5-Step Guide To Stop Procrastinating And Get Motivated
Do you know the feeling of being overwhelmed by a task? It might be a project at work, an assignment for school, or even just the daily chores that pile up in your house. You know it’s something you have to do… but right now, it seems like too much effort.
It’s easy to put off important tasks and focus on less urgent, more enjoyable, and easier activities. But did you know that procrastination can also impact your personal health? It can lead to stress, anxiety, depression, and even job loss. So it’s important to take proactive steps to prevent it.
In this article, we’ll share some tips for how to overcome procrastination and get stuff done!
5 Steps on How to Stop Procrastinating
Everyone procrastinates from time to time, but if you’re constantly putting things off and finding yourself overwhelmed by a growing list of things to do, we have some tips for you.
Here are five steps to help you stop procrastinating and get stuff done.
Step 1: Be Honest
How many times have you told someone you are “too busy” to do something?
FRIEND: Hey, do you want to go kayaking?
YOU: Sorry, I’m super busy. Maybe some other time? (Then, you stay at home, binge-watching Netflix all day.)
FRIEND: I’m going to check out that new restaurant we’ve been hearing about. Want to join?
YOU: Ugh sorry, I can’t right now. I’m swamped.
Using “time” is a popular excuse because it’s so easy. Who is going to question whether you really have room in your day to go for a drink or out to dinner? No one.
But, when you make this excuse, you are only cheating yourself — and your friend.
Instead, just be honest. Say, “Thanks for inviting me, but that’s not a priority for me right now.” It is a small change, but it opens the door towards uncovering the truth about your real priorities. Maybe you want to stay in to save money, recharge your batteries, or spend quality time with your dog – there are no wrong answers.
Once you know what is not a priority in your life AND acknowledge those facts, you can start to identify what does matter.
ACTION STEP: Evaluate your priorities
The easiest way to identify your true priorities is an “honesty bath.” (Seriously. Try it.)
Here’s how it works. Write down your goals for this calendar month or put them in a spreadsheet. Then, set a calendar alert for 30 days from now.
At the end of the month, look at your goals. Pay attention to which goals you accomplished and which ones you didn’t quite reach. Next, decide whether you’re going to: delete, defer, or do
- DELETE: If you say that you’re going to wake up every day at 7 a.m. (but every morning hit the snooze button for at least an hour), forget it. You are NOT going to wake up at 7 a.m. — and that’s okay. Delete that one.
- DEFER: Let’s say you had a goal to organize your closet, but you have a huge project at work and you have been working nights and weekends to get it done. Guess what? You are NOT going to organize your closet while you have this crazy project, and that’s okay. Deferring the goal lets you keep your closet on your radar without making you feel guilty for it.
- DO: Ok. Now, let’s say that you set a goal to workout regularly and you have been hitting the gym three times a week. That is AWESOME. Keep it up.
Real talk. Honesty baths are hard work. They take a ton of self-awareness for the exercise to be effective, but they work. The good news is that if you can take a hard look at your current habits, you can drastically change the way you live your life for the better.
The best part? Honesty baths stop that low-level anxiety we all get from having a bunch of goals that bounces around in our head. Once you make the decision to uncover your real priorities, you can start using your energy to commit to things you’ll actually do and…
Step 2: Stop feeling guilty
Lots of people fall victim to the paradox of guilt — and they don’t even realize it.
How often have you talked to someone about saving money, changing careers, or working out and they say something like, “Yeah, I know I really should do that but…” and then they follow it up with some lame excuse?
The truth is, “I know I really should be doing that” is just code for “I don’t want to do that.”
It’s the same thing with credit card debt. Many people know they shouldn’t spend as much money as they do, but rather than admit to themselves that they did something wrong, they just keep buying things.
Why does this happen? Guilt. It is easier to make excuses for not doing something than owning up to the fact that you are not taking the steps you need to earn the life you want. It is uncomfortable, but if you really want to stop procrastinating, and grow into a productivity machine, you have to learn how to hold yourself accountable.
ACTION STEP: Understand the Issue
When you start feeling guilty, don’t bury that emotion — step up and address it.
Step 3: Reframe your reality
Have you ever heard of a self-fulfilling prophecy?
Basically, this is the idea that what you tell yourself becomes your reality — and it is a big problem. If you aren’t careful, you could be setting yourself up for failure before you ever get started.
