How to Overcome Procrastination: 7 Steps to Starting and Completing Tasks

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Steve Allen
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In this article, I’m going to share exactly how to overcome procrastination for good.

This step by step system is what I used to go from depressed and feeling terrible about myself to taking action on my work and goals every day.

So whatever you want to do more of, whether it’s working on your business, reading books, or creating something, you’ll love this system for never putting things off again.

Let’s dive right in.

1. Get Clear on What You Want and Why You Want It

The most common reason people procrastinate in the first place is because they’re unsure of the outcome they’re trying to reach.

Sometimes this is down to having an unclear goal and other times is due to not having a good enough reason to achieve it.

So why do we even plan to achieve things if we don’t really know where we’re going or why we started.

It’s human nature to want to grow and make our lives better, but we often go after things that other people have achieved, mistaking it as the perfect goal for us and completely disregarded our own reasoning behind it.

This then creates an uncertain journey with an unclear vision of where we’re going.

Like a boat sailing out at sea, letting the tide guide it’s direction.

Where does the boat end up… Who knows?

And that’s exactly what we end up doing.

Our goal or why isn’t fully established, so we get pulled in random directions, never knowing if we’re on course or not.

So what must you do?

You must make a committent.

Before starting anything, you should get ultra clear on what you want to achieve and form a solid reason you want to achieve it.

You can do this by creating a vision. I clear mental picture of the goal actualised and how it makes you feel.

Develop a clear understanding of what this reality means to you, who it benefits and why you set out to achieve it in the first place.

Make a committment to achieve this goal. Stay on course until you’ve achieved it.

Once you do this, everything else falls into place and you’re consistantly motivated towards your vision.

2. Drop Perfectionism

Many people who procrastinate do so because of such high standards they set themselves.

If it’s not perfect, then what’s the point, right?

I get it. I still struggle with this myself. The truth is you are enough by just trying to do your best.

But the more you focus on making everything perfect, the harder the end goal becomes and the more you’ll put it off.

It’s important to remember that having high standards isn’t bad, it’s only when those high standards send you into a state of paralysis that it becomes a problem.

You might not think of yourself as a perfectionist, but if you continuously fixate on collecting all the details and making sure everything is just right, then you’re procrastinating based on your high standards.

That’s perfectionism.

What isn’t as obvious is the underlying cause of perfectionism, which can often be traced back to our fear of being judged.

For example, before going to the gym, I would watch six different videos of men doing deadlifts so that I knew exactly how to do it myself.

I needed to know how to do it the right way in case anyone at the gym saw me doing it wrong and then judged me.

My fear of being judged was so strong that I wouldn’t go ahead with the deadlifts, even after watching an hour of videos.

I would make excuses why it wasn’t a good day for deadlifts, and let myself off the hook.

The best (and only) way to overcome striving for perfection is to take imperfect action.

This means intentionally completing something imperfectly. If the idea of this makes you sick to your stomach, then we’re on the right track.

If you want to get more things done, then you need to start getting comfortable with doing things imperfectly.

Once you’ve done it a few times, this “sick to your stomach” feeling gradually wears off and perfectionism is no longer an issue.

3. Be Kind to Yourself

The previous step is all about mindset and potential blocks that get in our way of achieving our goals.

That’s why step three is all about being kind to ourselves.

When you discover that perfectionism and fear are what’s holding you back, it can be easy to beat yourself up and wonder how you let it go on for so long.

But, criticising ourselves for past mistakes will only create inner conflict and put more pressure on us to get things right going forward, which sounds a lot like perfectionism.

Instead, you need to be more compassionate and forgiving of yourself and recognise that you aren’t consciously trying to sabotage your own success.

At the end of the day, we’re social creatures born to survive and our brains do a fantastic job of creating habits to save us from social ridicule.

It’s OK to feel bad about yourself when you procrastinate, but recognize you’re only human and everyone goes off track from time to time.

Adopt these self-love habits and you’ll develop a greater sense of appreciation for yourself.

4. Break It Down into Smaller Tasks

Once you have a clear goal in mind and feel less resistance to take action, you can often trip up on the amount of work involved to achieve our goals.

When you spend time focusing on the size and effort of the goal, it’s easy to get stuck on making any progress and you’ll be right back to putting things off again.

The key is to break things down into small and more managable tasks.

For example, let’s say you’ve been procrastinating on the housework. Everything is a mess and you don’t know where to start.

You could make a list that looks like this:

  • Put on some washing
  • Tidy the living room
  • Clean the kitchen
  • Clean the bathroom

The problem with this list is it’s too broad and overwhelming.

A better list would be to make each step more specific and easier to start, like:

  • Split the washing up into colors
  • Clear the coffee table
  • Fill the sink with water and dishes
  • Rinse the bath down

Any one of these tasks can be finished in 5-10 minutes and feel less daunting to start.

And once you start a task, it’s easy to build momentum to keep going and clean the entire house.

Once you’ve stuck to this new routine of starting things, you’ll become more confident in getting things done and you can start to plan bigger goals.

I highly recommend using a daily planner to stay consistent.

The important thing to remember is that any task big or small can be broken into smaller steps to make the goal less daunting.

The smaller you break it down, the easier it will be to get started and the more motivated and enthusiastic you’ll be to take some action every day.

