at reach available to distract us and dare I say it, make us dumb!
Here are some tips that will help you completely ignore the pull of your phone.
- Keep the phone in another room when you do deep work. I cannot emphasise this enough.
The phone being close at hand is a sure trigger for distraction and procrastination. Keeping it in another room eliminates the need to keep looking at it.
- Turn off notifications from apps.
The only notifications that your phone should send you are of phone calls and text messages; in other words, what they were originally designed for.
If you have a landline at home and you work from home, go a step further and turn off the phone or put it on airplane mode when you work.
- Delete apps that tempt you to keep checking them
If you don’t have it around, you won’t face any temptation.
This is the exact method I used to give up refined white sugar in February 2019. I stopped buying it and stocking it. To date (July 2020), I don’t eat refined sugar.
Go through your phone apps and determine which ones can be deleted, especially if they drain your time and energy and take you away from important tasks.
*Use this to clean up the digital clutter on your device
Remember that overcoming procrastination starts with a few simple steps and relies more on systems and routines than willpower.
Focus your energy on doing a bit of this every single day and you’d observe how you nip the procrastination habit in the bud within a few weeks.