My Weapons of Choice to Overcome Procrastination

Today, I really didn’t feel like writing. I fought against the idea. All I wanted was to chill on the couch catching up on Netflix. Procrastination almost got the best of me but I prevailed! How often does procrastination get the better of you? It’s easy to postpone something you must do and go for something fun instead. Also, it’s easy to postpone repeatedly, especially if nobody is there to kick you in the ass. It’s hard to overcome procrastination, damn hard.

You Must Slay the Beast

In his book The War of Art, Steven Pressfield calls it Resistance, a living manifestation hellbent on thwarting your every intention and effort to be productive. He also describes it as fighting with a giant fire-breathing dragon guarding the coveted treasure. It sure feels like it. I don’t blame people for simply running away. It takes a lot of courage and determination to win against it and to consistently do so every time. Like everything in life, it takes practice but it’s achievable.

I’m no stranger to procrastination. I always postponed chores and responsibilities until the very last minute. As for those things I didn’t have a deadline or an obligation for, well, that was added to the wishlist. The wishlist is that record where you keep all the things you’d like to do or know you should do but don’t. Nobody is there to nag you about it. And so, all of these remain on the wishlist, never to be tackled except for the rare outburst of motivation that surges once every third full moon. That is always short-lived. You must slay the beast or it will prevent you from getting things done.

Don’t Wait for Inspiration or the Right Time

When you procrastinate, there’s always an excuse to not do something right away. The excuse, no matter how lame it is, always seems to be enough to convince you to not take action. Don’t wait for motivation and inspiration to show up. It guarantees nothing gets done. It’s not by waiting for a divine light to touch you that good work will get done. It’s by taking your craft seriously and putting out as much crappy work as you have to in order to come out with the one gem you’ve been waiting for. You have to work towards your inspiration and motivation. Don’t wait for it.

There’s also waiting for the right time. Don’t wait for the right time. Make the time. Making sense of excuses is the first step but it’s also the easiest part. If you have any bit of common sense in you, it’s easy to realize how silly they are.

Things get harder when you must fight that intense negative emotion erupting inside that does all it can to prevent you from doing what you should do. Luckily over time, I found tricks to help me handle the intense feeling of dread and turn it around in a positive twist.

Be Patient. Don’t Give Up

I use patience and perseverance to avoid procrastinating. The issue with anything that requires a sustained effort is that when progress isn’t fast enough or visible, people tend to give up or put off their work. You know you should be doing something about it but you feel you’ll be wasting your time and you relax instead. Progress or not, beating procrastination is a habit that must be developed. It helps see progress over time.

Whenever I put off something I must do, I tell myself that this will be several steps backward and that the longer I postpone it, the more I’ll need to catch up. The longer you are not doing something, the more time it takes to get back into things in order to regain the same level of productivity.

Using a Calendar and the 5-Minute Rule

One of the best ways I found to beat procrastination is to schedule my activities. I’ve stopped hoping for the right time to come. I make time for these activities by writing them down in a calendar. This has for effect to make me look forward being productive and make things more official. Whatever is on the wishlist, schedule it on the calendar and get it done!

There come times where I’m really not feeling it. Even if it’s scheduled on the calendar, I couldn’t be bothered. For those moments, I use Chris Friesen’s 5-minute rule. I force myself to do something for only 5 minutes and then check whether I want to keep going after that. It’s highly effective. 9 times out of 10 I keep going. It will do the same for you.

Work Through the Slump

Something even more powerful with this technique is that I harness my negative emotions towards the activity and turn them around into highly productive times. Often, my focus and concentration during that time are much more intense. It most likely comes from a strong desire to make the best of this time and get it done. Overcoming the mental block and going through it is one of the most rewarding feelings you can have. I have come to look forward to times when I really don’t want to do something. Then I just go and crush it. There’s this rush of energy and satisfaction flowing through me when I complete my tasks. It’s addictive.

Divide and Conquer

Another trick that is the good old divide and conquer tactic. From years of planning software development using the agile methodology, I became good at splitting tasks. By splitting a bigger task into smaller ones, it makes it a lot easier to tackle mentally and faster to complete. Aim for tasks that you can do in an hour or less. The shorter the better. Make sure your tasks have a specific outcome in mind so you don’t end up wasting your time moving air. There’s a trick for that!

Make S.M.A.R.T Goals

To make the best of your time working on tasks, make sure to set S.M.A.R.T. goals. The acronym stands for goals that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time-bound. If you make sure that your tasks follow this simple formula, you will ensure that you will be spending more time getting things done than wasting it.

Make it a Game

Finally, the last trick I use is to help keep the momentum going. I transform all these boring and daunting tasks into a game challenge. I use Jerry Seinfeld’s “Don’t break the chain” trick. When I am done with a task, I will note it down on the calendar or in a file made for that specific purpose. For every recurring task, I strive to not break the chain by avoiding procrastination. Productive or not, it’s important to keep doing it day in and day out. The more I do it, the better I get and the more productive my sessions become.

Whether it’s for school, house chores, that new backyard patio project or building your business from the ground up, keep these tricks in mind and they’ll surely give you an edge towards beating procrastination and finally seeing it through!