Something a little different today.
I’m in the lead-up to launching my Stop Procrastinating, Start Succeeding course (the launch date is 22 November), so I asked a bunch of people a couple of brief questions about procrastination – what they struggle with and how they deal with it. These are people whose blogs I follow, or who follow me on Twitter, mostly – but all people with businesses and websites, who therefore know at least something about taking action.
Some of them were (presumably) too busy taking action to get back to me. Others, or their assistants, did get back to me to say they were too busy, which is fine. But eight people generously took the time to share with me, and so with you, their tips for overcoming procrastination.
Their answers are below. Not only does this give you a chance to hear their words of experience, but you can also discover what interesting people they are and what quality material they’re publishing, because I’ve linked to their Twitter accounts (from their names) and their websites. They’re a good-looking bunch, too, as you’ll see from the photos.
Procrastination has many evil minions, but I believe that the lord is still notorious fear. Fear of ridiculing yourself, fear of screwing up, fear of making it not as perfect as it could be. Ahh, the list is endless. But fear really is the worst enemy in my life.
The way I fight it is all about NOT thinking. I have cultivated a naive aura, which I brought back from my earliest childhood. So, if you want to do something, you just do it. You don’t think about what could happen, you just GO FOR IT with the attitude of a naive child that’s curious as heck. It’s hard to get there, but it’s so worth it. Life becomes incredible when you leap before you think.
This may go against what other people are saying but I don’t have one main area of struggle against procrastination. For me, everything is a struggle. I’m terrified of change so will put off decisions that will result in new and different stuff happening. I’ve never freelanced full time until quite recently so I’m used to having frequent distractions.
While I don’t have one main area, there is one main reason. Growth. My business is growing at a fast pace and I find myself using procrastination as a tool to keep me within my comfort zone. I know I’ve been shooting myself in the foot by doing so but it took a while to recognize why I was doing it.
To deal with procrastination, I stopped rebelling against it. I’m used to working a certain way and I just have to make slight modifications. Instead of watching Star Trek when I’m stuck, I allow myself to watch an episode when I’ve accomplished certain tasks. I’ve hired coaches to help get some insight on how to work through the change. I have a totem tennis pole that I specifically use when I need to work through a tough situation.
I’m now embracing procrastination as part of my work day but it’s hard to maintain the balance between productive procrastination and doing nothing.
It goes in cycles for me. I may go through a period where I deal more with perfectionism, then another where I’m all into worrying, but in the end they’re all based in fear.
I’ve learned to trust my heart throughout the years, and I’ve learned to trust the process. We all go through our ups and downs, and they’re all there for a reason.
My biggest area of struggle with procrastination? Those mean, nasty voices that say, ‘That won’t be good enough,’ or ‘You don’t have enough knowledge/experience/skill to do that…’
Those voices can be so persistent, so subtle, so persuasive. Sometimes, you don’t even slow down enough to realise that they’re there, whispering to you, in that wheedling or finger-wagging or just plain malicious way. Sometimes it’s easy to confuse those voices with the facts, the evidence.
To deal with it, just noticing the voices – your unhelpful ‘self-talk’ inside your mind – is often enough. Becoming aware of them, with kindness and curiosity – ‘Ah, there’s that thing I do…’ – can instantly dissolve their power. Because these voices simply have no intrinsic value except that which we choose to give them.
Once you become more consciously aware that the voices – or a particular voice – are there, you can find all sorts of creative ways to work with them. It can be as simple as changing the tone of the voice to something more encouraging and reassuring. Research suggests that when we ‘reframe’ our self-talk to something more helpful, it’s very important to consider the tone of voice as well as the content. For example, we can ‘reframe’ the content of our inner dialogue but, if we’re saying the more helpful things with the same mean and nasty tone, it still won’t feel good. So find an internal voice that fills you with good feelings. If inspiration fails you, ‘borrow’ a lovely, reassuring voice from someone else.
