The age old tale of procrastination is one that you’ve probably experienced. You have content to create or work to do around your launch, but as the hour draws nearer, you find yourself doing other activities. And, depending on what role procrastination plays in your life, this frustrating cycle may repeat itself.
The key is understanding what’s happening subconsciously when you procrastinate and taking some action steps so you can make the best use of your time and beat procrastination for good.
The adage “I work better under pressure” is actually your conscious mind’s way of justifying procrastination tendencies and is a commonly held belief in our work-oriented society.
Procrastination can be sneaky for entrepreneurs, though, so it’s imperative to see where it’s showing up for you. It can be more obvious or more subtle—like when you get up to make a snack after starting an important task, spending a lot of time doing low priority tasks, or waiting for the “right time.” Once you notice the ways in which procrastination is popping up for you, it’s time to understand what’s happening on a subconscious level.
The matter of control
There’s a common misconception that procrastination occurs as a result of poor self control, an inability to manage time, or laziness. The great news is that none of that is true—you don’t lack self control or time management skills if you regularly put off tasks. Procrastination has everything to do with the emotion surrounding the task.
It’s likely you delay a task because it’s challenging—or seems trivial in comparison with other tasks. (This is the moment when suddenly it sounds like a thrilling opportunity to deep clean the baseboards.) Research conducted on this phenomenon shows that procrastination is really about prioritizing emotional management in the present moment, as opposed to the future.
In other words, the task you’re putting off currently is eliciting some kind of negative emotion (think: anxiety, boredom, stress) and your brain wants to avoid it. And managing these emotions becomes more of a priority than your future emotions or overall productivity even.
Usually at the root of the issue is a limiting pattern of thinking, such as questioning your capability around the task at hand, worrying what others will think about it, or wondering if it’ll be “good enough.”
Noticing that these thoughts are buried somewhere in your brain is the first step to beating procrastination for good. Acknowledge your subconscious is what’s holding you back as opposed to something else (like a personality flaw, poor work ethic, or laziness).
Then take these three simple steps daily to rewire your brain to make procrastination a permanent pattern of the past.
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Simple but powerful
1. Set deadlines for yourself and eliminate distractions
If you already have an agreement with others about a deadline, then set your personal deadline for a few hours or days prior to the official one. Plan your deadline around the date your students are counting on.
People have a tendency to fall into the planning fallacy. This is when you underestimate the amount of time it takes to complete a task, even if you’ve done something similar before. The planning fallacy and procrastination go hand-in-hand. Allocating extra time for yourself is helpful in avoiding this.
2. Visualize the successful completion of the project at hand
Visualization is a powerful tool when it comes to overcoming procrastination in a timely manner. Procrastination occurs in tandem with some kind of emotion. Visualization can combat that by changing your emotions around a task. Close your eyes and take five to ten diaphragmatic breaths. Then imagine the moments following the successful completion of the project or task.
Visualize: Finishing the last section of your course with time to spare. Creating a social media marketing strategy. Drafting your first email to your email list. Then visualize feeling confident and proud of your work. The most important part of this process is imagining how you’ll feel in this moment. The emotion around it is what will act as a catalyst for your brain to take action.
3. Cultivate a positive inner monologue around completing tasks
If you do find yourself procrastinating, observe it without judgement, and be forgiving of yourself. Beating procrastination means reprogramming habits and patterns that are deeply seated in your subconscious, so it’s OK if you slip up.
Be wary using words like should, would, and could when talking to yourself or even others.
“I should have written up the content for this week but instead I flipped between tabs on my computer for an hour.”
There’s a negative judgement implied with the use of these words. Likewise, pay attention to phrases like “need to” and “have to” as these imply you have no choice in the matter. That sense of obligation can elicit negative emotions.
“I get to write copy for my course,” or “I choose to have a branding photo shoot” are more positive and can make your task feel more manageable and exciting.
Once you’ve mastered those three simple but effective tips, you can add in other productivity methods to the mix:
Complete the most challenging task of the day first thing in the morning
Prioritize scheduling out your time a daily habit
Check in with a friend, peer, or audience to maintain accountability
These are all effective ways to help you stop procrastination for good. Ultimately, understand that procrastination is common among entrepreneurs but is not a hill you cannot climb.
How do you beat procrastination daily?