Productivity / Problem solving

Five easy steps to beat procrastination

Do you let inertia or procrastination stop you from working on the things you know you should be working on? I have some easy to implement ideas on how to beat procrastination.

18 November 2015 by

Let’s face it, one of the most ‘convenient’ things about being a soloist is that there is always plenty to keep you busy. You can legitimately while away your available hours doing ‘stuff’ without ever getting to any important/critical/strategic tasks.

So you’re procrastinating, but you can tell yourself that you’re doing work that needs to be done at some point, so it’s not really procrastinating, because you have been productive at least …

I’ve been there, done that. And I’ve almost always regretted it when the work that needed to be done (ie – the important work), ended up being done as a rush job at the last minute.

So I have been having a good look at this pattern to see if there isn’t a way to break it. Here are my five steps on how to beat procrastination and inertia:

Step one: have a plan

Always, always plan what you want to achieve the night before. Start the day with a clear idea of what you want to achieve. Sitting down at your desk without a plan makes it far too tempting to do that other stuff – and before you know it, half the day has gone by without anything particularly tangible to show for it.

"Let’s look at some easy ways to halt inertia and start moving; to end procrastination and start achieving."

Step two: know yourself

Know your energy levels. Some people work best in the morning, some at night. Know yourself, and schedule the work that requires good brain attention at the times of highest energy. You can always do that ‘other stuff’ during times of lower energy.

Step three: chunk it up into manageable pieces

Sometimes the overall task is too big and daunting and it is hard to know where to start. If you have a big project or task, break it down into more specific SMART tasks (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timebound), then schedule those tasks. Diarising ‘write book’ is unlikely to yield too much action, but ‘write 500 words of chapter one by lunchtime tomorrow’ will definitely get you on your way.

Step four: have an honest chat with yourself

If you find yourself getting stuck doing something, either avoiding it or putting it off with some pretence or other; spend some time doing some active pre-thinking about the task. At the risk of sharing too much information, I often do this thinking in the shower or bath – when I can properly reflect on it without being interrupted. Ask yourself:

  • What is the block to doing the task? Is the task is too daunting? Are you worried about some component of it (for example – is it an unpleasant task?) Are you scared that someone will reject you/your proposal? Do you need to have a stern chat to yourself around the implications of not doing it? Do you need some external help to get you through your blocks? Are you self-sabotaging your potential success? Somehow, naming your blocks and fears can help you come up with a plan for how to manage them.
  • What will it feel like when you have completed it? Take a moment to revel in that feeling. Is it getting you closer to a bigger goal or success?
  • What’s the first thing you would need to do to get moving on it? That is, in your mind, start writing the first paragraph you’d need to write, or what you’d say in the first phone call. Imagine yourself doing this very first thing – and then what’s next from there? Often, just thinking through the specific steps in detail seems to kick up my energy level and makes it easier to get me moving.

Step five: just do it

Which leads me to this: if the planning and the thinking don’t work, then Just Do It.

Action begets action; movement begets movement. It doesn’t need to be perfect, but at least you will have started. And often, it is just the motion of starting that is all that is necessary to overcome the inertia caused by procrastination.

Do you have a favourite tip to help you beat procrastination?

Tammy Tansley

is the Principal of Tammy Tansley Consulting and the author of Do What You Say You'll Do, a book for new leaders and those reinventing their leadership style. She is co owner of Help Me HR.

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