4 steps to beating procrastination and doing hard things

Do you ever get stuck on a project and can’t overcome the urge to procrastinate? This happened to me lastp month on a mammoth project. I was having a terrible time doing the work I needed to do.

Struggling with procrastination? Use this 4 step formula to learn how to stop procrastinating and accomplish your goals.

I was procrastinating on a course that included a series of short videos. I was feeling a lot more pressure with this project. I was stuck.

But I’ve been here before, many times.

So after doing lots of busy work, I was ready to stop procrastinating. I use a 4 step formula and it works every time.

Here are my 4 steps to beat procrastination

1. Decide WHY you’re procrastinating.

Sometimes you may avoid a project because you expect it will be difficult or unpleasant. Maybe you’re afraid of failing or people laughing at you. Maybe you’re afraid of wasting your time or getting out of your comfort zone.

Or maybe you said yes to a something that you legitimately don’t want to do anymore.

If you’re procrastinating because you’ve reconsidered, it’s probably OK to stop right there.

If a project or an activity no longer fits your goals (or never did in the first place), why not take it off your to-do list? If you’ve made commitments to other people, you may need to give some advance notice. But do give yourself permission to change your mind.

My excuse?

I was procrastinating because I was unsure of how this whole project was going to work out. It was way out of my comfort zone but I still knew I wanted to do it.

2. Acknowledge your feelings – name them and own them.

Once you discover WHY you’re procrastinating, look into HOW you feel about this thing you’ve been avoiding.

Are you scared? Bored? Overwhelmed? Nervous?

When you voice your feelings, you gain power over them and you can better manage them. Tell yourself it’s OK to feel scared | overwhelmed | nervous, etc. Don’t deny those feelings. Acknowledge them and tell yourself you’re going to proceed in spite of them.

I’ve been coaching my kids on this.

Putting a name to a feeling makes it much more manageable than just experiencing a sense of dread. As simplistic as it may seem, taking deep breaths is a big help here, too.

I acknowledged my feelings (“I’m nervous the videos won’t turn out well.”) Then I made sure to record the videos when my family would be out of the house and not make me feel even more self-conscious.

3. Aim for good, not perfect

Why do we think things have to be perfect the first time around? How often do you forget that you can improve something later?  Publishing a blog post, giving a presentation, or decorating a room are all things that can be fixed and updated over and over again. They don’t have to be perfect right away to be enjoyed or useful.

Better to aim for “good enough” and finish your project rather than never finishing because you can’t hit “perfect.”

You can learn how to let go of the need for perfection. If you struggle with this, give yourself a fixed amount of time for your project. This will force you to make decisions and act instead of endlessly debating options and tweaking your work.

For instance, I spend a lot of time on my blog graphics.

If I let myself, I could spend hours just on the graphics and still not be satisfied. But spending so much time is a waste of my time. So I limit myself to 30 minutes. If a graphic still isn’t quite right, I’ll publish it anyway and give myself permission to work on it later.

I’ve redone a graphic several times before finally settling on one that is “just right.” I still get to tweak and refine, but this doesn’t hold up an entire post from being published. I can update the graphics months after the post was published.

4. Seek accountability

The last step to conquering procrastination is to create accountability for yourself.

You may already have natural accountability with an external deadline. But if you don’t, ask a friend or your spouse to hold you accountable.

This strategy is especially helpful to people who Gretchen Rubin calls “obligers.” Obligers find it easier to fulfill commitments to other people (but not so much to themselves). This is so me.

If you need to, plan your work backward from your deadline so you leave enough time.

Having a written plan, even on a scrap of paper, is more motivating than trying to keep all the steps in your head. (By the way, this is the same reason I write out my to-do list every day.)

For my own accountability, I shared how I was feeling with my husband and asked him to check in with me before my deadline.

The best part about this whole exercise?

When you do beat procrastination, you feel so good!

Not only can you check something off your to-do list or goals list, but you also get a rush of energy to do more things.

  • The next “hard” thing gets a little easier
  • Maybe you realize that what you had to do wasn’t so difficult after all
  • You gain confidence.

So how’d my project go?

The course launched on Monday and so far, the response has been better than I could have hoped for! I’m so glad I pushed through my resistance and procrastination.

And I’m really glad those videos are over and done with! I can always record them again if we run the class again and I want to improve.

Do you have a big project that you’re procrastinating on right now? Which step will be most helpful to you?

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Welcome. I’m Sarah!


I’m the creator of Decluttering School (formerly known as Early Bird Mom), lover of organized spaces, encourager to women and mom to four boys. Click here to read more!

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