Three proven strategies to overcome procrastination
February 1, 2016
Early of the year, we set goals. We know what’s important for us, what actions we need to take in order to achieve our goals. To double our income, to start eating healthy, spend more time with family or start exercise to lose weight. But 54% of us never get started, and another 37% stop after a few attempts of trying.
Procrastination is a hot topic to talk about. It simply means we’re not doing or we’re delaying things we set out to do. For most of us who have important goals to achieve in life, we know how bad is it to procrastinate.
The problem is – we still do it. It’s a complex human behavior to explain in the context of science, but you don’t need to understand why for now, we’re going to talk about how to stop procrastination.
You don’t need to know how to build a car to drive a car.
First thing first, starts small. Procrastination usually occurs when we overthink or overly plan. Planning too much and drawing out too many action steps will only make us feel overwhelmed and hence never ready to start.
I believe most of us used to fall into this trap and stuck there. Endless brainstorming, endless planning, countless predictions and action steps, but never take the first leap.
Start now! How?
Start small. Start with the first small thing in front of you that you can take immediate action to. Long planning and prediction are simply not realistic and not practical most of the time – because we’re living in an ever-changing world.
Take the first step, get feedback. Make adjustments and proceed to the next. As long as your direction is clear and you’re on the right track.
We don’t usually build good behavior and habit out of the blue. Most of the time, we replace bad habits with the good one.
To move to point B, you have to leave point A.
One of the reasons we procrastinate is because we can’t leave point A, it’s not about point B in this scenario. The bad habits we carry are just too strong for us to break. You really wanted to start exercising in the morning, but you simply can’t get up early in the morning.
Some people will tell you that you need to set your mind straight, you need to have more motivation and burning desire to your goals. Get your a** up and start exercise now!But if more motivation and drive is the most practical solution, I should not be writing about this now. The thing is, motivation and drive are very subtract and it’s very hard to measure, control or even practice. To build up the motivation and drive, we first need the actions and results.
And it “loops” back to the problem of procrastination.
Be flexible, and attack the weak spot first. If exercise regularly is the new behavior you want to build, then be flexible and get it started. Adjust the schedule to start working out in the evening instead of morning.
Build up the new behavior slowly, and expand it further when the time is right. And review your option again, is it a must to getting up earlier in order to exercise? Most of the time, it’s not. But if you really want to get up earlier, you can slowly adjust the schedule again when exercise becomes a stronger habit for you.
Start small on the weak spot is a method to stop procrastination in a wider context of habit building. But here is something you can use – the 2-minutes hack as the strategy to help you out.
How the 2-minutes Hack works?
A simple and quick task is not necessary an unimportant task. I guess we all know that. But our brain automatically categorizes this section as unimportant subconsciously and always find ways to put it on hold. The next thing we know is we totally forget about it or we kept delaying it.
Train yourself to work on the task immediately if it takes less than 2 minutes. This will not only free up your schedule and stop you from procrastinating, it also frees up your head space for something more important and complicated throughout the day.
Another powerful rule here! As I mentioned above, we used to procrastinate when we are feeling overwhelmed with the task at hand. Most of the time, we end up overthink it and never start taking action.
Set a timer for 2 minutes, start putting full focus on the task now (in this case, I’m writing). When we get into the flow and state of work, we usually will continue until we complete it. And that 2 minutes is the critical period to get ourselves started.
We all shaped by what we repeatedly do. We all shaped by our habits. One of the best ways to stop procrastination is to focus on building habits on your desired behavior such as setting up the to-do list and exercise regularly.
This brings us by to the first two points in this articles – start small and attack the weak. More about habits building? Understand the pleasure and pain that linked to your desired behaviors, set a flexible schedule for them, and reward yourself when you get them done.
One thing to never forget is to take rest. Set a schedule for yourself to do nothing, to rest and to enjoy the moment without any stress. This will definitely help by relaxing our mind and reduce brain fatigue for those coming tasks.
Join Work Less to get practical insights and tips to help you work less, earn more, and live a better life—straight to your inbox—every Sunday.
👆 Join 3,100+ leaders, creatives, and knowledge workers today.
Dean is a strong voice in the self-mastery space. His newsletter consistently delivers insightful ideas on how to become a better version of yourself and is the only newsletter that I always read.
Head of product and engineering