how to stop procrastinating so you can start seeing success
Procrastination steals something precious from us – it steals time that we can never get back. In today’s post, I discuss how I stop procrastinating (and sometimes win).
Resources mentioned in the post:
Why you need to stop procrastinating
Today we are talking about how to stop procrastinating. So let’s think about that quote again, “You may delay, but time will not.” When we procrastinate, time doesn’t stop. And then he says, “And lost time is never found again.”
We can invest money in things and get more money back. We can put money in the bank with an interest rate, or invest it somehow, and we can earn more money back. We can even buy tools for our business that help us earn more money in our business.
There are lots of ways to invest money and get more money back. But we can’t do that with time.
We can invest time in our money. We can invest time and improve relationships, but we can’t invest the time and get more time back. This is why procrastination is so dangerous because every minute you have is a minute, you will never get back. We want to be able to use our time wisely.
My personal struggle with procrastinating
Now I will be the absolute first to raise my hand here and say that I struggle with procrastination. In fact, if you are listening to this podcast episode on Thursday, you may have noticed that it was published late. There were a lot of factors that went into this. My assistant is out of town. I am going out of town.
But the biggest one is that I procrastinated. On Tuesday, I was supposed to record this podcast episode. I put it off because I couldn’t get my computer to work. I got frustrated and I said, “I’m going to do it later.” And then guess what? Later came.
Wednesday came. My husband works from home on Wednesdays. It’s more difficult to record podcast episodes in my office when he is there. So then I put it off on Wednesday. So here it is, Thursday morning, and I’m finally recording this podcast episode an hour before it is supposed to go live.
I get it. I get procrastination. I do it all the time. But I have learned that it is not worth it. And I am continually trying to do better in this area.
What happens when we procrastinate
I recently listened to an episode from Jody Moore’s podcast ‘Better Than Happy. In episode 271, she teaches that when we put things off, we’re really just choosing pain later.
So when we procrastinate, it’s typically because it’s uncomfortable for one reason or another to do what it is we believe we need to be doing right then. In that moment, we decide that it’s uncomfortable. We don’t feel like it. We don’t want to. And so we put it off.
But really we’re just trading that pain for pain in our future, right? We are trading being uncomfortable for a less successful future – for some sort of uncomfortableness or pain in our future. Go back and listen to this episode, it has really changed my frame of mind.
I am able to ask myself, “Okay, Misty, would you prefer the pain that you’re feeling right now and push through that pain? Or would you rather the consequence of what will happen if you put this off?” That one question has helped me to make decisions much more clearly.
Tools to help you stop procrastinating
I have learned some tools for overcoming procrastination from April Perry of Learn Do Become. I learned this in her Step Program. I highly suggest that you go check it out. It is incredible.
Tool #1 – Break down the steps
One of the things she teaches is that we procrastinate because the task seems too big. It’s difficult to wrap our brains or minds around what it’s going to take to accomplish a task.
We know it’s going to take an hour or we think it might take an hour and we’ve only got 10 minutes, so we don’t start working on it because we don’t want to get into it and then have to put it off. She suggests that we take our projects and we break them down into very small steps, like 10 minutes or less.
Now, I’ll tell you how I have implemented this in my life. When I sit down to plan my year, I figure out what projects I want to accomplish during that year. And then I assign them a quarter. So which quarter am I going to work on this project? When I sit down to plan out my quarter, I assign those projects a month. Sometimes that might one project might take a couple of months. Sometimes one project might take less than a month.
Once I sit down to plan out my actual month, I assign my projects a week. Once I sit down to plan out my week, I assign my projects a day. So I break those projects down into chunks that can fit into one day. Once I sit down to plan out that day. I break that project down into tiny little steps, 5-10 minute steps.
Now, why do I do this? What makes this work so well?
Well, first it forces me to be very purposeful and thoughtful with where I’m spending my time. But beyond that, it also allows me to have a little bit of flexibility. So if, at the beginning of the year, I thought a project would take me two months but I’m getting down to it and realize that it’s only going to take me 6 weeks then I’m able to adjust that a little bit. I can even restructure the rest of my year.
Then once it gets down to that tiny little level when I’m planning my day and I break that project down into tiny little steps, 5-10 minute steps, that allows me to take advantage of small pockets of time. I don’t have to think of my project as this big 1-2 hour or 3-week project. I can think of it as just 5-10 minute snippets. When I have 10 minutes, I’m totally able to just sit down and use those 10 minutes.
