How to Stop Procrastinating
Procrastination may not be the sexiest topic on the planet, but it’s one that affects all of us. And as a former Olympic gold medal-level procrastinator, I want to share with you how to stop procrastinating in a way that actually works!
I was recently asked about procrastination in an interview, and it sent me down a deep rabbit hole of research that I’m going to share some of my biggest takeaways from in this post.
Then, I’m going to give you what I firmly believe to be the number one tool, tip, or strategy that you can put in place to help alleviate procrastination in your life.
What does Proscrastinating Mean?
Before we can really dive into how to stop procrastinating, we need to understand what procrastination truly is.
When I say that you are procrastinating, what I simply mean is that you are avoiding doing something at the moment when you feel like you should be doing it.
- Maybe it’s the laundry you keep walking by even though you know it really needs to be done.
- Maybe it’s the five things on your to-do list that keep getting moved over from day to day.
- Maybe it’s the thing that isn’t due until Friday, so you put it off all week. Then, suddenly it’s Thursday night, and you’re scrambling!
Procrastination can take many forms, but it essentially all comes back to the same idea... avoiding what you need to do when you need to do it.
The Wrong Way to Combat Procrastination
When I began doing some reading and Googling of the conventional advice on how to stop procrastinating, there was one tip that kept coming up again and again that I wholeheartedly disagree with.
Here’s that tip: At the start of each day, sit down and write your top three things that need to get done that day. Then, don't do anything else until those top three things are done. And once those are done, then you're free to tackle anything else on your list of things to do for the day.
I disagree with this method of approaching your day for a number of reasons. The first of which is that it can be paralyzing!
Having to wake up each morning and figure out what your “top three things” are can be overwhelming, because between your family, your home, and your work, you may have a lot of important things going on. And choosing just three can feel overwhelming in the moment.
Another thing is that sometimes we have days that are chock full from the time we wake up to the time we go to bed with things that may not fall into one of our top three categories. We have appointments or errands, and on those days, you may not make progress on your top three things. And that’s okay!
Why Do We Procrastinate?
Another thing I uncovered in my research and in talking to women in my community is that there are really two reasons why we procrastinate on a task.
The first reason we procrastinate in doing something is that it’s a task we simply don’t want to do.
I get it! But truthfully, there are just certain things in life that we all have to do that we don't enjoy doing.
Unfortunately, there are no amount of tips or tricks that can make you love them, but what we can do is get systems in place that help us recognize why now might be a better time than later to rip off the bandaid and get it done.
The next reason we procrastinate — and this is far more subtle — is that we honestly think we will have plenty of time later to do it.
This happens because we lack the ability to see into the next several days or weeks of our life and understand that, if we don't handle it now, there will be a lot of negative consequences later on.
If you don't have a system in place that gives you clear visibility about where your time is already spoken for during your week, it's easy to fall into a trap of thinking that you’re going to have the time later to get something done, when in reality, you might not have that time.
The #1 Way to Stop Procrastinating
If you’ve been hanging out with me for long, you might have seen where we were going with this, but...
My number one recommendation for how to stop procrastinating is weekly planning.
This is something I talk about a lot and something we go into in-depth inside my TOP Program.
But if you’re brand new to the idea of weekly planning, what I am essentially talking about is having a place — whether it's a physical planner or a Google Calendar — that gives you a weekly view with times next to every single day of the week. Because this type of view allows you to easily see what time is already spoken for in your week and make decisions accordingly.
Recently, I had an hour blocked off to record a podcast episode, and when it came time to do it, I really wanted to put it off. But when I pulled out my TOP Planner and looked at the week, I knew there was no other solid hour where my house would be quiet and I wouldn’t be giving up family time to get it done, unless I was waking up super early on Saturday.
So, rather than procrastinating when I didn’t want to do the task, I could objectively look at my week and get the task done! And remember, I’m a former Olympic-level procrastinator.
I spent years of my life last mitigating all the things I didn't like to do simply because I truly let myself believe there was going to be the time later. And yet, time and time again, I found myself stuck in the last-minute chaos of trying to squeeze things just under the wire.
I now know that I need to have a place that shows me what the consequences of procrastinating clearly will look like, and you need that place, too.
Does that mean you’ll never look at your weekly plans and still choose to procrastinate because you feel like you can live with those consequences? Probably not. But I’m willing to bet that MOST of the time, it will be that final little push you need to just do the thing you said needed to be done because you will see what the impact is downstream if you put it off.