How To Stop Procrastinating And Get Done What Matters

“The Overcoming Procrastination workshop has been postponed,” read the notice on Facebook. I think the organizers missed the irony! Procrastination is a huge problem. One that costs you money, credibility, and more importantly, opportunity. Here’s how to stop procrastinating and get thing done. 

For 3 years, I’ve wanted to expand and publish a reflection journal for coaches that we now print ourselves and provide to our coach training participants. The journal would be better with more instruction and a variety of new examples. I know how to publish it. It would sell – a sure thing. So, why do I keep putting it off?

Oscar Wilde wrote, “I never put off till tomorrow what I can possibly do – the day after.”

We laugh about procrastination, but it keeps us from achieving our goals, makes our grades worse, and costs us money.

Why Do We Procrastinate?

Here’s why I procrastinate. See if you can relate to any of them.

  1. I’ll have time later. This reason constantly plagues me. I’m not alone. Psychologists have identified our tendency to believe we will have more time later (we won’t) and underestimate (by 50%) how long it will take to do something. I wrote about this in another post.
  2. I don’t want to do it. We’re not interested or motivated to do some things. For me it’s bookkeeping, answering emails, writing a report, or getting a newsletter out.
  3. I don’t know how to do it. If we’re not clear about how to do something, it’s easy to be hesitant to begin. After all, we don’t want to start and then get stuck midway through the task.
  4. If I can’t do it right, I don’t do it at all. This could be perfectionism or self-protection against disappointment if the finished task doesn’t meet our standards.
  5. Other things keep crowding in. Life is busy with many demands. Some things can’t wait and push to the front of the line. Other important but not urgent things get relegated to “when I have time,” which we rarely do.
  6. I’m worried I’ll fail… or succeed. If we do something, we risk failing at it. What if no one buys my Reflection Journal for Coaches? Or what if the reviews are unfavorable? Sometimes we worry about the results of success. What if this thing takes off and makes me busier than I am already?

How to Stop Procrastinating and Get Things Done

Procrastination can be beat. It’s easier than you might imagine. This is how I personally fight procrastination and how I’ve help many others to do the same.

  1. Clarify the goal. What exactly is the goal? Be specific. In the case of my Reflection Journal for Coaches, it’s “publish an expanded and professionally designed journal.”
  2. Know why the goal is important to you. What will achieving this do for you? Sometimes the answer is to keep our bosses happy. But, if possible, link the goal to your own personal values and vision.
  3. Decide you will do it. Make a commitment to accomplishing the goal by a certain time. Commit in your heart, not just your mind. And commit to someone else. I can already feel greater determination after writing my goal above for all the world to see. Oh, and I want to have it done by May 1, 2015.
  4. Break the goal into tasks. What are the necessary tasks to accomplish your goal? This is more than just planning, it’s also motivational. By completing each task you experience a small victory – something to celebrate.
  5. Schedule the tasks. Here’s where we get real. You must move the tasks off your to-do list and schedule them into your calendar. Find blocks of time and protect them.
  6. Do it. For each block of time, and each task, think through points 1-4 above. Then do the work. Push to accomplish something tangible during each block of time you’re working.
  7. Ask for help when you need it. I’ve coached many people to achieve goals they haven’t been able to do on their own. And I’ve been coached myself. Draw on expertise when you need it. I plan to get help with editing, and use 99designs.com for the design of the journal.
  8. Keep going until it “ships.” I like Seth Godin’s phrasing about “shipping” your product, service, goal, or task. “Shipping” means getting it out there. It’s done for now. It can always be improved, but do that after people have actually interacted with it. It’s much less risky to ship early and revise later than to invest huge into something up front, only then to find out if people will respond to it. Only a one or two out of 10 things are going to take off, if we’re lucky. So “ship” 10 things to find your winner!

Now it’s your turn. What goal came to your mind as you read this post? Follow the steps above to go after it and get it done. Feel free to post your goal below. Don’t forget to comment again after you achieve it. I want to celebrate with you!

Question: What helps you overcome procrastination? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

    Keith is President of Creative Results Management. He helps busy leaders multiply their impact. Keith is the author of several books including The COACH Model for Christian Leaders.

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