5. Take Action Everyday

Now it’s time to fully commit to achieving what you want by taking action everyday.

The reason for this is two fold:

  1. You’ll get more done and achieve your goals sooner
  2. You’ll develop a habit of taking action

The key here is developing the habit.

Procrastination is a habit in itself, and the best way to break a bad habit is to replace it with a better one.

Achieving goals through effort vs habits

Lets say you want to start an online business and your goal is to make $1000 per month.

You spend a lot of your time figuring things out with no broken down tasks to follow.

Some weeks you spend time on social media, other weeks you’re building your blog, and other weeks you’re writing articles.

You might eventually reach your goal, but only from trial and error and a lot of effort.

If something in life pulls you away from your business, it’ll soon start to suffer and you’ll find it a lot harder to get back into the swing of things.

A more effective strategy is to develop habits by completing specific tasks everyday.

For example, if you develop the habit of writing 500 words everyday, even if you get pulled away from your work at some point, you’ll still feel the urge to squeeze in your 500 word count for the day.

And even if you miss a few days, it’ll be so much easier to get back into it because you’ve built the habit and it’ll feel automatic.

This is why planning is so important when working towards a goal.

You want to break down your goal into small tasks that can be worked on every day.

When you do the initial work of breaking down your goals, you’ll know exactly what needs to be done every day so that you can create a habit out of it.

How often are you bothered by the effort of brushing your teeth? Hardly ever right?

That’s because it’s a habit that takes no will power or mental energy to complete.

And this is exactly what you can do with your goals.

6. Get Some Accountability

A gym buddy will motivate you to workout, cutting back on fast food and alcohol is a breeze when others around you are involved, and you certainly wouldn’t climb Mount Everest alone.

Working towards goals alone is tough.

If you want to drastically cut down the time it takes you to go from where you currently are to where you want to be, you need some accountability.

Going it alone might take you years longer, trust me, I’ve been there.

Quite often, we don’t want to ask people for help. We want to be seen as though we know what we’re doing and that we became a success all by ourselves.

The truth is, the most successful people in the world get the most help.

Here are just a few ways you can get help along your journey and beat procrastination for good.

  • Join a group on social media
  • Post on some forums
  • Go on local meetups in your community
  • Get feedback from your friends
  • Go to workshops, events or seminars
  • Hire a mentor or coach

And so on.

You don’t have to meet up with 100+ people every week to keep you on track. Meeting a few people with similar goals to you once per month could be enough to motivate each of you.

It gives you an outlet to share what has and hasn’t worked in the previous month and what each of you plan to work on in the coming month.

It almost turns into a competition of who can outdo the other. But you’re all competing in your own race so you all win.

This is also an excellent way to start the day to avoid procrastining.

If you have a small circle of friends you can message throughout the month, this will help you tremendously from slipping back into old habits.

7. Effective Use of Technology

Technology can either make us or break us.

When you use technology to help you stay productive, it can be an incredible tool to get you closer to achieving your goals.

But poor management of technology can also be incredibly distracting.

For instance, if you use social media to join groups to stay accountable, you can lose focus and end up spending hours scrolling instead of making good use of your time.

This creates a hazy line between tools that help us and tools that distracted us.

Nonetheless, if you manage these tools effectively, they can help you stay on track and even help us remove distractions.

You can use:

  • Journals and planners to take notes
  • Procrastination affirmations to reprogram your mind
  • Habit trackers to track our tasks
  • Organisers and desk tidies to stay organised

There are countless tools you can use to help us be more productive but for someone who’s trying to stop procrastinating, using too many tools can only make things worse.

One extremely underated yet powerful piece of technology is a pen and piece of paper.

Writing to-do lists is one of the most effective ways to take action on your goals – big or small.

The most successful achievers write lists because they understand the phychology behind it.

Going back to my example above when cleaning the house, as soon as you write it on paper, you make it more tangible, and our brains get very excited of the though of crossing those to-dos off our list.

Give it a try and you’ll most likely see huge results.

Procrastination vs Productivity

Many people who struggle with procrastination will pick up a book on how to be more productive, and while this is an excelent attempt at breaking the procrastination cycle, it’s not an effective one.

Productivity takes a lot of planning but it’s main focus is to take action. If you want to be more productive then spend 20% planning and 80% doing.

This doesn’t really help you if you can’t even get started.

Reading a book that heavily promotes taking action is only going to make you more overwhelmed.

If you’re overwhelmed, then you should spend 80% planning and 20% doing.

The more planning you do at the beginning, the more clear you’ll become on what you’re trying to achieve, and the more motivated you’ll be.

When you go on vacation, you don’t go to the airport and book the next flight to where ever. You start by looking through a brochure or online to get inspiration about where you want to go.

And then you spend time planning your trip, buying things you need to take, getting ideas about things to do at the resort, and packing your suitcase before you leave.

You create a vision of the experience you want to have and then plan things in advance.

That’s not to say being spontaneous is bad, but when it comes to achieving your goals, being spontaneous and living from day to day is a very easy way to get distracted and go off course.

Once taking action becomes second nature to you, you’ll feel more comfortable planning less and doing more.

You will gradually spend less time planning and more time doing and you’ll soon realise that procrastination is no longer an issue.

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