4 Ways To Stop Procrastinating And Start Doing
Some 40% of people have experienced financial loss due to procrastination.
There is a reason that productivity and time management are hugely important to every entrepreneur - because at the core of it all, most of us are truly trying to figure out why we procrastinate. The side effects of procrastination are very real. Bottom lines, relationships, health, etc., show measurable decline when you chronically procrastinate. It’s normal to procrastinate once in a while, but if it’s baked into almost every activity of your daily life and your seeing negative side effects for yourself - it’s time to tackle your procrastination tendencies.
Procrastination comes in a variety of forms and patterns. The main indicator - you feel guilty. In a world of constant stimulation and endless choices from social media, entertainment and news outlets, it's hard to make ourselves do less stimulating things - like your work. I’m just as guilty as anyone and struggle with the frustration that comes with it.
I spoke with Daria Tsvenger, founder of the Dream Sprint, to ask how she helps her clients beat procrastination. Daria uses a variety of brainpower tools that she learned at Stanford University as well as from top neuroscientists in the world. She’s worked with hundreds of people who are struggling to get things done and achieve peak mental performance. "And believe me, it's beyond scheduling and time management. It's all in your brain,” she tells me.
These are Daria’s top four tips for beating procrastination if you feel like it’s become a problem in your life.
1. No Vague Goals
"Our brain works like a navigation system. If it doesn't have a clear destination, it won't optimize for reaching it. At the beginning of every single day ask yourself "What are the most important things that I want to do today?' Prioritize them,” says Tsvenger. You’ve probably heard this a million times, but it’s time to actually do it. Getting your to-dos out of your head and onto a list is key. Once you’ve done that, then you can actually decide what’s most important to get done. Choose the things that will actually move your towards your goals. If you have a lot of to-dos that need to get done, but you don’t feel like they will move you towards your goals - either drop them, or outsource them.
2. Name Your Fears
"Our brain is amazing, it's designed to keep us alive & safe by eliminating all potential threats. Back in the day, if your ancestors saw a threat (for example, a tiger), the brain & body will activate its 'fight or flight’ response. The same thing happens today when our brain perceives work as a ‘threat.' It will keep you from approaching the ‘threat’ and this is where procrastination can happen. We delay tasks that seem scary - sometimes not knowing what we’re scared of. It’s biological,” Tsvenger says.
So what the way out? Through. Take 10 minutes to write down your top fears regarding the process or the result of your work. Even if they seem small - write them down, so you have more clarity on what’s going on beneath the surface.
"For my clients, this works like a spell. For example, one of my recent clients procrastinated on writing content for her social media channels and a job description for the new role she was hiring. We figured out that she was afraid of what people may think about her content - what if she doesn't have enough expertise? Or what if she spends too much time on hiring a person who won't get a job done? Those were just her fears, once she recognized them - her productivity skyrocketed,” Tsvenger recounts.
3. Visualize The Process
The biggest mistake I see in the personal development world is this advice of constantly visualizing 'your dreams as they've already happened.’ This type of thinking is the reason for procrastination. When we give our brain the perfect picture, it doesn't distinguish reality from imagination and it starts to believe that it's already happened. Frequent visualizations cause us to receive the ‘cheap' dopamine (the neurotransmitter of achievement) giving us the illusion of having the desirable outcome without doing the work. This contributes to less motivation and more procrastination when things get difficult. Visualize the process. When we imagine things that we’ve already primed ourselves to perform, which are doable and close to our reality, this is where the productivity lies,” says Tsvenger.
4. Take Micro-Actions
"In order not to scare your brain (and you know what happens when we do this), break down your big tasks into small ones. Schedule them in 30-minute slots, set a timer and get to work,” advises Tsvenger. When you take the time to chunk down a big project, name any fears that might crop up and visualize going through the process, it’s easier to beat procrastination.
It doesn’t take a lot of time to set yourself up to be productive. If you take 20-30 minutes to go through these steps, you might just save yourself hours of wasted time scrolling through social media!
Written by: Stephanie Burns (Forbes Contributor)