Before we can address how to stop procrastinating, we first must understand why we procrastinate. Procrastination is really nothing other than a mechanism our brain uses to protect us from failure or doing something we believe will be hard, difficult or uncomfortable. Ironically, if we never start or delay starting long enough, we insure that we will either fail or the task will be even more difficult because our time is so limited.
Procrastination is the Brain’s Way of Protecting You
Have you ever found yourself faced with a project and feeling like you didn’t have all the tools necessary to complete it? You find yourself going down a rabbit hole researching things you might not even end up using in your project. Before you know it, you’ve wasted countless hours. You still have nothing to show for it because you haven’t even started yet!
Overthinking and endless planning are forms of procrastination! Newsflash: you already know just enough to get started! Once you begin the work the pieces will start to come together. In fact, they may come together in a way that is better than you originally envisioned!
Progress, Not Perfection, Builds Momentum
You see, once you start to work on something, as you make progress, even small baby steps, you begin to build momentum. As momentum builds the creative juices start flowing and your problem solving skills kick in. That concept that had you stumped all the sudden makes sense. Perhaps you think of someone who could help you learn to use that tool you were stressing over.
So how do you put an end to procrastination? You simply get started! Determine what you want the end result to look like and reverse engineer a plan to get started. Then quit planning and just get to work.
I had an English teacher in high school who was notorious for assigning lots of written essays. He taught us some great tools to help jump start the writing process. First, we were to write our our topic out as a working title and write 3-5 topic sentences about our topic. Next he told us to get a pencil (pre-computer days) and start writing. Just let the words flow. Don’t worry about sentence structure or spelling. Just get our thoughts out of our heads and on to paper. Once we had a rough draft then we could move things around and polish it up.
While you may not be writing theme papers, the concept is the same. Make a basic plan or outline and then get to work. It doesn’t have to be perfect from the get go. Accept the fact that it might be messy or you may fail on the first attempt. Instead, know you will have the satisfaction that you are making more progress by taking action than you would be by putting it off until you have all the details worked out.
Set a Timer and Get Started! Now!
Next time you find yourself face to face with procrastination, ask yourself what are you avoiding? What stories are you telling yourself that aren’t true? Get clarity around your goals and desired outcome, then just start. If you are still struggling, set a timer and give yourself 20 minutes to work in it. At the end of 20 minutes if you want to stop you can. What you may find however, is that you have picked up enough momentum that you want to keep working. In all transparency, I used this exact strategy to write this post!
Do you have any tips on overcoming procrastination? If so share them in the comments below.