Everyone I meet has some form of it whether it’s work related (postponing the difficult conversations, pushing back deadlines) or personal (hitting snooze, telling yourself you’ll go to the gym “later”).
I could give you advice and tell you stuff like:
You have to get your day started early! (which I agree with!)
You have to do the difficult things first! (which I also agree with!)
You have to keep a list and check things off! (something I do!)
So what’s wrong with telling you this?
They’re just blanket statements that quite honestly we’ve all heard a million times. They’re not personalized to what works for you.
Let me tell you a quick story.
See, pre-kids, I used to be known in my circle to get up early. Like, annoyingly crazy early.
But I wasn’t always an early bird.
It all started back in my late twenties, when I started to feel this shift.
I could no longer get away with doing things I used to - eating like crap, staying up late and not working out - without feeling the effects. So I got a gym membership, started out strong going every day after work but eventually happy hour with my girlfriends won out.
I tried again. This time with workout dvds but the same thing happened. I just could not get into the groove of keeping my workout commitment.
It was weird because while I really enjoyed the benefits of working out - feeling healthier and stronger - the later in the day I waited, the more of a chore it felt like and I just kept procrastinating until it was too late to go.
Flash forward to my thirties where I stumbled across an old Mark Twain quote:
“EAT A LIVE FROG FIRST THING IN THE MORNING AND NOTHING WORSE WILL HAPPEN TO YOU THE REST OF THE DAY.”
WTH did that even mean?! After a quick google I learned the gist of it was if you were to knock out what you hated the most, first thing in the morning, the rest of day will feel like smooth sailing.
Think about it, what happens when you finally finish that thing you’ve been putting off?
You feel relieved, relaxed, motivated to tackle the next task, more confident even!
And let’s be honest, when we procrastinate, it’s not like the thing we’re procrastinating doing goes away.
It’s still there.
Sitting on our brain.
Taking up mental space.
It doesn’t go away until you either cross it off your list or finally decide never to do it.
So for me, using Mark Twain’s quote, totally worked and not just to get me to the gym. I found it had a ripple effect in how to avoid procrastination.
It became a game I played with myself:
What am I avoiding that needs to get done today?
That’s what I’ll do first.
Things I used to procrastinate on became a fun challenge and eventually, a habit. And when new "Frogs" formed, I had a pattern that helped turned them into habits.
Ya get what I’m saying? T here’s the dirty truth behind procrastination.
Only you know what motivates you to do something or to procrastinate. Sure there’s science behind how the brain works and while I can data and fact you to death, it doesn’t matter. If all you’re doing is taking my advice, you’re missing a key element on cracking down on your procrastination habit.
The first step should actually be figuring out what motivates you and what stresses you out. This is the key to why you do and don’t and will and won’t do certain things.
If you’re struggling to figure out what motivates or stresses you out - think back over the past week. What were you excited to do? When did you feel pressure of any sort?
Once you’re keyed in to what motivates and stresses you out then your job is to figure out how to handle doing the tasks that you procrastinate doing.
Maybe it’s sandwiching the things you dislike doing (and often procrastinate doing) in between two things you love doing. So you have something to look forward to at the end like a reward.
Maybe you’re a checklist kinda person and writing down your tasks gives you the satisfaction of being able to check them off when you’re done. That’ll be your motivation to do the damn thing and stop procrastinating.
Maybe it’s digging deep and peeling back the layers of why you’re afraid to do something and therefore procrastinating. Getting to the root of why you keep putting something off.
Maybe it’s that you really just don’t want the thing and so you keep putting it off and that’s ok.
There’s no universal right answer on how to avoid procrastination. It’s different for everyone and sometimes it takes a little trial and error to figure out what works for you. You try one tactic for a few weeks and if you notice it’s working - double down on that! If it’s not, you go back to the drawing board and try something else until you have this procrastination thing nipped in the bud once and for all.