It was a question we’ve been receiving almost every day since our Facebook Question-and-Answer sessions debuted.
“What is the best way to deal with the issues of perfectionism and procrastination?”, asked Wendy J.
Minutes later, Lukas F. posted, “I’m looking for perfection with the stuff that I do, and that paralyzes the starting process. Any advice to get over the fact that starting something won’t be perfect?”
And just one day earlier, Mary K. asked, “How do you maintain focus? I’m a polymath, and it can be a challenge to see things through. I struggle staying focused on a single project.”
All of these questions speak to the same ubiquitous obstacle in the way of success for thousands of Early to Rise readers, and millions of people around the world.
How can they beat procrastination?
When I look at all the folks asking me for help on this topic, I can’t help but think, “Wow, just think of all the amazing accomplishments that would occur if all these people could just beat the procrastination monster. I have to do something about this.”
Today, the problem is a multi-headed dragon more than ever before, a true mythological hydra. From constant social media updates to email addiction to multi-tasking on the multiple work projects you have, procrastination is easier than ever.
Cut off one head and another appears.
There are few proven solutions, but they do exist. It takes a little bit of planning and a lot of knowing your strengths and weaknesses, so that you can leverage what works and minimize what doesn’t. But one word of warning, be careful with your planning techniques and keep them simple, because too often I see ETR readers turn planning into its own perverse form of procrastination.
If procrastination is an issue for you, then let’s change that starting right now. Don’t wait a minute longer in learning how to tame the beast. Let’s start by looking at what I do.
The Early to Rise morning Facebook Q’n'A sessions are my favorite part of the workday, but I don’t do them until I’ve gotten one big project done in my day.
Each morning I get up and go directly to writing. I force myself to sit at my kitchen table for 60 minutes, practically glue-ing my butt to my chair in order to crank out valuable content each day.
For example, this message was schedule to be written between 4am and 5am on Thursday, May 10, 2012, while I was in San Diego at a Mastermind Meeting. The article had to be completed before I was able to head over to “Fit Athletic”, one of my favorite gyms in the country, for my morning workout.
In order to finish my mission, I forced myself to sit in my chair without the distractions of social media, Internet surfing, or text messages (not that many of my friends are even up at this time anyway – one of the benefits of being early to rise). Sitting in that chair 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 conquering the procrastination demon.
There was no other time in my schedule for finishing this project. But because I know when my magic time is, and because I understand the power of the deadline, I knew that I would be able to take action and get this done – almost robotically – during the allotted sixty minutes. This is the benefit of knowing your strengths and leveraging them.
At first, the words struggled to find their proper place on the page, but the only thing that made writing this issue 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?
Action is the simplest way to avoid procrastination. Get up and throw yourself into the battle. You must know your #1 priority and attack it with great energy.
This, of course, is not a magic silver bullet answer. After all, it’s not so much that you don’t know what to do, it’s that you have a hard time putting the knowledge into practice.
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 really that simple. In order to get something done, you must first get started. In order to complete the project, you must do everything that needs to get done.
It’s not rocket science. It’s persistence.
How do you end procrastination? Just start. There’s no other answer. In fact, that was the scientific conclusion of a ‘how to beat procrastination’ research study I once read.
Don’t let information gathering become your procrastination.
Don’t let planning become your procrastination.
Implement more structure into your life and you’ll get more done and you’ll have more freedom. I promise you.
In the end, the decision to move to action comes from what Dan Kennedy so rightly describes as ‘behavioral congruence’. This means that you act in accordance with what you want to accomplish.
For example, if you say that you want to be on time for work every day, but you stay up well past an appropriate bedtime and you don’t have your morning routine planned out, and you hit the snooze button five times, none of that is acting in behavioral congruence with your goals.
Frankly, most people just don’t think about behavioral congruence. They are reactive, instead of being proactive.
You can start to solve this problem by creating a clear set of personal philosophies that guide your life.
At the risk of giving you another opportunity to procrastinate, I want you to read the “12 Rules I Live By” here and then create your own personal philosophy list. This list of ‘rules’ (you can also call them the ‘big ideas’ for your life) will help you guide your decisions and actions. They will help you live behaviorally congruent with your goals. They will reduce stress and improve performance.
Your personal philosophies are the core foundation of your success and will guide you towards a life well lived. The most successful people I know all have their own personal philosophies, whether they know it or not.
Make it easy on yourself by writing yours down. These rules for living will help you kick procrastination to the curb and will improve your time management because the list will identify what is important to you.
Get started there, and then continuously work to improve your behavioral congruence in all aspects of your life.
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 freedom you will ultimately achieve.
(It’s now 4:37am. Excellent. I’ve finished a little early. It’s always nice to be ahead of schedule. Off to the gym.)
[Ed. Note. Craig Ballantyne is the author of Financial Independence Monthly, a program that shows you how to achieve your financial independence in the new economy. He's also shared the 10 books that have had the greatest impact on his business and philosophies in this list here.]How to Beat Procrastination,