I’m not perfect at this. But when I actually follow this, my life feels so much more in control, purposeful, and productive. Now you might feel like, “if I take the time to do that, it’s going to take me so much time every evening.” You’re right. It will take you some time. It takes me 30 minutes or so to do that. But guess what? I promise you will see more progress in your life and you will feel less stressed because you’re wasting far more than that 30 minutes.
There are 5 minutes that go by multiple times in your day where you decide you don’t have much time to do anything. So you open Instagram and you scroll, and you’re wasting that 5 minutes on something that really isn’t going to move you forward on any of your goals, business or otherwise.
But when you can break these things down into tiny little steps, you stop procrastinating and there’s far less wasted time in your day. When your time feels purposeful and it feels like it’s moving you forward, that’s when the overwhelm lifts off your shoulders and helps you to feel more enthusiastic and excited about your goals.
Tool #2 – Get rid of distractions
You can block sites on your browser using a browser extension on Chrome, like Freedom or Stay Focused. You can block certain sites during certain times of the day. What way when you sit down to work, you can’t get into Facebook, you can’t get into Instagram and you can better focus on whatever you have previously decided you want to spend your time on that day.
Tool #3 – Track your Time
Again, you can use a browser extension like Clockify or Rescue Time to track what you’re doing. You may want to do this before you block sites on your browser so you can get a very honest picture of where you’re spending your time every day. You can simply turn on one of these trackers and then look at it at the end of the day or the end of the week. It will tell you where you are spending your time when you were actually sitting at your computer.
This can be very eye-opening and really help you to nail down what it is that’s causing you to not move forward. What are you spending your time on instead of the things that will really move you forward in your business?
Tool #4 – Set Screen Time Limits
Consider setting screen time limits on your phone. We do this for our kids, right? We set limits on our kids’ phones and limit the amount of time that they can spend on screens. But we don’t do it for ourselves.
We recently took a little mini family vacation to Park City. We had to cancel our vacation in 2020 so we took a quick, couple of nights vacation. I promised my kids that I wouldn’t spend time on my phone. My daughter asked, “Mom, can I put screen time limits on your phone and only I know the password to your screen time limits?” So I have the password to my phone. She can’t get into my phone unless I let her, but if I want to go beyond the screen time limits that I set for myself she has to put in that password.
I know this sounds kind of silly, but it has been powerful. I will admit that I struggle with self-control when it comes to my phone and screen time. And I find ways to distract myself and fill in the small moments of my day by simply being on my phone. So I let her set limits during the vacation.
I basically had no screen time and my kids loved it. They felt so important, but I also felt empowered. It helped me see how much time I really did have in my life that I was wasting and spending on things that I didn’t want to spend my time on long-term.
When we got home, we have continued this. I have adjusted the screen time limits so that I do have a little bit of time on Instagram, Facebook, and other apps that I find enjoyable. But my daughter still has that password and I don’t. So if I want to go beyond those limits, I have to ask her. This puts that extra check on me and it balances me and my weaknesses and desires to do things that my higher self doesn’t really want to do.
Tool #5 – Set Work Hours
I remember being a teenager and my mom was talking to me about how she felt like she got more done on busy days than she did on days that were really open. You would think it would be the opposite, right? For example, I have three doctor’s appointments today for my kids and I’ve got to take the dog to the vet and I’ve got to pick up groceries. She felt like she did more on those days than on the days where there was nothing actually scheduled.
I have found this to be true in my life. The most recent time this happened was the first few weeks that my kids were home because of COVID, back in March 2020. I knew that I was going to have to use my time well because they were going to be there constantly. So, when I had two hours of work time, you better believe I was uber productive because I knew I had no other time to work.
But when I wake up on a Tuesday morning, which is the day that my husband is at work, all four kids are at school, and I am just here by myself. I tend to be much more casual about my work. I did it this Tuesday. I’ll tell you, back in March, 2020, that lasted for about a month and then it became much more difficult.
I’m not saying that this is easy. But I do know that when I have scheduled hours for my work and I have promised my family that I will not work during other hours, I feel more motivated and committed to actually working during that time and to really using my time productively.
So those are my four quick tips. Get rid of distractions on your browser, track your time on your browser, set screen time limits on your phone, and set work hours. Tell your family when those work hours are.
The most important thing I can tell you is to plan and break your project down into small steps. If you want help with that and would like to learn more about how to do that, you will want to enroll in April Perry’s Step Program. You can visit her website and sign up for a free one hour webinar where she kind of introduces this program for you. There is a link to that in the show notes. I highly highly suggest and encourage you to check that out. It has been extremely helpful for me.
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This post originally aired as an episode of The Goodness Squad podcast. New episodes are no longer being recorded, but you can still listen to past episodes on your favorite podcast app.
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