And, of course you can simply choose not to listen to that particular voice. You can tell it to get lost or interpret it in a different way: ‘Ah, that’s the voice I get when I’m feeling anxious. I used to listen to it but I don’t anymore…’
My biggest procrastination struggle was with distractions. I would always be all concerned with being super-productive, jumping on my computer, all eager to start working… then get distracted, and spend hours on reddit, without anything to show for it except a few really cool links I could share with friends. Oops!
To deal with it, I learned that distraction actually doesn’t come from the distraction itself (I’m sure there’s a better way to say that :p). Rather, it comes from a tired mind deflecting your effort, because it’s too tired to deal with the work.
So I learned to take regular breaks, and sometimes just lie around thinking about anything and nothing at all. This lets my mind rest and then do the work when it’s ready. So, paradoxically, lying around or doing fun stuff, as opposed to always feeling pressured to be busy, is one of the most productive things you can do!
Robin Easton is the author of Naked in Eden: My Adventure and Awakening in the Australian Rainforest. Robin says:
The feeling of being overwhelmed and not knowing where to start could sometimes slow me down or even stop me. I think this feeling can be more prominent in people who are creative in many areas. I am a writer, a glass artisan, a potter, a musician, a nature photographer, and moving into documentaries, and many other creative projects. For some years in my life it was hard to choose what to focus on because I wanted to do it all. And then even within each project there always seemed so many options, which overwhelmed me.
I learned to pick ONE project to start with, one I felt intensely passionate about. Then I told myself, “I am going to complete THIS project. I also will embrace any setbacks, rejections, challenges as part of the process. I will not seek out difficulties, but if they occur I will not let them stop me. I will simply assess them, learn from them, and continue my work.” So in essence I decide that I will not go into a project with the mindset that things have to be perfect. If I had that mindset I wouldn’t achieve a thing.
I sat down one day and made a list of everything I’d have to do to complete my book, including get an agent, and find a publisher. I wrote down all my ideas (and questions) just as they came into my head.
Once I had a list, I prioritized everything on it. I then started with item number one, and saw THAT as my project. I temporarily forgot about the rest of the list. This allowed me to focus on one thing at a time. It broke the project down into mini projects that became manageable. Every time I found myself thinking about the other thirty things on my list, I said, “No, forget them. Just be here right now.”
Pat Flynn is a dude from California who makes a living on the Internet. He teaches other people how he does it at smartpassiveincome.com. Pat says:
My biggest area of struggle with procrastination is definitely the distractions, especially things like Twitter and Facebook which I use for my business as well, so the line between work and play is blurred and I often find myself watching a youtube video or reading an interesting post that has nothing to do with my business, without even realizing that I’m doing it.
To conquer this, I actually invested in a laptop computer that is reserved for personal / play time only. All business stuff can only be done on my business computer, and any type of person things I do on the computer are only done on the new laptop. A lot of people have criticized me for this technique (saying it’s just an excuse to buy a new computer, lol) but it honestly has done wonders for my focus. When I’m in front of my business computer, I know that business needs to get done and I actually have Facebook and Twitter disabled, and only enable it during times which I’m investing in social media that is strictly dedicated to my business.
This technique has also helped me learn to turn off that “business/work mindset” when I really should be enjoying life and spending time with my family. Before getting the new computer, I would often think about the business or the work that needed to be done when I really shouldn’t have.
My biggest problem is something I call Someday-Maybe Syndrone. I keep thinking of a thousand million cool things I COULD be doing, and never actually do them.
To deal with this, I schedule the important stuff. Especially the stuff that sounds cool but will always fall off the back of my priority list. Cool exhibition coming to town? I schedule it. Seeing my friend on the other side of town? In the calendar!
I resisted that for a looong time because it sounded boring and unspontaneous. But I get more of the stuff that really matters done.
Do you notice something else about these people? Most of them can help you with your next steps once you stop procrastinating and start succeeding. Hop on that link and sign up to get a $20 discount when the course comes out next week! (Don’t put this one off.)
(And if you have a website, mailing list or social media following and you’d like to partner with me in promoting it, in a way that will benefit you and your people, look into my Stop Procrastinating, Start Succeeding Partner Pack.)