If you’ve ever put off something on your “to-do” list for months and months before it disappears into the “to-do list cemetary” forever, then this is for you.
For chronic procrastinators, days can turn into weeks, months or even years. Our dreams can slip by, one avoided task at a time. Here’s how to avoid letting your procrastination get the best of you and how to get the work done so you can go from thinking about creating a business to actually having one.
1. Write it down.
Which one of these, if checked off, would make everything else easier or irrelevant? – Tim Ferriss
It seems obvious, but you should write down your most important tasks for the month, week and the day. Having all of your thoughts and tasks out on paper will give you a clear picture of what needs to be done to achieve your objectives. Get it out of your head and onto the paper. Now cross off 70 percent of the least crucial tasks, and define your most important tasks for the week. What are the few tasks that, if checked off, would make everything else easier or irrelevant? Keep those, and get rid of the rest.
2. Chunk it out.
How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.
Just like someone who tries to get in shape in only a week, if you try to build a business fast, you will fail. Most great things are the result of a process, not an event. If you’re trying to accomplish something big, chunk it down into small pieces. Start as small as possible, and stay consistent.
If you try to do everything at once, you’ll hate the experience and remember how tough it was to complete the task the next time it’s on your list. This will result in more procrastination. Do a little each day to work towards your goal, and you will form a habit.
If you’re trying to develop a habit of running each day, try running for just one minute the first day, and then add a minute each day thereafter. If you’re trying to reach out to potential customers every day, start with one outreach the first day. Do two the next day, then three, then four. By gradually building on the work, it will be too easy not to start at the beginning, and you’ll actually build a sustainable habit.
3. Pick the most important task and do it first.
A question I like to ask is “if I could only spend two hours on my business this week, what would I do?” Or, “if I could only complete one task on this list, which one would produce the most results?”
It is more important to do the right things than to get things done. If you’re doing the wrong things, it doesn’t matter how efficient you are, how busy you are, or how hard you work, you’re not going to get the results that you are after.
Choose the one crucial item on your to do list, and put it on a list of it’s own. Now, don’t even look at your other to-do list until that item is done. Do this every day and make a habit of it, and you’ll get more done in a couple of months than you used to do all year.
4. Get an accountability partner.
External rewards should be enough, but they aren’t. Humans are social animals. Social accountability can do wonders for our ability to honor our commitments. Sometimes something as little as knowing that we’ll have to tell someone whether we have finished a task on time or not gets us to actually follow through.
While the accountability is great, it is the shared struggle that really keeps a person going in tough times. Find someone who is trying to accomplish the same thing that you are, and set up a phone meeting once a week. Take turns going over your struggles, your accomplishments and your plans for the upcoming week. Your partner in crime will be with you through thick and thin, and they will keep you on track when you want to fall off.
5. Put money on the line.
Most people will refuse to put money on the line, and most people won’t actually get their crucial tasks done. Put money on the line, so that if you don’t reach your goals, you have to pay a friend, or even an enemy, a set amount. Every day that I miss a meditation, I pay my friend Matthew $100. How many days do you think I miss? None after I felt the hurt of paying $100 the first couple of times.
If your reaction is “I’m not going to do that, I don’t want to lose the money,” my answer is, “all the more reason to do it.” As long as you finish all of your work, you won’t have to pay it. You’re only losing money if you don’t do what you promised yourself you were going to do. If you think you’re going to lose the money, you’re already planning to fail.
6. Picture it done.
One big reason we procrastinate is that when we think about the task at hand, we think about how painful the work is going to be, how long it’s going to take, and how difficult it will be to get the result we want. Instead, when you think about what you need to get done, picture the end results. What’s the best possible thing that could come of this? Feel the good feelings associated with getting it all done, and you’re much more likely to actually do it.
7. Build momentum.
“Self-discipline is like a muscle; the more you exercise it, the stronger it gets.” Daniel Goldstein
A lot of people don’t realize that discipline is a muscle. If you don’t use it, you will have less of it. The more disciplined you are, the easier it is to stay disciplined. That’s why some people recommend that the first thing you do each day is make your bed. It starts the day of with discipline.
The old saying “if you want something done, give it to a busy person,” is true. Busy people are usually good at getting things done, because they are well-practiced. The busier I am, the more productive I am because I know I only have so much time for each task.
Start small, and stay disciplined. Practice being disciplined just like you would practice anything else, and it will get easier and easier over time. Pretty soon, you’ve built your discipline muscles, and you no longer have to even think about procrastination because getting things done just comes naturally to you.