No one likes the burden of unfinished tasks. Would you like to stop procrastinating now? To actually have all the tasks you have before you get finished so you can move on with your life? If you are like most people, the answer is a resounding yes.
Why do we procrastinate? And is it really controllable? Yes, it is. That is, if you have the right strategies and techniques. You can win the war that starts in your mind when you think to yourself, "I simply have to stop procrastinating. This has to get done."
Let’s get started. We begin with my definition of procrastination:
So, to defeat procrastination, we will have to form new habits. But what habits? We will start with three foundational strategies and then add at least a few techniques that will enhance our capabilities. Here’s the good news: each of the strategies and techniques we employ are easy to do.
First, I will describe briefly the three foundational strategies and then go into each strategy more deeply.
1. Break each task into smaller steps that are easy to do - This is primary. Everything that follows rests on breaking your task and goals into smaller steps. The smaller the better.
2. Visualize yourself successfully taking each of the small steps - Humans can uniquely look into the future. Your brain can't tell the difference between reality and a vividly imagined visualization. Doing this will make the actual steps easier to take when the time comes.
3. Always focus only on the step you are in - As you will see, the goal of these foundational steps is to stop a part of your brain (the Amygdala) from seeing the step you take as fearful. That is why you must focus only on the step you are in. This will take practice. But, if done successfully, you will not be pushed into following something else that will pull you away from you task. In other words, you are far less likely to procrastinate.
Every task can be broken into smaller steps. And the smaller, the better. Why is this important? The goal of this strategy is to bypass fear. It is always fear that is at the base of procrastination.
There is a physical structure in your middle brain (there are 3 parts to the brain) called the amygdala. This is the part of the brain where “flight and fight” originates. It’s purpose is to keep you safe and help you to survive.
The amygdala was very important to primitive humans. Death could be right around a corner. Humans were not fast, did not have claws the way the animals did, and were weaker than their adversaries. The fight or flight mechanism saved their life. But, today, we do not have the dangers primitive humans did. The Amygdala does not know this. Anything outside your comfort zone is considered a possible danger. Even the good things you are trying to accomplish.
So how do we outsmart the amygdala? We make the steps we take so small, they are not something to fear. They are easy to take. They are so small, we are guaranteed to accomplish the step without risk. In other words, make the steps small enough you cannot fail to complete them.
So you can use any feeling giving you the impression you need to do something else, to procrastinate, as a trigger to lower the size of the step you are taking at the moment.
To take your mind off the entire task, change your mindset by making the steps so small you cannot fail.
If there is a super power for creating a beautiful future, it could very well be visualization. Working hard to develop this strategy will pay dividends for years to come.
Visualization is a distinctively human ability where you see yourself in the future you want to build for yourself. People use it some somewhat - I’m saying make it a habit.
There are many ways to use Visualization. For instance, you can visualize what it feels like to accomplish your goal; what it feels like to succeed. Ant that is good and you should do it regularly. But that is not what I am talking about here.
There is another way to use visualization. In this case, you see yourself in the near future, successfully taking each of those small steps you created in step 1. Seeing yourself successfully taking each step along the way will add to your confidence. And since the step are small, there is no reason to fail. There is nothing to fear, bypassing the Amygdala.
This strategy exists because we live in a society were distractions are the norm. They get in the way. By allowing ourselves to follow them, we allow ourselves to procrastinate on what is important.
We humans have a tendency at times to look to what is near us or we think about something in the future or our past, and lo and behold, we are off our path. Procrastination has set in.
By focusing only on the step your are in, you will feel less stress, less pain.
Allowing yourself to be distracted is a habit. In most cases, you don’t realize what are you doing to yourself until it is too late.
You might think you have to get rid of this habit. That is not going to happen. You have to start a new habit that will replace the old, established habit.
It will take time and effort, but it will be so worth it. Every time you start a task, remind yourself how important it is to focus on the first step. Then, after the first step, and for every step that follows, say to yourself, “I will only focus on this step.”
Will you be perfect in creating your new focus habit. No. You have to stay with it. When NASA send a rocket up, it trajectory gets off target over and over. So, NASA has the rocket make mid-course-corrections. That is exactly what you need to do. When you get off course (distracted), return to target. Return your focus to the step you are in.
