How to stop procrastinating

Why You Procrastinate – and What to Do About It

“Procrastination is the bad habit of putting off until the day after tomorrow what should have been done the day before yesterday.”

–Napoleon Hill

We all put off what we don’t want to do. It’s human nature.

Technically, the dictionary defines procrastination as “the habit of putting off or delaying, especially something requiring immediate attention.”

And when we put things off, things we know we have to do, it increases our stress level…until we have put off so much, we don’t know where to even begin.

By doing so, we dig a hole so deep for ourselves, it’s hard to see a way out.

It’s The Unpleasant Feeling We Avoid

In a Harvard Business Review article, author Peter Bregman wrote about his fascination while watching surfers. He watched as time and again, each of the surfers swam out into the ocean, got on a wave and ended the same way as before: by falling.

Bregman contrasted the surfers to how we might handle our everyday lives. “What if we all lived life like a surfer on the wave?” he asked. “The answer that kept coming to me was that we would take more risks.”

“Many people procrastinate because they fear the drudgery of the difficulty of the task they are avoiding,” said Teresa Amabile, coauthor of The Progress Principle and Edsel Bryant Ford Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School. “Putting it off doesn’t make it go away. Getting it done does.

“Procrastination is like a credit card: it’s a lot of fun until you get the bill.”

–Christopher Parker

So just do it. You’ll feel better inside…and finally see accomplishment on the outside.

Why we procrastinate

Practice Your Way Through Procrastination

Bregman writes that we put off what we don’t want to do because we simply don’t want to feel bad.

“Taking risks, and falling, is not something to avoid. It’s something to cultivate,” writes Bregman.

So take something on your to-do list. Tell yourself: I can do this. I can learn from it.

Psychiatrist Ned Hallowell, author of 12 books, offers up tips to help you. Is it something you don’t like to do…or something you just don’t know how to do? Once you answer that, give yourself a timetable to accomplish your task.

Bregman learned from the surfers. They all kept going back into the water, knowing the end result would be falling…which is exactly how we can overcome procrastination…with practice. “…Which you get by taking risks, feeling whatever you end up feeling, recognizing that it didn’t kill you, and then getting on the board and paddling back into the surf,” he writes.

The key is to keep it at. Overcome that ‘dread’ feeling about whatever it is you’re putting off by just doing.

You might fail. So what?

You’re not the first person. Learn from it.

“The essence of procrastination lies in not doing what you think you should be doing, a mental contortion that surely accounts for the great psychic toll the habit takes on people. This is the perplexing thing about procrastination: although it seems to involve avoiding unpleasant tasks, indulging in it generally doesn’t make people happy.”

– James Surowiecki

See the End Result…and Feel It

Let’s face it: we avoid what we don’t like. But with that knowledge, we can face what we’ve been putting off by envisioning the task done.

Dr. Sarah Reiff-Hekking, the founder of True Focus Coaching, is no stranger to procrastination. In a recent interview, she explained that it’s integral to first understand your priorities: work and personal.

The next time you get asked to do something, or a new opportunity shows up in your life, take a moment, take a deep breath, and ask yourself if this matches up with how you want to be spending your time. If it doesn’t, you might want to say “no” to it.

And if there’s something on your to-do list that you want to get done, visualize the end result and ask yourself what it would feel like if that task were complete.

Been putting off cleaning and sorting your closet? Think how it would feel to have it orderly. Take a box and start tossing in items you don’t need. You’ll find yourself energized and motivated to see the task through to completion. Plus, you’ll soon be enjoying that feeling of accomplishment.

Have you been putting off exercising? Start by telling yourself, “I can do 5 minutes on the treadmill.” Watch how those 5 minutes quickly turn into a longer session – because you have started – and you’ve stopped procrastinating.

You’re on your way now!

“Much of the stress that people feel doesn’t come from having too much to do. It comes from not finishing what they started.”

– David Allen

If you’re looking for innovative ways to overcome procrastination in your life, I have exciting news… On March 31 to April 3, my brand-new online training event, Ladies’ Leadership Secrets, will be featuring over 20 powerful, successful women (including Dr. Reiff-Hekking!) who are sharing all the tools you’ll ever need to live and lead with power and grace.

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