04 Apr 2014 4 simple steps you need to know to stop procrastinating
Are you a procrastinator? Do you ever wish you could stop procrastinating? Of course you say! Me too of course. In fact, I few years ago, I found myself behind on a few projects and noticed myself being a little more stressed than usual. I had a few looming deadlines plus a few that had whooshed on by!!
So, during my usual
Saturday morning walk I thought a lot about how I had got into this situation. When I returned home, I grabbed my trusty notebook and quickly developed a plan to stop procrastinating.
I thought I would publish my thoughts and learning in the hope that others might gain some inspiration from it too.
Whilst out walking and reflecting, I came to the conclusion that my situation was largely the result of me procrastinating. As someone who helps others to stop procrastinating, this was an uncomfortable moment I can tell you.
So I sat down and listed each project/task I was behind on and asked myself a few simple questions for each one.
First I asked myself some direct questions to ascertain what was going on for me. Questions like;
- What reasons do I have for not starting or completing this?
- Why am I finding this project hard to get done?
- What is it I am procrastinating about?
I came up with the following reasons for my procrastination:
- Lack of information – In some cases, it was clear that I didn’t have the necessary information in order to complete each assignment.
- Lack of Clarity – I realised that for some of the projects, I was not that clear on what needed to be done. One project in particular was something that I had not really done before. I wasn’t too sure on how I should tackle it.
- I was physically tired! – It occurred to me whilst I was out walking that due to a fairly hectic travel schedule that previous month, I had not been keeping up with my regular exercise and importantly, not getting enough sleep!
- I was mentally tired/emotionally drained!– Probably linked a little to the above point, but I had to admit to myself that I was feeling de-motivated! That is not normally like me.
I am not usually too good at sitting down and writing up my thoughts, but I really felt I had to do this. Fortunately, since it was a Saturday, I had some time. So with these overdue projects in my head, I formulated a plan of action to stop procrastinating on each one.
It took me about an hour or so, but once I had finished, I was amazed how much better I felt. I had a strategy for each project. Suddenly I was feeling energised.
Here is the action plan I came up with.
My 4 Step Action Plan to Stop Procrastinating
1 – Get ALL the information you need to start
When I really sat down and thought about it, I realised I did not have all the necessary information I needed to complete a few proposals. This was largely because I had not asked my clients enough questions. So I immediately made two diary appointments for Monday morning to make those calls. As a result of those phone calls, I made the following observations:
If I am unclear, perhaps my client is also
This proved to be the case. When I asked my client for some clarity around what they actually wanted, it became obvious, they were not really that sure. Hence my next observation.
Ask more questions and assume less. As they say, often, the only silly question is the one that was never asked!
2 – Mind-Map out my ideas
I had to admit, I was unsure of where to start and what might be involved on a few projects. Whilst I was out walking, I thought about how many times, I have been able to help clients in this particular situation by mind-mapping ideas on a whiteboard. Then I had a flash of the obvious! I did not have a whiteboard in my office!!
In the past, I have always operated with a whiteboard, but in my current office, I didn’t have one. Again, being a weekend, within a few hours, I was off to Office Works and into the office to install my new whiteboard. Once it was up, it took me maybe 30 minutes, to plan out two projects. How easy was that to stop procrastinating?
3 – Get Enough Sleep
This wasn’t quite as easy to solve. I resolved to try and get to bed a just a little earlier each night. It has been a few weeks since I made that commitment. My travel schedule is still just as hectic, but I am feeling less tired.
I’ve always exercised in the morning but find that when travelling, my routine gets knocked around. When this happens, I can get a little lazy about the importance of getting enough sleep.
4 – Guard My Mental/Emotional State
When I thought about my mental and emotional state, I immediately thought of two things:
- My mental/emotional state is linked closely to how I am feeling physically. When I am fit and healthy, I usually feel mentally and emotionally stronger. (Memo to self; keep exercising, eat well and get to bed early!)
- My mental/emotional state is also inextricably linked to the spiritual side of my life. I’ve always believed that as humans, we need to devote some time to the spiritual side of our lives.For me personally, that involves spending some time every day, usually in the morning, taking care of this. Bible reading, meditating and and praying works for me. You need to find something that will work for you.
Happy to report, that since the above:
- I have now completed all my projects and I’m feeling really good about that.
- I have won a few jobs I was not sure I would win.
- I am feeling better physically, emotionally and spiritually, even though my workload has not dropped off.
- I am using my Whiteboard with great effect.
I hope you find my own personal reflection helpful as you try to stop procrastinating.
Geoff Prior – Lingford Consulting, April 2014
Workload & Email Management Training/Coaching. MBTI Consultant
I address procrastination and many other similar topics in personal productivity training if you are interested.