How To Take Action & Stop Procrastinating
Here’s a scary fact for you: Every minute you spend procrastinating, or every hour you waste, is time you can never claim back. There’s no “refund window”, where you can get wasted time back in your pocket.
That’s why it’s crucial to start taking action … NOW is the right time to beat procrastination and get stuff done. And in this article I’m going to teach you some of the most effective techniques you can use to stop procrastinating and take action.
I recently published a comprehensive guide to 40 ways to beat procrastination; I’m basing the advice in this article on my guide – feel free to check it out if you want even more procrastination-busting knowledge.
So how can you motivate yourself to get up off the couch (or wherever you may be sitting!) and get stuff done?
Firstly, you’ve got to identify what it is you actually need to do. If you’ve got a goal in mind, then this should be easy. For example, you might want to run a half marathon in three months’ time. In this case it is clear that to achieve your goal, you need to start running!
As an aside, I’m a firm believer in the importance of maintaining multiple goals. You should always have short, medium, and long-term goals as well. There is nothing more effective for motivation and success than driving yourself forward with goals.
But what if you don’t have a goal in mind? Well then you had better set one! Goals can often be set based on work you need to do.
Once you’ve got a goal set-up (or, if you’ve already got one you want to work towards) it’s time to do some investigative work and determine exactly what is causing you to procrastinate and refrain from taking action.
This is a crucial step in the process. Much as no good general would send his troops into battle without trying to understand as much as possible about the enemy, neither should you attempt to beat procrastination without making a concerted effort to understand what is causing it.
Here’s a quick crib-sheet you can use to identify the three main causes of procrastination and inaction:
- Fear of failure/excessive perfectionism – You don’t believe you can succeed (or you worry you won’t hit your own high standards), and doing nothing means you can avoid facing up to this.
- Lack of physical energy – Maybe you’re only getting a few hours of sleep every night, or your diet is laden with junk food, or you never exercise. Lifestyle factors can contribute to a lack of physical energy … and when you lack energy you will find it difficult to get motivated and take action. You should also consider the possibility of other underlying health issues, such as depression, which can cause you to feel unmotivated and lethargic.
- No direction/focus in life – If you find yourself drifting without a destination point, then procrastination and inactivity becomes a very comforting way to fill the void. This is a common cause of procrastination if you don’t have any goals set up to help focus your energies.
Now you know the cause of your procrastination, it’s time to take action. In order to be successful, you need to take action in such a way that addresses the cause you identified earlier.
For example, let’s say you’ve identified that you are procrastinating due to a deep-rooted fear of failure. How exactly would you go about overcoming that fear, and taking action in the first place?
Firstly, you would need to accept that failure isn’t fatal for most things; you’ll almost always get a chance to put any mistakes you make right.
Secondly, you need to understand that not trying (in order to avoid the potential negative consequences of perceived failure) is actually worse than having a go and failing. If you fail to try, then you’ve already failed. If you give something your best shot, then you are automatically leaps and bounds ahead.
Finally, you should do your best to mitigate any potential risk of failure. Using the running example before, you could mitigate the risk of “failing” your run in a number of different ways; by ensuring you have the right equipment, charting out a manageable route, hydrating beforehand and so on.
Bear in mind that depending on why you are procrastinating (and exactly what you are avoiding taking action on) the exact process you use to overcome the problem will differ.
For example, if you lack the physical energy to do something, then you would need to investigate healthy lifestyle choices you could make to encourage you to take action.
There are a few extra tips I’d like to throw in the mix, in order to make taking action easier for you:
- Break down tasks into smaller, more manageable chunks. Almost everything you do can be thought of as a series of smaller parts, which suddenly become a whole lot more manageable.
- Create a to-do list every day (and then stick to it).
- Keep a journal that records how motivated you felt on any given day, and how much you felt you achieved.
These apply no matter what you are putting off doing, or why you are procrastinating.
So to recap, let’s examine the formula for overcoming procrastination and taking action:
- Identify what it is you need to do (i.e. goal-setting)
- Understand why you are procrastinating
- Work towards achieving your goal in a manner that addresses the aforementioned cause – this is going to require some critical thinking and brainstorming on your part.
Of course, at the end of the day, taking action just boils down to picking something you want to do and then getting it done.
All the clever advice and self-help knowledge in the world is meaningless if you don’t actually force yourself to complete any task you set yourself.
However, by arming yourself with the right knowledge and resources you can improve your chances of successfully taking action.
I hope you’ve learned some useful strategies that will aid you in “fighting the good fight”, and overcoming procrastination and its nasty effects on life.
This was a guest post by James Frankton of www.whyamilazy.com
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