That is how new habits are formed. Also, allow yourself to feel good every time you succeed (even if only for a little while). That feeling of accomplishment is important to grow your new habit.
“I am going to focus only on this step.” From this day forward, let that be your new mantra. After all, you are reading this article because you want to stop procrastination. Using your new mantra over and over again will help that new habit to form.
The 5 Second Rule was invented by Mel Robbins. The strategy came about when Mel was at a very low point in her life. She couldn’t even get out of bed she was so depressed.
Other people used the strategy and Mel has even written a book about it. I’m glad she did. After reading the book, I started using the strategy and now use it often when I don’t feel like doing something.
The purpose of this technique is to get you moving before the negative talk begins in your mind. It beats the Amygdala (the fight or flight part of your brain) to the punch. This is probably the easiest way to stop procrastinating.
The 5 Second Rule is easy to implement and that is one of the major reasons I like this technique. If a strategy is easy to use, there is a better chance it will be used.
Once you decide what to do and you find yourself fighting yourself, relax and count down from 5 to 0 and immediately make a move. That is an important step.
So for example, let’s say you know you need to clean your apartment. But you’ve been procrastinating leaving it unkept. I would first apply the foundational strategies:
• Break the task into small steps
• Visualize yourself taking each step
• And commit to focusing only on the step you are in
By doing the above, you bypass the Amygdala which is sending you the message to procrastinate and thereby pushing you to go a different path. So, what do you do? You
count down from 5 to1, say go, and take such a small step, you cannot fail. You have just bypassed the Amygdala allowing you to stop procrastinating.
Another technique to stop procrastinating is the Trigger Technique. This is an important technique to help you stop procrastinating because it provides a constant reminder to get back on track.
So often we allow ourselves to get distracted to the point we are unaware it happened. We stay distracted. When this happens, we need a mid-course correction. But how is that possible when we are not even aware we’ve lost our way?
We need to see something (like a post-it note) or something we hear (like an alarm that has been set) to snap us out of our present mindset. That is what a trigger does.
If there is something very important to do and you need to work on it everyday, at least for awhile, set an alarm on your phone to go off reminding you to snap to and get the job done.
When the alarm goes off, or you see a post-it note you had placed in a prominent place, you realize you are off course. When it comes to breaking the habit of procrastination, using triggers is crucial. Over time that makes a huge difference in results. And certainly for that moment in time, you stop procrastinating.
• The What-If Technique - you can use this technique two ways. The first and most used is to ask, “What if I succeed?” Get that feeling of succeeding now and allow that feeling to push you forward. The second way it is used is to ask, "What if 'this' happens." Fill in 'this' with something could make the going tough.
• Don’t Break The Chain Technique - Believe it or not, Jerry Seinfield is credited with creating this technique. He was asked by another comedian if you could give some advice for success. He said, "He said write one joke per day. Just one. Then each day you write a new joke, put a red X on your calendar. But here is the key.... Do not break the chain of red X’s." Many people have tried this technique with great success.
• Cookie Jar - This motivation technique, too, is from David Goggins. In the cookie jar you put all the obstacles you have overcame and the goals you have achieved in the past. By doing this, you are able when you are going through a particular hard time to reach into the jar, pull something out that reminds you of tough times you’ve overcame. These times show you are a lot tougher than you might have felt just before reaching into the cookie jar. And...you continue your journey thanks to that reminder.
• Callusing Your Mind - This is also another motivation technique from David Goggins. It is one of the most difficult techniques to implement. You force yourself to do things you don't want to do. Willpower is key here. A saying David adheres to is "If it doesn't suck, we don't do it." Start with something easy and work your way up to the more difficult goals. By doing this, you are callousing your mind to accept the difficult, obstacle laden goals.
• And more
You need all the tools you can get to stop procrastinating...for good.
As you can see, the strategies and techniques described above are easy to do. Here’s the problem with ‘easy to do’: they are also ‘easy not to do’. Don't let that be you.
I suggest you start with the three Foundational Strategies and use them over and over and over again. I know they can make a big difference in your life. When it comes to breaking the habit of procrastination, they are invaluable. Keep that in mind as you create a beautiful future for you and those you love.
Stop Procrastinating Now And Your Life Will Never Be The Same!
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