So you want to know how to stop procrastinating?
Is that because you're procrastinating right NOW?!!!
I definitely know what that's like... when you SHOULD be doing real work but first you better take a nap, clean something or have a snack!
Why do people procrastinate?
(It's NOT because you're lazy... thinking that will only create another problem to overcome!)
The reason we procrastinate is because human beings are programmed to take the "path of least resistance". Our brains assess what will lead to less pain and more pleasure, then take the easier way out. (even right now you might be thinking... there's too much text on this page to read!! That's why I've added headings, pictures and bullet points to break it up for you. It will make more sense as you read on).
For example, if it's more painful to reply to that email that's in the "too hard basket" and more pleasurable to check Facebook for how many likes you got on that awesome post you did... then most people will make the decision to jump on Facebook and procrastinate.
Why do we take the path of least resistance? It's a survival mechanism built into us to conserve energy... like a power saving mode so we only do something if we HAVE to. The problem is this survival mechanism helps us in the short-term but NOT the long-term.
That's because most things worth achieving (like learning a skill, saving money or creating your ultimate dream business) require a long-term focus.
So all of that is how NOT to procrastinate...here's what to do instead...
How to stop procrastinating
There are many possible solutions. I prefer long-term solutions which internally align your vision, mission and purpose. I know that takes time, so here's a quick fix instead. The secret lies in this quote:
"Nothing is terribly difficult when you break it into small pieces" - Henry Ford
Let me explain why this quote is so powerful. Do you ever procrastinate eating ice cream? What about something else easy like going to www.google.com? Why don't you procrastinate doing these things?
The reason you procrastinate is because you perceive something to be difficult, so you take the easier option.
How can you use this to overcome procrastination? Here's the trick. The opposite of the quote is also true... If something is TOO difficult it means you haven't broken it down into small enough pieces.
- Step 1: Break your task into small pieces
- Step 2: If it still seems too hard, break it into smaller pieces again
- Step 3: Do the first easy step
These 3 steps are the same even if you want to go to the gym, start a business or create world peace.
Examples of how to stop procrastinating
Here's a simple example: Can't get out of bed?
Instead of taking a massive leap from being comfy in bed to leaping out of bed with energy, we put small stepping stones in the middle to make it easier. Here's the example of using the 3 steps above:
- What smaller steps could I break this into? I could sit up in bed for 10 seconds with my eyes open
- Hmm, that still sounds hard. What other step could I put in between? I could open my eyes and check my phone to see my messages for 30 seconds. After that I can sit up in bed for 10 seconds
- Sounds like a plan, I'll start doing step 1
Here's another example: I'm afraid of public speaking
- Talk to the mirror for 10 seconds
- Talk to 1 person while you are both standing up for 30 seconds
- Talk to 2 people that are sitting down (while you are standing up) for 1 minute
- Can you see that if you keep increasing the number of people you speak in front of slowly, and keep increasing the amount of time you are speaking for, you won't have much overwhelm, procrastination or resistance? And pretty soon you'll be rocking out confidently in stadiums packed full of people 🙂
Here's another example: Flying to the moon
Just kidding... but not really! You would still achieve this by breaking down the steps into smaller steps. And your very first step might be something like "visit www.google.com".
See how it's hard to procrastinate visiting a website (even though that could be the FIRST step to flying to the moon?!).
Where to from here?
The next time you feel you want to put it off, just remember Henry Ford's great quote "Nothing is terribly difficult when you break it into small pieces". Then start asking yourself how you can break the task into smaller steps, or make it easier.
Once you get the hang of it, you will find yourself procrastinating far less frequently (or ending it all together). Your results will occur more effortlessly and you will achieve more in 1 week, 1 year and 1 lifetime than most people dream.
Read more about: Time Management