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4 Smart Procrastination Busters

I know. You don’t want to. It feels onerous, heavy, and tedious.

I understand. It’s not something you love to do. If it were, you probably would have done it.

I get it. Someone else dumped the chore on you, or you inherited it by default.

I appreciate that you have 1,000 other things more pressing or more interesting.

We agree, though, that you’re procrastinating, and you’ve asked for help breaking through it.

Let’s not start with the usual advice to analyze why you’re resisting doing the task you’re not doing. While it’s important to listen to your self-talk, paying too much attention to the voice of Procrastination itself becomes its own activity.

What if we change the story? Instead of you being the failure, try pretending you’ve been overtaken by a fierce small troll who lives in your mind and thrives by absorbing your productive energy and focus.

Give it a personality and a name. So it’s not so scary, the sillier the name the better. Poggywoggle? Boostnot? Ankleweight?

Negotiate with it. Tell it you’ll let it share its living space in your life if it does not talk quite so loudly.

You see, Procrastination is afraid of you, its powerful landlord. It’s concerned you’ll be so successful in evicting it that it fights hard to feed on every morsel of motivation you have. Your self-awareness and self-control threaten to make it homeless.

Procrastination (what did you name it?) is always in survival mode and will stop at nothing to slurp up every bit of vitality and passion you have. Then it welcomes its twin, Self-Castigation, who has been waiting in the shadows for the chance to redecorate your thinking with touches of guilt, swatches of remorse, and carpets of shame.

Give Procrastination its due by acquiescing that at times it’s been somewhat helpful when it’s stopped you from plowing ahead with something that wasn’t thoroughly thought out. The trick is not to give it too much credit, or you’ll procrastinate more when its voice reminds you of the last time you didn’t listen and didn’t do something well.

Second, when you recognize Procrastination is in control, make a yes/no decision. Don’t turn this into a full-blown internal discussion, or it wins again.

Yes or no? Are you operating from a place of emotional reaction? Or is it that you don’t have enough facts or tools to complete something?

For example, you’ve put off calling the mechanic for a month. Is that because you’re afraid the repair bill will be too costly to pay? Or is it because you don’t know when you can take time off work to leave your car at the shop?

One response is emotional, and the other is waiting for you to look at your work schedule to see what’s possible. Remember, Procrastination thrives on emotion, so put it on a realistic diet to keep it in check.

Question your best self on every roadblock Procrastination throws in front of you. Each question will take you closer to where you need to go.

Third, lump similar tasks together. This works when you have tasks that rely on skills that aren’t your best.

At work, for example, if entering data to your accounting program bores you to the point of distraction, schedule it around the time you’ll already be at your computer doing something that requires executive function. Keep in mind your data entry efforts probably have a few rewards for completion. It might help you generate invoices (income), and, at the least, it will be over for the time being. Sometimes being finished is compensation in itself.

At home, focusing on dusting all the rooms on the first floor ties in with vacuuming before you leave each room. Trying to simultaneously dust and wash dishes while doing laundry can overwhelm many people.

Stand up or sit down. Whatever you’re doing, change your position. Procrastination is an expert at controlling your muscles.

When you realize you’re still sitting on the couch when what you meant to do was go out for a walk, you’re not in charge. Remember, like the Wizard of Oz at the controls, Procrastination lives in your brain, and your brain controls your body. Pull back the curtain on Procrastination.

Remember Yes or No? Emotion or facts? Are you still sitting down because you’re embarrassed about what people might think? Are you stuck on the couch because it’s too much of a pain to get your shoes? In the first case, the odds are strongly in your favor that no one will notice or care who you are or how you look. That’s Procrastination’s sibling Ego speaking up.

If it’s the second case in which your shoes seem too far away to get, stand up. It’ll be a lot easier to continue getting your shoes, putting them on, choosing your warm coat, and then walking out the door. Enjoy the best-case scenario of when you feel pretty good about yourself by combining your walk with the satisfaction of having picked up milk on the way home.

There are lots more ways to keep Procrastination from running your show than the four listed here:

  • Acquaint yourself with your Procrastination’s personality

  • What's the block: emotion or lack of facts/tools

  • Do similar tasks together

  • Change your position, literally.

Now, please excuse me while I get my shoes on to take Poggywoggle for a ride to the mechanic for an estimate even though it’s cold out. I might even get milk on the way home for a hot cup of tea when I return.

What works for you? What’s your Procrastination’s name? What story do you tell yourself to get moving? What has worked for you in the past?


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