How to Beat Procrastination

Time for action. Stopwatch on white background. Isolated 3D imag

There is a brutal war being waged for your time. The great battle begins against the Army of Inertia as you fight to take the Hill of Procrastination. But you don’t need guns or bombs for this battle. The weapons you need in your arsenal are discipline, focus, persistence, and preparation. Don’t take these battles lightly. You are literally in a fight for your life.

Just think of all the amazing accomplishments that you could achieve if you could overcome procrastination and win this war. You could finally write that book, launch that website business, lose those 10 pounds, or finally save up to afford your dream vacation.

But there are many obstacles in the way of our progress. From constant social media updates to your email addiction to the dozens of apps on your new iPhone 6 to multi-tasking on the multiple work projects you have, procrastination is easier than ever. Win one battle and another army appears.

There are solutions, but they require preparation and knowing your strengths and weaknesses, so that you can leverage what works and eliminate what doesn’t. One word of warning, be careful with your planning techniques and keep them simple, because too often my coaching clients turn planning into its own perverse form of procrastination. Heed the words of General Patton who once said, “A good plan violently executed now is better than a perfect plan executed next week.”

If you struggle with procrastination, take a look at what I do to wage the war in the battle for my life.

Each morning I get up and go directly to my number one priority – writing. I force myself to sit for 60 minutes, practically gluing my butt to my chair in order to crank out valuable content each day. Your morning must start with attacking your top priority. This requires preparation.

For example, I was scheduled to write this essay between 4am and 5am on Thursday, September 11, 2014, while in Las Vegas at my Internet Marketing Mastermind Meeting. I had a tight schedule to keep, as this essay had to be finished before I could complete my Big Thinking exercise, my 20 minutes of meditation, and my workout, so that I could get to breakfast on time with my business partner Bedros Keuilian – all before our Mastermind began at 10am. Aware of this deadline, I was able to plan my attack the night before.

Planning enabled me to avoid the distractions of social media, Internet surfing, or text messages (not that many of my friends are even up at this time anyway – that’s one of the benefits of being Early to Rise). Sitting in that chair, with no other option but to dig in and try to advance forward inch-by-inch, word-by-word, was uncomfortable. I wanted to quit. Heck, I didn’t even want to start. But each word typed was a victory. Each sentence a battle won. Each paragraph was a huge step in my climbing Procrastination Hill. The power of the Deadline propelled me forward.

At first, the words struggled to find their proper place on the page, but the only thing that made writing easier was more writing.

That’s the big lesson. Action begets action.

It’s what you’ll find with all activities that you are procrastinating on. Scientific research supports it. The only thing that helps you overcome procrastination is to actually do the thing you are procrastinating about. That’s it. You must take action. You may need to do so robotically. It may be unpleasant, but that’s why you’re procrastinating, isn’t it?

Here are the steps to beating procrastination. Know your number one priority. Start on it first thing in your workday. Eliminate the temptations that pull you in other directions. Set a deadline for making big progress on your number one priority. Do not pass “Go”, do not collect $200, and do not do anything else until progress has been made. In the age of sexy new ‘apps’ to download to your mobile phone, this advice stands as the real and raw answer to becoming more productive.

If you are intimidated by the task, follow these three steps. First, break the big task into smaller action items. Second, start on something easy to build momentum and get into the flow. Third, power through the procrastination by having a meaningful reason why that the task must be finished. I start writing each article and book chapter knowing that if I don’t finish sharing this information that my readers will continue to be frustrated – by problems such as procrastination. Dig deep for your motivation. It can only come from within. Find it, and you’ll make progress.

The solutions are simple. We should get up early, work hard, and avoid things that waste time in our lives. Yes, it is easier said than done, but to be honest, reading another time management book is not the answer.

The real answer is that we must force ourselves to do the work. We must avoid the “chattering mind”, as Steven Pressfield calls it in his recent book, Do the Work.

It’s not rocket science. It’s persistence.

How do you end procrastination? Just start.

Don’t let information gathering become your procrastination.

Don’t let planning become your procrastination.

Implement more structure into your life by scripting your days – like I do – and you’ll get more done and have more freedom. I promise you.

It is from this structure that you will have more freedom in your life. It sounds paradoxical, but I assure you, the better the rules you have in place for your life, the more battles you will win, the more hills you will take, and the more freedom you will ultimately achieve.

[Ed Note: Craig Ballantyne is the editor of Early to Rise (Join him on Facebook here) and the author of Financial Independence Monthly, a complete blueprint to helping you take control of your financial future with research of proven methods in your career, in your business and in your personal life. He has created a unique system to show gratitude and appreciation to stay on track for these goals each and every day. Click here to follow the exact 5-minute system you can use to improve your life.]

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  • Tom

    Craig,

    I appreciate you trying to help procrastinators out there, but I also disagree with you.

    People already know what they need to do, and they’re still not doing it. In this article you’re basically telling them, “just to do it, no distractions, force yourself.”

    Just look at the language here:

    “I force myself to sit at my kitchen table”
    “The article had to be completed”
    ” I forced myself to sit in my chair without the distractions”

    The language you use indicates that the task was painful. If it was enjoyable would you have to force yourself? Feelings of force and pain stress me out and make me not want to do anything.

    The problem with telling people to “just do it” is that it doesn’t address the cause of their procrastination. If procrastinators could “just do it” they would. Something is holding them back and identifying what it is, is the real key to stopping procrastination.

    I’m not picking on you Craig, many people don’t understand this. When they begin to identify the causes of their procrastination and how to deal with them they have a much more positive pull towards completing work rather than a forceful push you describe.

    -Tom

    • I think you really nailed it with your feedback there.

  • Raynold

    I don’t think there are specific solution to stop procrastination. Craig is right when he said action begets action or just do it. In the book The Magic of Thinking Big, the author also mentioned about just doing it, you have to force yourself. Successful people do the things failures dont like to do, even though maybe the dont like doingthose things too.

  • ttcert

    Thanks Raynold!

  • Gene

    Thanks,mine boils down to a no option must do list that is manageable if done in a timely manner and creates a sense of not in charge of my life if fail to accomplish these specific tasks in a timely manner. It’s similar to a summer when I rode 3500 miles, the hardest part was getting on the bike and going the first foot. From there I was in the zone and enjoyed the process of moving forward.That’s 30 miles a day for roughly 120 days which is like any endeavor when segmented is easily obtained.

    • ttcert

      Nice!

  • Richard

    Good article, the rules are very simple: Just get on with it! Lemme keep this reply short, cause i’m supposed to be writing some copy! 🙂

    • ttcert

      Well said!

  • Joe Myers

    Great article! I read it as I stopped procrastinating on doing my 60-sec planks

    • ttcert

      Nice!

  • TRISH

    This article could not have come at a better time! I’m at a crossroads in my life. I just lost my mom; I was her caregiver. Now, I have to recharge my marketing copywriting career. Sending out resumes, making calls, going on interviews is tough. It’s easier to make plans and lists. But, as Craig put it so beautifully (nearly brought me to tears!) I am “literally in a fight for [my] life.” Thinking of what I could accomplish, had I not wasted time, is a great motivator. Thanks, Craig. I look forward to notifying you when I finally land my great marketing job.

    • ttcert

      Push on, Trish!

  • Guillaume

    Absolutely excellent article …

    “How do you end procrastination ? Just start.”

    I think it’s all in this …

    Thanks, Craig !