How to Beat Procrastination
To beat procrastination is to win the daily battle.
It was 4 a.m. Time to get up, pet the dog, clear the cobwebs from my mind, and sit down to write. That’s my Magic Time and I can’t waste a minute of it.
But one morning last month, I struggled to get started. Instead I emptied the garbage. Took out the recycling. Packed my toiletries for my weekend travel. Arranged the books on my desk to sit at perfect 90-degree angles. I even shaved. And on a day when I would be working from home!
Finally, I decided to man-up and sit down. I glued myself to the chair (figuratively, of course), and forced myself to write. The first few minutes were difficult, almost excruciating. But then the mental spigots opened and the words flowed. That Zen-like feeling I get from my morning writing spread through me.
This is how you stop procrastinating.
Do or do not do. There is no try, young Skywalker. Start now.
I write because that is what I was born to do. I can’t stop writing. But I’ll admit, sometimes it’s awful tough to get started. Some days I need a little extra push to get going. We all do. But once you get that ball of momentum rolling down the hill, it’s tough to stop.
Even the most hardcore marathon runner often struggles with the first few steps on a cold November morning. However, the same runner knows full and well the Boston Marathon is only a few short months away and so they stop trying and simply do.
All of the inertia disappears once you start.
To start is to win.
To start is magical.
To start is spiritual.
To start is to say, “This is it, world. This is what I’ve come to do and you’re not going to stop me, with your siren songs of petty distractions like social media or reality television.”
To start is to almost finish.
But why is it so hard to start doing and stop procrastinating?
Are You Missing Out on Life Because of This Inner Demon?
Just think of all the amazing accomplishments you could achieve if you could just beat the procrastination monster.
According to an article from Scientific American, almost 20% of the population chronically procrastinates, routinely putting off tasks to tomorrow that could be done today.
Frankly, that number seems awfully low. Our tendency to procrastinate, first developed in college pulling all-nighters to cram for exams or finish a term paper, is made worse in today’s world of constant social media updates, email addiction, multitasking, and 24-hour news channels.
But for every minute you spend procrastinating, you miss out on a minute of effective study, a minute of making an impact, a minute of moving towards your full potential.
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.
My Simple One Second Secret to Stop Procrastination Every Time
Marketing guru Eben Pagan warns us about getting sucked into obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) loops. An OCD loop might involve checking your email, visiting news websites, checking your website or sales statistics, reading your text messages, and then returning to your inbox to start the loop all over again. That’s how so many of us procrastinate the day away.
But it doesn’t have to be like that.
When I was younger and the novelty of seeing a new sale notification hitting my inbox had not yet worn off, I was guilty of giving in to a powerful OCD loop like the one described above. Fortunately I recognized the problem and over time developed a simple, quick and easy solution to snap out of it and get back to work.
I developed a trigger.
A trigger is exactly that. It’s an action item that triggers you to get back to work.
It doesn’t need to be anything fancy. It doesn’t need to cost money or require another person to help. It just needs to be an easy, yet effective reminder that triggers you to get back to the task at hand.
For me, it was simply having the smallest amount of discipline to open up the Microsoft Word program on my computer.
That was the trigger that snapped me out of my procrastination.
As soon as I realized I was entering an OCD loop, I fought the urge to continue and opened up the word document. It triggered a break in my bad habit and a return to the right actions.
I still use this trick today.
On that morning when I struggled to sit down and write, it would have been easy to continue finding household chores to occupy my time. But that would have put me far off track of my daily goals.
The only thing that saved me was my trigger. When I conjured up just the smallest modicum of discipline to sit down in front of my computer and open up the word document, everything changed.
It was the trigger I needed to return to my writing. From there, each word typed was a victory. Each sentence a battle won. Each paragraph was a huge step in conquering the procrastination demon. Each victory made it easier to achieve the next. I was on a roll.
That’s the big lesson. Action begets action. And it all starts with a simple trigger.
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How to Pull the Trigger on the Tasks You’re Avoiding
In their book, Switch, authors Chip and Dan Heath explore the science of building habits. What they found was in order to make something a habit, we simply need to make it easy – and rewarding – for us to take the action.
Having a trigger reminds you to get back on track. Triggers, like brushing your teeth, can you get you back on track and stop mindless eating at night. Turning on loud, energetic music can be the trigger you need to finally start the exercise session you’ve been delaying all morning. Pulling out your checkbook and putting on a collared-shirt could be the trigger you need to finally sit down and deal with your monthly bills.
These little triggers can go a long way.
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.
And it can all be made easier with a trigger. Pull that trigger and you’ll slip back into your right habits with less willpower required.
So how do you stop procrastination? Just start.
Identify a trigger to get you into action mode. And once you’ve started, don’t stop until you’re done. Keep on pushing, start your day with one positive success step. Don’t do anything else until you make progress on something that is important to you!
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