How to Shift your Mindset from Procrastination to Action

Do you procrastinate? Of course you do. Everyone does – at least a little bit. Are there certain tasks that you keep putting off or do you procrastinate across the board, leaving a good many of them to the last minute? Would you call yourself a chronic procrastinator or does it happen in spurts, at certain times, or is it task-specific?

What’s at the heart of your resistance to completing common tasks, work assignments, projects? Let’s open the hood and explore your tendency to postpone action, see what would get you to change that behavior and start achieving your goals more quickly.

Perfectionism in Disguise?

Perfectionism is procrastination’s twin sister. You might be familiar with that sister. You’re waiting for that perfect moment to do it. You’re afraid you’ll fail at it. You’re talking yourself into thinking that now isn’t the best time. The planets don’t need to be perfectly aligned. Your daily horoscope doesn’t need to say you’re going to have a productive day. Ignore your astrology consultant’s warnings about your sign not being in the right house at the moment for making certain decisions. You’re rationalizing. Snap out of it.

Or maybe you’re overcomplicating things … making a task out to be insurmountable, too time-consuming, too many parts and pieces to deal with. Over-complication is a cousin to procrastination and perfectionism. The three of them like to sabotage your professional accomplishments.

You can help chase the feeling of over-complication away by breaking up certain projects into smaller pieces. You’ll be less overwhelmed. Set separate milestones. You’ll likely feel a sense of accomplishment and relief upon hitting each milestone.

Should you tackle the hard stuff first or work your way up to them? How do you usually approach your to-do list? Stay with that routine if it makes you more comfortable. Or, maybe “mixing it up” will give you the extra oomph? Experiment with the order to get your motor running.

Garden Variety Procrastination

Maybe you’re putting off something because it’s not part your routine, or it’s an unknown entity? Become familiar with why you procrastinate and what’s necessary to get things done. Are there tools or shortcuts that could make the job easier? Google apps and devices to research them.

You may be burned out from being overworked, stressed out. Delegate whenever possible, take mini breaks.

Get enough rest. Being exhausted from lack of sleep won’t put you in the driver’s seat. It can change your entire attitude as well as energy level.

Your health significantly affects your tendency to put things off. If you feel drained, are battling a cold or other infection, your back hurts, you need dental surgery, or you’re depressed … those are going to steal your thunder to accomplish stuff. You’ll push important tasks to the bottom of your list because you’re too pooped and feel like crap.

See your health practitioner. Get a massage. Have a chiropractic adjustment. Meet with a mental health counselor. Schedule a physical exam. Have diagnostic tests done, if called for. Eat healthier. Take recommended vitamins and supplements. Dig deep for the physical and mental sources of your energy drain.

Are you procrastinating to avoid something unpleasant, boring, fearful, frustrating? Performing something unpleasant can evoke negative emotions we’d rather sweep under the rug or put off for as long as possible. Procrastination expert Timothy Pychyl believes we’ll procrastinate less if we learn to modify or tolerate those negative emotions. He says these are learnable skills.

Simple Solutions That Can Trick Your Brain

Some of the solutions to stop procrastinating that I’ve mentioned may seem obvious and you’re probably thinking, “Yeah, yeah, tell me something new.” My response to that is, “They may be simple, but they work.” And maybe you haven’t tried some of them because you think you have a deep-seated problem that only a highly skilled mental health therapist can help you solve over a long period of time. That may be, but most often curbing procrastination is a DIY project.

With that said, here are some of my favorite procrastination-busting brain-based strategies:

  • Some people take satisfaction in crossing off items on their to-do list. If you’re that kind of person and haven’t been keeping up with your list, start now. The trick is to have your list with you at all times. Keeping it only on your desktop computer means it doesn’t travel with you. Instead, set up a reminder app with alarms on your cell phone.
  • Get away from interruptions. Turn off the ball game on TV. Set your cell phone to silent or better yet, turn it off until your task is completed. Close your office door and hang a Do Not Disturb sign. Put on a headset and listen to stimulating or soothing instrumental music or brain-wave sounds (YouTube has thousands of them). Use the Bluetooth feature so you’re not tethered to your music source.
  • Keep yourself accountable. Embarrass yourself into getting things done by announcing them to the world – or to your colleagues. Put them in writing. If you tell a bunch of people publicly you’re going to do something, by golly, you’re gonna get ‘er done, right? Ok, this might not work for some people.
  • A smaller version of the above is to get a buddy or a coach to keep you on the straight and narrow path to action with daily or weekly phone calls or emails asking about your progress.
  • Don’t punish yourself for not doing stuff; reward yourself when you do. Go get some chocolate chip mint ice cream (but go easy on the eating) when you’re finished or watch a movie you’ve been wanting to see.

Just Do It

So how do you reduce procrastination? Get to know what’s behind your delays and apply some of these techniques until you find the ones that shake you out of inertia. And then just do it. (Nike got that right.) The siesta is over. Give yourself the green light. You know how satisfying the feeling of accomplishment is when you take prompt action. Repeat this daily. It will become habit-forming.