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How to Stop Procrastinating

6 ways to overcome resistance ... or not

Photo by Artur84 /
Source: Photo by Artur84 /

Okay, so there’s only one thing you told yourself you have to do today. It’s already afternoon and you haven’t made a lick of progress on it.

You’ve done all sorts of other things. You’ve even been what some would call highly productive today.

But you didn’t do That Thing on your list. You know, that thing that’s been on your list for a week?

That thing you can’t wait to get off your plate, but somehow can’t sit down to do?

Procrastination affects all of us from time to time. Whether it’s subtle or extreme, it can be as annoying as a pebble in your shoe – the kind that’s really stuck to your sock, so when you clean out your shoe and put it back on, the pebble’s still there.

Rocks in your shoes have no particular point or rationale. They just happen.

Procrastination is different.

Think of procrastination as a strategy for staying on an even keel. It’s a compromise between doing something and not doing it.

It’s really the perfect strategy, if you think about it.

Procrastination allows That Thing You Have to Do to remain on your plate -- proving you’re a good, responsible spouse, employee, parent, friend, citizen, etc. -- while you get away with not actually doing it.

With procrastination, we get to have it both ways.

What we say: “I know I should be writing my report instead of being on email.” (Implication: “I’m bad.”)

What we mean: “I’m aware of my poor performance, and I plan to improve on it in the future.” (Implication: “I’m good.”)

Procrastination allows us to be bad, yet good at the same time!

It’s a good strategy for maintaining the status quo without fixing the underlying problem.

The real problem is that we simply don’t feel like doing That Thing We Have to Do.

Let’s face it: There are things we enjoy doing, and things we don’t. Most of us have to do some things we don’t enjoy.

So how do we stop procrastinating and get moving on those not-fun things we have to do?

Here are some fixes:

Cross it off . Unless it really has to be done, just take it off your list. Erase it.

Do you really have to learn to play the recorder?



Delegate . Give The Thing to someone else (even if you believe you should do it yourself).

You’re not doing it anyway. Would you rather delegate it, or have it not get done at all?

Explore your resistance . Set a timer for three minutes. During that time, explore your feelings about doing The Thing.

Does it make you anxious when you think about doing it?

Does it bring up guilt, grief, or some other unpleasant feeling?

Try some constructive wallowing to corral the emotion. As long as you’re not addressing the emotional resistance, it will keep dictating your behavior, i.e., forcing you to procrastinate.

Break it down . Let’s say you want to clean the comforter on the guest bed before Aunt Essie comes to stay.

If you have no idea how to do that, it’s not just one Thing, it’s multiple things.

For example:

1. Locate a cleaning service near you,

2. Find out when they’re open and how much they cost,

3. Remove the comforter from the guest bed and prepare it for transport,

4. Put the comforter in the car,

5. Drive your car to the comforter cleaning place,

6. Pick it up from the cleaning place when done,

7. Put it in the guest room, and

8. Put it back on the bed.

Things You Don’t Want to Do often seem more manageable when separated into smaller steps that can be accomplished one at a time.

Give it 10 seconds . Research on motivation indicates that once you make even a 10-second effort to start on That Thing You Don't Want to Do, you're over the hump and on your way to completing the task.

Don't judge . Feeling like a cretin because you’re not doing what you’re supposed to do doesn’t give you energy to do it.

On the contrary, the more you criticize yourself, the less likely you are to feel motivated to do anything at all.

Me? I’m just glad I finally sat down to write this post.