I’ll spare you the storytelling set-up paragraph. If you found the title intriguing enough to get this far you can probably tell your own story about how frustrating it is to procrastinate. Here are two steps to stop procrastinating.
Step 1: Talk to yourself. Out loud.
Explain to yourself why you want or need to put this off. Make those excuses good and plentiful. For instance:
- I don’t like this task.
- I don’t want to do it.
- It’s boring.
- I don’t know how to do it.
- I shouldn’t have to do this.
- What if I do it and the result is lousy?
- I don’t have enough time to do it.
- I’ll get started later.
Surely some of them sound familiar (I’ve used ’em all.) and you may have more of your own.
Step 2: Listen to Yourself
The key to this exercise isn’t in the talking, but in the listening. Listen to yourself as if the voice were coming from some other person sharing those excuses with you. Maybe a co-worker or colleague is saying them. Perhaps a child or teenager. If someone you care about said those statements to you, how would you respond? Maybe something like this…
- I don’t like this task. (Just because you don’t like it doesn’t mean you don’t have to do it. Get on it.)
- I don’t want to do it. (We all have to do things we don’t want to do sometimes. Who likes going to funerals? Or going to the dentist? You can’t wait until you want to do it because you’ll never want to do it. May as well get started now.)
- It’s boring. (And it will be just as boring later. At which time, by the way, you will have made it even worse by wasting hours, days or weeks dreading it. Now there’s some fun. It’s just a task — get it over with.)
- I don’t know how to do it? (What part of the task is stumping you? Let’s get you the help you need.)
- I shouldn’t have to do this. (Maybe you’re right. Who should have to do this? Can you delegate it? Pay someone else to do it?)
- What if I do it and the result is lousy? (What makes you think it will be lousy? Do you have a history of getting lousy results?)
- I don’t have enough time to do it. (How much time will it take? Can you break the project down into do-able chunks? Let me help you do that.)
- I’ll get started later. (What are you doing now that’s more important than this task?)
See how it works? You end up having both sides of the conversation and can rationally see that the excuses don’t have much validity. I know that you know this stuff but reminders are what get us moving in the right direction when we’ve veered off the productive path and into procrastination.
Try it! Let me know how it works for you.