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A seven step process for beating procrastination

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Image: hang_in_there

 

How many of your ‘things to do’ have been hanging around for ages without any progress?

How many could be described as ‘I feel I should do this but I keep putting it off’?

How many do you feel stuck on?

How many make your heart sink to think of them?

When you look around your house, do you see ‘jobs to do’ everywhere?

Maybe you feel too overwhelmed by how much there is to do to even get started. Maybe you don’t know where to start, which job to begin with. Maybe you don’t know how to progress some jobs. Maybe you’re scared to start in case you find you can’t do something. Maybe there’s some circumstance you don’t know how to get around. Maybe you’re waiting for someone else to do something and they’re procrastinating.

We’re all procrastinators. It’s part of being human.

As you know, I trained for four years with Landmark Education. It’s some of the best training I’ve ever done. It transformed my experience of life and enables me to cause breakthrough after breakthrough after breakthrough in the areas of my life that matter most to me (friendships, family relationships, romantic relationships, money, managing my weight, health, giving up an anxious biting habit, achieving the things I set out to achieve…).

When I was ready to do the Landmark Forum (Landmark’s entry-level course), I phoned Landmark Education to book. The conversation went like this:

Me: Hi. I’d like to book on the Landmark Forum please. When’s the next course?

Person at Landmark: In 10 days time: March 9th to 11th.

Me (looking in diary and seeing that I was free that weekend): Hmm. When’s the one after that?

Person at Landmark: March 23rd to 25th.

Me: I’m busy that weekend. When’s the one after that?

Person at Landmark: April 6th to 8th.

Me: Ah, I’m busy that weekend too. When’s the one after that?

Person at Landmark: We haven’t got any scheduled beyond that date yet.

Which is when I noticed that I was procrastinating…and I booked for the Forum in 10 days time – my first Landmark-supported breakthrough!

Goodness knows why humans are such procrastinators. Procrastinating is rubbish for our state of mind. All those unfinished/unstarted jobs niggle away at us, weighing us down and sapping our energy.

Maybe it’s worth it for how amazing you feel when you stop procrastinating and get stuff done!

My ‘things to do’ list on Monday this week included writing a press release and sending it to a magazine. I’ve been putting this off for weeks. And on Monday, I put it off until 3:30 in the afternoon (feeling grotty and anxious all day). When I finally sat down and did it, it took me all of half an hour. And when I’d done it, I felt great! Free and light and fulfilled.

I felt so great about having done it, and so conscious of how ridiculous it had been to put it off for so long, that it got me thinking about how to combat procrastination.

And I decided to share with you my top tips for getting unstuck:

1. Make a list

Sometimes I think ‘Make a list’ is my answer to everything. 🙂

The thing is, you can’t move forward constructively until you know what your current situation is.

Writing it all down so you can see exactly what there is to do is a great way to combat that sense of overwhelm that can paralyse you and prevent you getting started.

A list will enable you to get clear how many things you want to do, estimate how long they’re going to take and…

2.  Prioritise

Divide the list into four categories using a grid like the one below.

Urgent Not urgent
Important
Not important

Then review the list to check that you genuinely want to do every item on it.

Is each item consistent with what you want for your life?

If there’s something that’s not consistent with your commitments, you might decide not to do it.

Which might require you to add additional tasks to the list, such as telling someone your decision or asking someone else to do something instead of you.

3. Break big, scary tasks into small, not-so-scary ones

If you’re daunted by a task because it looks huge and scary, see if you can break it into smaller, more manageable chunks.  Remember that wise saying from Confucius: “A journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step”.

4. Schedule

Now decide when you’re going to do each task, prioritising them in this order:

1.  Important and urgent
2.  Not important and urgent
3.  Important and not urgent
4.  Not important and not urgent.

Make a firm commitment as to when you are going to undertake each task and write it in your diary or calendar, enter it into your online calendar, put a reminder on your phone…whatever system works best for you.

Be realistic about how much you can achieve in the time available to you. And don’t forget to build in contingency time in case things take longer than you expect.

5. Get started

I know that may sound unhelpful. My point though is that getting started can be the hardest bit. Once you take the first (however tiny) step, sometimes momentum takes over.

Last week, I had a proposal document to write for my other business, Papworth Research & Consultancy Ltd. Writing a proposal or report always seems like a major, daunting task and getting started is always hard.

So I began by setting up the document. I created the title page, and set up the headers and footers. If that sounds like tinkering round the edges, that’ll be because it was! It got me started though and, before I knew it, I was ‘in flow’. Within a few hours, I’d completed the first draft of the document. And I felt fabulous!

6. Don’t put it off until everything’s ‘sorted’

Don’t wait until everything is just right. It will never be perfect. There will always be challenges, obstacles and less than perfect conditions. So what? Get started now. With each step you take, you will grow stronger and stronger, more and more skilled, more and more self-confident and more and more successful. Mark Victor Hansen (American inspirational and motivational speaker, trainer and author of the “Chicken Soup for the Soul” book series)

Don’t get me wrong. Planning is sensible and thinking ahead can be useful.

At the same time, trying to anticipate every eventuality and pre-manage every circumstance can be a recipe for procrastination.

Sometimes it’s more productive to dive right in, and work it out as you go along.

Anyway, you can’t know what all the challenges will be in advance. That’s why hindsight is such a wonderful thing!

7. Get support

Often we resist asking for help because we’re afraid to impose. How do feel when someone asks for your help though? I’m willing to bet that, most of the time, you feel honoured and flattered. People like helping other people. We like to have our abilities and talents recognised and utilised.

You might need technical help. You might need practical help (another body to help you lift something, use of someone’s car, someone to do something that requires a skill you don’t have). You might need moral support. You might need someone to hold you to account. You might need a mixture of all of these.

I overcame my procrastination about that press release on Monday partly because I’d promised my business buddy that I’d write the release that day.

My business buddy and I are as committed to each other’s business success as we are to our own. We speak twice a week to tell each other what actions we’re going to take around our businesses before we next speak, and update each other on the actions we’ve taken since we last spoke. He listens for whether I’m taking actions that are consistent with my aims, supports me to take the actions I commit to, helps me get unstuck when I’m stuck, acknowledges my successes and breakthroughs, and generally provides moral support while gently and caringly holding me to account. And I do the same for him.

 

You can beat procrastination with this seven step process. Give it a go and comment below to let me know how you get on.

If you’re not yet part of the Green and Tidy community, sign up here (and get a free decluttering masterclass as a bonus).

What are the top three tasks you’re stuck on or procrastinating around? Comment below.