How to stop procrastinating

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If you postpone your writing endlessly, here’s my advice on how you can stop procrastinating…

By Ann Gomez

Are you a procrastinator? Maybe you’re even reading this instead of doing a certain task. If so, no judgment here. We all procrastinate (me included). Technically, research tells us that 95% of the population procrastinates to some extent, according to Piers Steel, author of The Procrastination Equation. I  call the other 5% liars, but I digress.

There are several psychological drivers of procrastination. Arousal procrastinators rely on the pressure of a deadline, as opposed to avoider procrastinators who become immobilized by fear of failure. Some of us fall into either category, depending on the situation.

Ultimately, every time we face a decision, we are more likely to procrastinate. We humans have a “short-term bias,” which usually inspires us to choose an easier task (with an immediate payoff, such as seeing our likes tick up), even if our long-term goals align more closely to the task we are delaying.

But last-minute-itis comes at a cost. It impedes our ability to get things done efficiently and effectively. It lowers our work quality, increases our stress, and causes strain in our relationships. Sometimes, there’s even a financial cost to procrastination associated with the higher cost of last-minute ticket purchases or other penalties for being late.

The good news is there are practical steps we can easily take to minimize our inherent tendency to delay and, instead, ACT on procrastination.

ACT stands for:

Clearly define all specific steps related to the work — but focus on the next immediate task. Use short-term deadlines to drive progress.

Boost your confidence by starting early, seeking input, striving for good enough, and curbing any self-defeating thoughts.

A lack of confidence is often the root reason for so many of us procrastinate. In my next column, I’ll share how you can use confidence-building strategies to overcome uncertainty and resist the urge to procrastinate.

Nothing drives productivity like a deadline. If you can attach a deadline to a dreaded task, you might find your reluctance fades away as the timeline draws near. To take your productivity a step further, tell someone else, like a colleague or friend, when you’ll complete the task. This action will give you another layer of accountability.

These three strategies will help you take action and gain momentum. And, over time, you can also work on establishing routines and automating any repetitive processes.

One more tip I like is to pair any task I dislike with one I enjoy. When I do this, I’m much more likely to complete the unlikeable task. Here are some examples: Clean your house while listening to your favourite tunes. Give a colleague some feedback you’ve been avoiding — but do it over a yummy lunch. Do your dreaded pre-call planning outside, while you’re also soaking up some glorious sunshine. (Of course, for Canadians like me, this won’t work in chilly January.)

But you get the idea. Pairing tasks can feel luxurious. One client I know prepares her mandatory monthly report while treating herself to a pedicure. So decadent!

I hope these tips inspire you to stop procrastinating, so you can start making progress on your most important writing goals.

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