The ‘old me’ would have waited until tomorrow to write this blog post. The ‘new me’ began tackling it almost immediately. Old me said, “Err, tomorrow’s another day.” New me said, “The time is now.”
Old me’s motto was, “Hey, Rome wasn’t built in a day.” New me’s motto, “Rome wouldn’t have been built if Romans hadn’t made now the time to begin.” I became a new me when I did this one thing—I stopped procrastinating.
According to Psychology Today, the most sure-fire way to avoid success in life just might be procrastination. So, if procrastination impedes progress, it stands to reason that changing procrastinating behaviors facilitates success.
You want to be successful, and you know there’s a psychology to why you procrastinate. But as a procrastinator, do you really care why? How likely are you to read a lengthy article about the psychology of why you procrastinate, particularly if you’re a chronic procrastinator? Not bloody likely.
How To Not Procrastinate
As a former procrastinator, I know how procrastinators think. I want things to be simple and concrete. Simplicity is quick, easy, and practical; concrete is real, secure, and solid. So, when it comes to the question of how to stop procrastinating, concrete and straightforward are best.
So, if simple is best, then why do so many blog posts on the subject involve so many steps? ’10 Practical Ways to Stop Procrastinating.’ ‘11 Simple Steps to Stop–’
11 steps?! If I’m a procrastinator, how likely am I to take 11 steps to stop? Doesn’t that make me the opposite of a procrastinator? Let’s see–step one, step two, step three, step—-if you’re a procrastinator, you probably stopped reading already!
So, from a former procrastinator who now understands the psychology behind procrastination, here are five – count ‘em – five simple and concrete steps to getting started and to stop procrastinating.
1) Duo it now (The 2 Minute Rule)
There are a lot of books out there that have been written on the subject of how to stop procrastinating. Still, others talk about how to get more stuff done in your life. In fact, there are probably thousands, maybe millions of these books.
But, you’re a procrastinator, and as we’ve already established, how likely are you to read these books? Yeah, I know—you won’t. I feel your pain. I didn’t want to read them either, but I did. And because I did, that means I can pass along the gist of this info to you.
The biggest takeaway I got from a lot of these books was this one main thing—if it can be done in two minutes, do it now. (Get it—two minutes—duo? See what I did there?)
Tossing in a load of laundry. Washing dishes. Brushing the dog’s hair. Opening the mail. These are all things that can be done in a couple minutes, so do them now. Doing these couple-minute tasks is a simple and concrete way to begin overcoming procrastination.
But what if there’s a slew of dishes, and it won’t take just two minutes to do them? Simple. (Remember– concrete and straightforward? Spend two minutes doing a few now, and then tell yourself you’ll do the rest later. Chances are you’ll start and not want to finish. But even if you do get started and you don’t finish, well, that takes us to step #2.
2) Make it easy on yourself
It was good enough for Burt Bacharach, and it’s good enough for you. If you don’t know who he is, don’t procrastinate looking it up—he’s an American composer who wrote a little song called, “Make It Easy on Yourself.”
Hey, breaking an old habit is hard, and sometimes it takes baby steps to overcome it. If you’re a procrastinator, you’ve probably been doing it (or not doing it) every day, your entire life. You’re not going to change overnight.
The most important thing you can do is not to punish yourself if you take a step—or three—backward. What’s important now is moving forward. You’ve been stuck for so long from your procrastination that being hard on yourself will only keep you stuck forever.
Stress is not something you need right now. You need to move ahead, and stressing yourself out will cause you to spin your wheels. The idea here is progression.
A great way to progress forward after you’ve taken a step backward is to give yourself a pep talk. First, ask yourself questions about why you procrastinated. Are you afraid of something? Procrastinators are notorious for being fearful of success. If you are scared of success, ask yourself another question—is staying stuck where you are better or worse than success? You know the answer.
Asking such questions may help you get to the bottom of your procrastination. Or it may not. Whether it does or it doesn’t, the important thing is getting unstuck. Pat yourself on the back for even taking baby steps, and then get back on track now.
The best way to get back on track is to do one of those two-minute tasks. Toss in a load of laundry, and tell yourself, “Good job!” You’ll be back on track in no time. Going easy on yourself when things are hard is a concrete and straightforward way to get unstuck.
3) Eat that elephant
We’ve all heard the old adage about how to eat an elephant—one bite at a time. Eating an elephant sounds like an overwhelming bit of food, doesn’t it? Well, many of life’s tasks look that overwhelming to procrastinators.
Remember—procrastinators like things to be simple. They’re not necessarily lazy; they just like simplicity. And breaking down larger tasks into smaller ones is simplicity at its, well, most simple!
