I am not a writer.
Yet, I made a decision to write a blog post every week for a year. I did this for many reasons, primarily to find my voice, the unique message I’m meant to share.
When I was younger, I used to write, a lot. I mean MUCH younger. I wrote short stories, and poetry in grade school – and I loved it.
I have written many things in my career. Newsletters, Annual Reports, Press Releases, Radio Commercials, Technical Manuals and much more. Some were more challenging to write than others, but none were as difficult as this 52 week assignment has been.
So I procrastinate. I lay in the grass and gratefully soak up a few rays after the long winter. I find new recipes for the fresh produce from the farmer’s market. I take a nap. I even did some overdue housework this week (!) – and I think about what I will write – but I don’t write.
And this week I am behind. Again. It’s Saturday. My deadline was Thursday. Riley, my beautiful Springer Spaniel is begging to go for our weekend hike in the mountains – and I have to say no, not now.
Thankfully, I have a VA who helps hold me accountable. In order for her to meet her deadline, I have to meet mine. When I do, I can focus on the “C” level tasks that grow my business – and take weekends off! When I don’t – my self-imposed consequence is to “stay after school” and process the post myself. Which is what I will be doing today.
So what’s really up? Why do we put things off to the last minute? We all do – hence the number of posts and podcasts on procrastination!
Why DO we Procrastinate?
Some reasons are more obvious that others.
- We don’t like the particular task
- It isn’t urgent and/or important enough relative to everything else we have to do
- We think it will take too much time
- We don’t know what to do or how to do it
- We are too busy with other things
I think it goes even deeper.
- We are afraid the result won’t be perfect.
- We are afraid to be vulnerable.
- We are afraid we will fail.
Now, I am a huge proponent of scheduling and being organized. I have a great system developed over time that I will share in the next few weeks.
Even so, things fall through the cracks in spite of our best intentions. Sometimes our minds become full and we become less mindful of what we need to do. And sometimes we just intentionally put things off!
So. Now what? Here is what (usually) works for me:
Getting Unstuck and Taking Action
1. Recognize WHY you are procrastinating – it is different for everyone and for every task – and the first step to getting “unstuck”. Once you know why you are putting something off – you can usually, logically, get yourself in gear.
In my case, writing is not my favorite task. I would much rather work in (any) other areas of my business!
2. Verbalize the consequences of putting off the activity. Ask yourself, what will happen if I don’t take action now? If the answer is increased stress, or lost income, or not living up to a commitment you have made – then you know it is time to act.
Frankly, the result of not getting the post to my VA on time is not a huge penalty for me. I don’t mind the next sequence in the system. Now, I WILL have the post processed through step “B” by Monday because I do want to avoid step “C”! That is too painful for me! Fortunately, my VA rocks that piece!
3. Decide to take action. Just do it. And set a timer!
My favorite tool for getting unstuck on a project is to use a timer. I set it in :30 minute increments so I can get up and move around every half hour. This keeps my body and my creativity flowing. I decide ahead of time how long I will allow myself to work on a post. (Usually 90 minutes) And then I get it done. I know I only have a certain amount of time, so I stay focused and commit to the process.
4. Celebrate! Do the Happy Dance! Revel in the feeling of accomplishment. You have earned it – and proven once again that you can do anything you set your mind to.
These steps work for me when I am consciously avoiding a small task or project that doesn’t have a huge amount of pain associated with it.
What if You Don’t Know Where to Begin?!
If there is a huge project you are putting off – there are two more steps to add to the beginning of the process.
1. Chunk the project into smaller pieces that take one hour or less, and can be crossed off a list.
For instance, if you are creating a new product like a 6 month online program, or a new sequence to your marketing plan – that can seem incredibly overwhelming. And if you break it into a series of manageable tasks, it becomes very do-able!
Tasks for a training program could include:
- Write a survey to send to existing customers.
- Distribute survey to existing customers
- Distribute survey to potential new customers
- Research 2 competitive products
- Research online learning platforms
- Create Outline for program
- Talk to trusted friend or affiliate about options
- etc., etc., etc.
2. Schedule 1-3 of those hourly tasks in your calendar each week. Now you have a plan to eat that darn elephant one bite at a time! And if you begin to put off these tasks – start at the beginning of this post.
Of course this is usually easier said than done – and having a system to keep you on track and moving forward in your business is the best way to avoid the procrastination trap.
Ahhhh – there goes my timer! Time to wrap things up and go for that hike!
We all have developed our own ways of dealing with procrastination – what works for you?
I would love to hear your comments below!