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3 Secrets to Overcome Procrastination

November 28, 20234 min read

Many people struggle with procrastination. Webster’s dictionary defines “procrastination” in the following way: “to put off intentionally the doing of something that should be done.” Although some may argue with this definition, most agree with the concept of putting something off, instead of doing it.

Do you ever find yourself putting things off? If so, do you know what you can do to prevent yourself from doing so? Below are 3 secrets I’ve discovered that help you move into action.  

Later vs Now

Secret #1 – Get Clarity!

I’ve discovered that lack of clarity is a major reason people procrastinate. It’s very difficult to take action on something when you lack clarity.

Imagine placing an arrow in a bow and pulling back the bowstring. You are ready to shoot the arrow. The problem is that you are not sure of the target. It’s impossible to hit the target until you know what the target is.

Life’s goals can be fuzzy. Have you ever told your teenage son that you want him to clean his room today? He agrees to do it, but you later return to inspect his results, only to find the room is still messy, and the job undone. What’s the problem with this scenario? It does not have a clear goal or objective. “Clean your room” is too general. What is “clean” to one person may not be clean to another person. To truly accomplish the goal of a clean room requires more specificity.  

Let’s replay this scenario with more clarity. “Son, I want you to clean your room today by 2 pm. By clean, I mean make your bed, pick up everything on the floor, dust all flat surfaces, and vacuum the floor. Remember, all this needs to be done by 2 pm.” The likelihood of his cleaning the room to your satisfaction is much higher with this 2nd scenario. You have specified what and when you want it done.  

The reason we do not take action is that we think in generalities and lack specificity.  Ambiguity does not compel you into action. Your mind drifts. There’s no sense of urgency.  There’s no objectivity.    

The next time you find yourself procrastinating about something, work hard to gain clarity. It is much easier to take action when you have a clear understanding of what you seek to accomplish, in what way, and by when. Clarity enables you to envision what the project will appear like when completed. Clarity compels you into action.

Task Prioritization

Secret #2 – Prioritize!

On any day, multiple responsibilities or tasks vie for your time and energy. It’s not possible to do everything. If you focus on too many tasks, you will retard your progress or procrastinate getting things done.

It’s helpful to create a “task list.” Don’t just create it. Prioritize it. Raising a task to the top of your list creates urgency. It’s good to work on one task at a time. By prioritizing and focusing on one task you will be more likely to get things done.   

People procrastinate because they are trying to do too many things simultaneously. No one really multitasks. Trying to do so creates confusion, inefficiency, and ineffectiveness.

Prioritizing not only helps you get things done, it helps you get the right things done. Most of us have a long list of things each day we want to get done. At the end of the day, we may only get a few things done. Prioritizing helps make sure you get the “right things” done.  

Prioritizing creates urgency. Focus on one thing at a time—the most important thing. Such focus creates concentration and intensity. It will compel you into action. It moves you from inactivity to activity.

Tie Time to Tasks

Secret #3 – Tie Time to Tasks!

Procrastination prevents you from using time well. You may realize time is passing by, but you do not take action. A key to forcing yourself into action is to estimate how much time an action will take.

For example, you know you need to clean your refrigerator. This is not your favorite task, so you postpone it. What if you were to make it a game by estimating how much time it will take you to perform that task? Perhaps you think it is possible to accomplish it in 45 minutes. Your goal is to “beat your estimated time.”  

As silly as this seems, estimating the time a task will take compels you into action. You want to beat your time. It turns the most mundane task into fun. You stop focusing on how you feel about doing the task. You focus on how quickly you can get it done.  

Time estimation can be done with recording keeping, office procedure, tax information, etc. Gather the tasks you normally procrastinate in doing and estimate how much time you think it will take to perform them. Then, choose one task and work to beat your time. Before long, you will have those unpleasant tasks completed!

Obviously, procrastination occurs for a variety of reasons. Sometimes, there are deeper, underlying emotional or personal issues that prevent you from taking action. Regardless of why you have difficulty taking action, these 3 secrets will help you overcome your struggles with procrastination. Please give them a try and let me know your results!

Grow Your Business By Getting Out of the Way

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Dave Pennington PhD

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