Because not all tasks take only two minutes to accomplish, it’s important to find a concrete way to look at them simply. Some may take 15 minutes, an hour, ten hours, or more. The best way to get more significant tasks done is by looking at them as little tasks.
Break down those big tasks into smaller portions. If you have something you’ve been putting off and you’re up against a hard deadline, tackle that one first. If it helps, start by making a list of the small steps you’ll take to getting the entirety of the project finished.
Make a list of the smaller tasks that will go into the bigger one. The great thing about making lists is that you can check things off it when they’re done. As you tackle and complete each task, check it off your list, feel that sense of accomplishment, and savor it. That feeling can last you until you complete the next task on the list. It can also help you to visualize finishing the entire project!
And most importantly, get started. Sometimes the whole project looks bigger than it is until you start and gain some momentum. Sometimes it is harder than you thought but the steps above will surely help. It’s never an impossible task.
4) See it NOW
One of the simplest things you can do now is to visualize the ‘new you.’ And if you visualize it now, there’s something you’re not procrastinating on doing!
But visualization can be hard for some people, especially if they’re not used to seeing good things for themselves. If you’re one of those people, try a few of these tricks that will help you to see it now:
- Think about your future success. What will it look like?
- Will there be a new job in your future? What will you be doing in your new position? Picture yourself walking around, performing the tasks of your new profession, managing people, making big presentations, or doing whatever your new occupation requires.
- Will there be a new house in your future? If so, what will it look like? Will you have a beautiful pool and a deck out back? How many bedrooms will it have? If you enjoy cooking, perhaps there will be a huge kitchen with granite countertops where you can invite over friends and family.
- Now, after you’ve decided some of the things that will be included in your future, go on the internet and find pictures of those things that represent your future. Because some people find visualization difficult, they can’t picture success in their futures. But with the internet, visualizing your success is only a click away.
Most importantly, picture yourself celebrating all your successes with family and friends. And, if you don’t currently have a family but would like to have one, visualize that, too!
5) Reward yourself!
Changing a habit is a process. Again, you’re not going to change your procrastinating behaviors overnight. You’ve likely been stuck in this rut for a very long time. Give yourself time to overcome it, and reward yourself for small accomplishments!
Motivation is the key to staying on track in any and all goals. Beating procrastination is no different. Set up a system of rewards for yourself based on monthly, weekly, and even daily progression away from procrastination.
Rewards—even small ones—will help you to stay ahead of procrastination. If you know there’s a small reward in the near future for finishing this one little task, you’re more likely to start the task and finish it now. In fact, this step is a great one to combine with others of the 5 steps on how to stop procrastinating.
For instance, once you’ve broken down a larger project into smaller tasks, reward yourself for getting past specific steps. In fact, if you’re new at changing your procrastinating behaviors, start off by rewarding yourself for each and every step! Once you’ve got this massive project finished and you’re an old pro at putting off putting things off, you’re far more likely to find the accomplishment itself as a reward.
Another essential step to combine with rewarding yourself is to make it easy on yourself. Because rewarding yourself is the opposite of punishing yourself, you’ll soon find that those little rewards will help keep you motivated to progress forward.
Think about some of the things in life you enjoy. Things like collecting figurines, plants, coins, or something else? If it’s an inexpensive item, buy yourself one each time you accomplish a big task. If it’s too expensive to buy one each time you finish a task, put aside a little cash toward adding an item to your collection each time you don’t put off till tomorrow what you can do today.
Perhaps you like going to a movie or renting a new one from a Red Box or on Netflix. This can be a great way to reward yourself and stay motivated at the same time. Consider renting a movie that will inspire you. Motivational films such as ‘Rudy,’ ‘Apollo 13,’ and ‘The Pursuit of Happyness’ involve true stories about people who accomplished great things against all the odds. These types of films will help you to stay on track and move toward your goals without procrastinating along the way.
Finally, after you’ve rewarded yourself for small things, raise the stakes. Reward yourself for only two things—big tasks you’ve accomplished or when you’ve taken a step backward.
Will you take steps backward? Of course, you will. After all, you’re human. Running off track, getting distracted, and falling down here and there—these are all things that happen to every one of us humans when we’re moving toward our goals.
And, just naturally, the further you move toward your goals, the further you’ll want to move. Rewarding yourself mostly for significant accomplishments rather than just the small ones you did when you were a newbie will hold you accountable for your own success.
I admit it–old me was dissatisfied. Old me was bored, frustrated with my standing in life, discontented with the direction in which I was—or more to the point wasn’t—headed.
Now, new me progresses forward. New me advances my life daily and has hope for a bright, prosperous future. New me has good time management.
I like the new me.
New me gets things done, every day. Thanks to new me, I feel like my life is much more today than it was yesterday. And I’ll like it, even more, tomorrow than I do today.