Embrace Possibility When you’re already procrastinating in the new year …

When you’re already procrastinating in the new year …

... procrastinate with another productive activity.

For me, it was writing this article. For you, it may be reading this article.

Procrastination powerfully pulls me - it's one of those habits that I am shamefully unable to shake. I've written, read and discussed about it. I understand the mental and material costs of procrastination, the impact of getting things done and the fight between short-term and long-term pleasure and pain.

Yet, I still wait until the last minute to start on my important activities and projects.

So, instead of fighting it, I've decided to harness this force and use it for good. I've created a procrastination list filled with tasks ranging from mindless tasks to important life-changing ones. Tasks on my list include:

  • Work on my next book
  • Write a new article
  • Clean my desk
  • Get to inbox zero
  • Design my online course
  • Read something on my To-Read list
  • Write in my journal
  • Review progress on my annual goals
  • Sleep

Whenever I have a big project due, I usually get through many of these items faster than if I had planned to work on them on a regular day.

In addition to this tip, here are a few others that I found helpful from procrastination researcher, Timothy Pychyl:

Don't Run Away

When procrastination pulls on you, it's tempting to leave your workspace of productivity under the guise of "I'll feel like doing it later". Fight that urge and stay put because you WON'T feel like doing it later. Planning to do your task later may feel productive because you're scheduling it but if you delay, more often than not, another day will go by.

Not Motivated, Doesn't Matter

You don't need to feel like doing something to do it. Focus on your goal and your reasons for pursuing it. If you're not sure why you're working on this task, take time to decide why the task you're procrastinating to do is worthwhile. The main message here is STOP MAKING EXCUSES.

A good exercise is to make a list of your most common excuses and use them as trip wires to alert you to procrastination. Here is my list:

  • I need sleep
  • I have plenty of time
  • Things always get done
  • I won't be able to finish if I start now
  • I can do it tomorrow
  • I don't need to do this now
  • I work better at night
  • I have enough time today to finish this later

Once you hear any of these phrases play in your head, your immediate reaction is to:

Just get started.

Don't think about the whole task, just take the first step and do something related to completing the task. Before you know it, you'll make a bigger dent in it than you previously imagined.

Understand Your Incentives

You typically procrastinate because you're gaining something from putting off the activity.

For some, it's to protect self-esteem - if you wait until the last minute and the quality is poor, it's because you didn't spend enough time to work on it.

For others, it's to show competency - if you wait until the last minute and the quality is excellent, it's because you're brilliant.


Use the Power of If ... Then

In addition to your own excuses, it's important to protect against outside distractions. Write a list of common distractions or interruptions and create If-Then rule statements that makes it easier for you to get back on track. An example might be:

IF I get pulled away by an urgent family request, THEN I'll write a note with the very next thing I plan to do when I return.

Creating these pre-decisions will help you automatically respond when procrastination tempts you.

One final tip from entrepreneur James Clear is to temptation bundle - pairing together one temptation with one task you typically procrastinate on.  For me, it's watching my favorite shows only when I'm watching it with my family.

Now that this article is out of the way - back to the project I was working on.


Originally published on Top of Mind.

Photo by Ian D. Keating

Robert Chen

Robert Chen is the founder of Embrace Possibility and author of The Dreams to Reality Fieldbook. He helps people who feel stuck move forward by guiding them to see other possibilities for their lives. He specializes in working with high performers get to the next level. If you're going through a tough time right now, check out Robert's article on How to Feel Better Right Away and if you're having trouble getting what you want out of life, check out How to Always Achieve Your Goals.

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  1. Braja Patnaik January 1, 2016 at 11:16 pm - Reply

    This is a superb article on Procrastination. I have tried to fight this constant battle with procrastination like many other people and sometimes it is a victory and some other times it is a defeat. Am impressed with the tip s given, especially the Power of ‘If…Then’ . Thanks for sharing your knowledge! Have a great year ahead!

    • Robert Chen January 2, 2016 at 12:23 am - Reply

      Thank you for your kind words Braja. Procrastination has plagued me most of my life and I’m trying my best to fight back. Glad you found the tips helpful.

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