Olive Von Topp
How to Stop Procrastinating and Actually Get Stuff Done
Do you procrastinate? I'm the queen of procrastination. Hell, I've even been meaning to write a blog on this for months but have procrastinated on doing it! Like many people, my procrastination is linked to my perfectionism. And while I have worked really hard at managing my perfectionism, procrastination is the one I seem to have the most difficulty with. Here's a few quick tips that I've been working on that have been helping me overcome some of my procrastinating tendencies:
1. Notice your thoughts
Surprise! If this always feels like my answer to any problem it is because your thoughts are so important, and sometimes we don't actually take a minute to question them. Noticing your thoughts is the first step in changing your life.
Can you notice what thoughts come up for you when you think about doing the thing you're procrastinating doing? Are they:
"This is too hard."
"I don't know what I am doing."
"I can't do it well/perfectly so why bother?"
"What if I screw it up?"
"I don't want to"
"I'm so overwhelmed and don't know where to start."
These are all examples of perfectionist thinking! Getting aware of these thoughts is instrumental in changing them.
2. Choose a thought that is more helpful
Those thoughts aren’t yours and they aren't helping you. They are core negative beliefs ingrained in you since childhood. Telling yourself it is hard or you don't know what you are doing isn't helping you.
Instead, can you choose thoughts that are more motivating that you can believe such as:
"I'm willing to try"
"Let's just try doing it for 5 minutes and see what happens"
"I don't need to do it perfectly"
"Done is better than perfect"
"Progress is better than perfect"?
3. Get comfortable with failure
Failing is an essential part of life. It is part of learning and growing. It is feedback. One common factor among 'successful' people is their willingness to take risks and to fail.
People who are good at failing don't make failure mean something about them.
They don't take it personally.
They view it as an opportunity to learn and try again. What meaning are you giving failure?
Also, it might be worth examining your thoughts around success. Do you have some deep fears around succeeding? What will happen if you ‘succeed’? Are you afraid you’ll lose friends, or people won’t like you, or money will change you, etc.? Pay attention to your thoughts around success as well as failure.
4. Set a Timer
Setting a timer can be a helpful tool. Even just committing to work on something for 5 mins can be helpful. So often, we find that after 5 mins of doing something hard, it isn't as difficult as we imagined it to be and we end up being willing to work on it for longer.
I like to set a timer of 25 mins to work on something uninterrupted. So, no checking my phone, no checking emails, no staring blankly into space, etc. Just 25 mins of straight work, for which I know I can reward myself with a quick phone check or stretch afterwards.
I've found this really helpful for writing- a place I can get really tied up in perfectionism. Knowing I just have to write something, anything, for 25 mins and can edit it afterwards has been super helpful in getting thoughts out.
And most of the time, it's not nearly as bad as I think it will be.
5. Break Down Task into Smaller Tasks
One of the things that can lead to procrastination is overwhelm. Sometimes we can look at tasks and they just feel too big and we aren't sure where to start. By breaking down a larger task into smaller tasks, it can feel more manageable.
For example: "Clean House" can be broken into smaller tasks of "vacuum", 'do dishes", "laundry", etc. Plus we get to feel multiple senses of accomplishment as we cross each one off our list, and who doesn’t love that?
6. Put it in your schedule
I'm a fan of writing out my to-do list and then putting it in my schedule with allotted time. (ie. vacuum 1-1:30pm, dishes 1:30-1:45, break 1:45-2, etc). Then trying my best to stick to that time can be really helpful for motivation. When I see my day all scheduled out, I can see what is and isn't possible and I have some direction, which can also help with overwhelm.
Plus, I feel motivated to try and stay on task so as to not throw off the rest of the day.
7. Do the Hardest Thing First
So often, we do the easiest stuff first because it feels good to check some stuff off our list. Or we feel like getting it out of the way will make us able to focus on the bigger things. But often what ends up happening is we just procrastinate on the important thing but we try to disguise it as productivity because we are accomplishing small tasks. I'm definitely guilty of this. I recently started trying to do the bigger/more difficult stuff first, which for me is usually content creation/writing. Instead of doing all my administrative stuff like responding to emails or book-keeping, I do that later in the day or evening. I find I'm at my best and have the most creative energy first thing in the morning, so I want to optimize that time.
8. Count to Three
This doesn't work for everyone, but I do this sometimes as motivation to stop procrastinating, and tostop giving myself time to make excuses.
It works especially for things like getting out of bed or to stop scrolling on social media. I just say, “Okay I am going to start the thing in "3, 2, 1" and then I do it. I don't think about it. I don't make excuses. I just do it. Well, most of the time.
9. Accept Imperfection
Perfection is a myth. It doesn't exist. You can't achieve it. The sooner we start accepting that, the less time we will spend chasing a unicorn and more time doing things and feeling a sense of accomplishment. You will never do anything perfectly.
If you find you are getting caught up with an image of perfection in your head before you start, helpful questions might be:
"Can I be happy with this?"
"Given my current time and capacity, what am I capable of achieving?"
"Is this good enough?"
So there ya have it. A few strategies to stop procrastinating and get shit done. Now, stop procrastinating and go do the thing, you beautifully capable human!