I’m going to be honest: I spend a significant amount of time talking to people, whether clients or friends, about how they can stop procrastinating and start doing whatever it is they’re avoiding. While I have a lot of issues, procrastination isn’t one of them; I actually think I’m driven by this compulsion to accomplish that’s entirely hooked into my feelings of self-worth and this prevents procrastination but OMG THIS IS NOT MY THERAPY SESSION so let’s move on, ‘k?
Here’s what I suggest to people who are really sinking into their procrastination habits:
1) Consider the fact that it’s fear that’s keeping you stalled.
This could be a fear of either breaking out of your comfort zone (if you’re procrastinating on something you don’t do all the time) or of losing the stress of not taking action. Does that last part sound crazy to you? Are you going, “Why would I want to hold onto stress?” Yes, it sounds insane but I remember a former therapist telling me that the reason some people procrastinate and then cram for things, as well as the reason some people consistently leave late for their appointments, is that the anxiety caused by having to rush takes them out of their feelings—in much the same way alcohol, drugs, food [fill in the blank] does. Fascinating, right?
2) Curb any extremist thoughts about what you’re avoiding—i.e., “I’ll write a chapter of my book tomorrow.”
How about, “I’ll write two paragraphs of my book tomorrow”? Because if you write two paragraphs tomorrow and then two paragraphs the next day and so on, pretty soon you’ve got your chapter. But if every day you keep saying you’ll write the entire chapter tomorrow and you’re not doing anything, you’ve got zip zilch nada. I know a very successful TV writer who told me when he’s feeling blocked, he’ll set a timer on his phone for 10 minutes and just commit to writing for that long. Oftentimes, by that point he’s on a roll so he just keeps at it.
3) Make yourself accountable.
The only reason I actually moved forward with writing my first book, after years of saying I wanted to write a book, is that a friend who wanted to write a book as well suggested that we send each other 500 words of our respective books every Sunday evening. I in no way thought she was serious so imagine how shocked I was to receive her 500 words the following Sunday. I scrambled together 500 words myself and continued to do that for months. Even though she eventually abandoned her book when she got a new job, I was already gunning by then and so I finished mine. But you don’t need a friend who’s working on a similar project to be accountable. You can schedule the time in your calendar and add an alert so suddenly you’ve got this beep telling you that you’ve committed to doing your work (or your exercise or whatever it is you’re procrastinating on) then. You can tell everyone (or post on social media) that you’re going to finish X project by Friday.
Okay so those are my three top tips. Do you guys have others? Do you want to try any of these? Will you pretty please tell me how they work?