After writing my previous post on overwhelm, I’ve received comments and private messages of readers who struggle with procrastination big time. That’s why I decided to prepare a list of 10 ways to stop procrastinating so everyone can choose the approach that suits them best.
`Procrastination, the opposite of decision, is a common enemy which practically every man must conquer.` Napoleon Hill says in his book: Think and Grow Rich. As you can read in my previous article, this is true. Procrastination is an innate behavior of the human species that everyone struggles with.
1. Make a decision
If procrastination is the opposite of decision, we have to learn to become decisive. Decide that you are going to do something and stick to it.
If you take a long time to decide what you are going to do, and then afterward, quickly change your course because another opportunity comes along, you will always start over and never reach mastery.
Successful people tend to be able to make a quick and firm decision and to remain with what they have decided for a very long time. They decide fast and change their minds slowly. That is the best way to ensure success.
2. Don’t break the chain.
The moment you decide on a new goal, this mostly goes hand in hand with implementing new habits to reach your goal.
Full of courage, you perform your new practice the first day, the second day, and the third.
After a few days, your motivation starts to subside, and you feel a little less inspired to go through with your new habit. That’s when the so-called `chain of habit` comes in. After you have performed the new behavior for a while, the pattern forms an invisible chain of days you have happily completed the new practice.
In other words: each day you execute the new behavior, another link is added to the chain. The stronger and more prolonged the chain of habit becomes, the harder it becomes to break it.
After a while, the chain of habit is merely getting too strong to be broken. That applies to both good and bad habits, so you might as well use the chain of habit to your advantage. How? The next two paragraphs will give you practical advice on how to do this.
3. Use a visual
The simplest way to start a chain of habit is to use something you can hang or place around your house office. This visual reminds you of your chain of habit.
The first option is to use a physical calendar and a red marker. Each day you have performed your habit, cross the day with your red marker. After a few days, you will have put a row of red crosses on your calendar, and it starts to become addictive to cross off each day. It would feel shameful if you miss a day, so you keep on performing the habit continuously just to be able to cross the day with your red marker.
Another option is to use a black and white drawing of an actual chain and color a link of the chain if you have performed the new behavior. On days that you skip the new routine, you don’t get to color a link of the chain and have to leave it blank. This visual aid will help you to keep going with your new habit.
If you find this option to confusing, you can also use a tape measure to depict the chain and color each number on the tape measure as if it would represent a link of a chain.
4. Use a habit tracker
If you don’t like to display things around your house or office and you’d rather keep things private, I would advise you to use a habit tracker on your phone.
There are several trackers you can choose from. Just search for `Habit Tracker` in your app store and take your pick. I love the Habitica app and the Momentum app.
5. Acknowledge stress
As you might have read in my article about overwhelm, we tend to procrastinate because it helps us to relieve stress. Most people don’t know they have a habit of procrastination because they unconsciously want to avoid stressful situations.
Maybe you figure you’re too lazy or incompetent to execute the task at hand. That is not true! You are just seeking stress relief. If you admit to yourself that you feel stressed out about the job you are procrastinating, you will immediately feel a lot better.
When we are stressed out, we feel this inside our bodies. And there’s something about acknowledging the feelings we have, that makes the feeling calm down. You might have noticed this when you feel bad. If you are feeling unhappy about something and you ignore it, the sadness gets uncontrollable after a while. It might even turn into anger or rage.
That happens because you oppress the feeling. If you had acknowledged the sadness in the first place, it certainly wouldn’t have escalated. Hence, if you took some time to acknowledge the feeling of sadness, it would subside after a short amount of time. That goes the same for a stressful feeling.
Admit to yourself: I am just feeling stressed out, that is okay. Don’t beat yourself up about it. Just acknowledge the feeling to yourself and move on. If you do that, you will feel better in no time.
6. Develop a strong `why`
Ask yourself why you want to achieve your goal. Make a list of all the reasons why you would love to reach your goal. Write a story about how great you would feel once you have reached your goal. And reread this story every single day.
I recommend choosing a strong `why.` For example: If you want to lose some weight, your `why` could be that you have to attend a one-time event like a wedding. Or your `why` could be to overcome your severe heart condition by losing weight and living a healthier life. Which `why` do you think will be the strongest motivator?
7. Start working for five minutes on the easiest available task.
Set a timer for only five minutes and start working on the easiest task you could find. For example, if you want to lose weight and find it hard to do a strenuous cardio workout, begin by taking a five-minute stroll around your neighborhood.
Once you get started, chances are you will walk for ten or even fifteen minutes just because it feels so good to move your body.
8. Take it one step at a time.
Don’t look too far ahead. Stop focusing on every single thing you will need to do to get there. Just focus on the next step. Think of the next small thing you can do to move forward in the direction of your dream.
Once you have taken a small step, momentum takes over and will move you forward to the next level and then to the next and the next and so on.
9. Determine a reward
Make sure you reward yourself every time you have reached a milestone on the path towards your dreams. You can set weekly and monthly sub goals for yourself, and determine a reward for every time you have reached a sub goal. A reward works like patting yourself on the back and keeps you motivated to keep moving forward.
10. The 5-second rule
Last but not least, you can use the 5-second rule to get you started on a task. It is a straightforward but effective technique that is invented by Mel Robbins. The only thing you have to do is count backward in your head: 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, and then GO and start working on whatever it is you want to work on. If you want to know more about the 5-second rule, go ahead and read this article. You can buy Mel Robbins’ Book on the 5 Second Rule here.
These were my personal 10 Ways to Stop Procrastinating. You can add them to your self-aid kit in case of a procrastination emergency or just use them in your daily life to move forward on the path to your dreams. It is totally up to you!
Let me know in the comments below which way you have chosen to beat your procrastination habit, and for now, I wish you the best of luck in achieving your goals.