Here’s an example: If you tell yourself that you are a “lone wolf,” don’t be surprised if you have a hard time making friends. When you tell yourself that you are a loner, you are reinforcing the idea that you are quiet or that you can’t get along with other people. You may even self-sabotage yourself by doing things like not joining in a conversation or not making eye contact when you meet someone. Obviously, big mistake.
But you CAN reframe your reality.
ACTION STEP: Change the way you talk (and change the way you think)
Quit hiding behind descriptions of yourself and start to focus on your actions.
- Change “I’m a loner” into “I haven’t put myself out there.”
- Move from “I’m just quiet” to “I can be shy until I get to know someone.”
- Go from “I’m big-boned,” to “I’m going to start eating a little less and moving more.”
Step 4: Build systems to accomplish your goals
At IWT, we often get questions along the lines of “How do I find motivation?”
The thing is, you don’t. Motivation isn’t a matter of timing. Your muse is not waiting in the wings for the planets to align. If you keep waiting for everything to be perfect, you’ll never get anything done. Instead, focus on building systems that help move you closer to your goals.
Start by asking yourself, “What does it take to accomplish my goal?”
ACTION STEP: Baby steps
Create a manageable goal and break it down into steps.
Let’s look at a “good goal” and a “bad goal” to see how it works.
BAD GOAL: “I want to get in shape.”
This goal is TERRIBLE. It’s vague. What does “in shape” even mean? How would you know if you were in shape? There’s not even a way to know when you’ve accomplished the goal.
GOOD GOAL: “I want to run three times a week for 20 minutes.”
LOVE IT. Notice how it focuses on the process instead of the goal? You are committing to action instead of an idea. It is measurable – you either ran 20 minutes or you didn’t – and it supports your ultimate aim – to become more fit.
Over time, you can build on the habits you form by running longer or more often. Eventually, you will see results.
Now, take this approach and do it with your own goals.
- Do you want a new job? Apply for two jobs a week.
- Do you want to save money? Put aside $50 every paycheck.
Small steps can lead to big results OVER TIME.
Step 5: Reward yourself when you succeed
Did you know that eating more chocolate can actually help you exercise more?
According to habit expert Charles Duhigg, rewarding yourself after a job well done can help create powerful shifts in your mindset.
And, he would know. Duhigg literally wrote the book on the subject with The Power of Habit (one of our favorite books on behavior). Something like eating chocolate at the end of a workout is a simple way to ignite the reward centers in your brain. This helps cement the good feelings that are required for a habit to take root.
ACTION STEP: Celebrate your success
Ask yourself, “What habit do I want to start?” and “What will I do to reward myself for taking action?”
Here are a few suggestions to get you started:
- Every 25 minutes of deep work you do, give yourself a five-minute break to do whatever you want (aka the Pomodoro Technique).
- After you hit a savings goal for the month, buy yourself something you want like a pair of shoes or a video game.
- After you cook a healthy meal, take in a few episodes of that Netflix show you’ve been meaning to check out.
The reward can be anything you want — as long as you genuinely enjoy it.
The Truth About Procrastinating
At this point, you’ve read the steps for how to not procrastinate, but if you really want to get moving, it all comes down to understanding the two truths of productivity:
- Truth #1: We all have the same amount of time in the day — so STOP BLAMING TIME (or your lack thereof). It doesn’t matter if you’re Bill Gates, an overworked parent, or a busy student. You just need to learn how to manage your time better (more on that later).
- Truth #2: You don’t have to be an emotionless robot in order to stop procrastinating. Focus and time management are about mindsets and simple — yet powerful — shifts in how you approach your to-dos.
By adopting the right mindset, you can create habits that stick instead of struggling to get the simplest of tasks done.
FAQs About How to Stop Procrastinating
What is the main cause of procrastination?
Procrastination is a behavior that’s common in our daily lives. But it’s not caused by laziness or a lack of motivation. It’s actually a reaction to stress or negative beliefs we have about ourselves. If you tend to procrastinate, don’t be hard on yourself. Instead, ask yourself if your behavior may be linked to fear, anxiety, ADHD, or another underlying issue.
Is procrastination a mental illness?
While procrastination is not a mental disorder on its own, it can be a symptom of other challenges. A person who procrastinates may have other mental health issues like anxiety, depression, and ADHD.
What is the 1-minute rule?
Any task that you can finish in one minute or less, you do right away. For example, if you get home and put your shoes away right away, it will be done in less than one minute. The same goes for making the bed first thing in the morning. It takes just a few minutes to do this small task, but it makes your whole day feel so much better!