Procrastination is an annoying problem for some. For others, it’s much more. Chronic procrastination can seriously interfere with your life and cause more than just temporary stress. Failing to have your driver’s license photo taken, for instance, can leave you without a legal license for years. And not filing your taxes can get you into trouble with the Internal Revenue Service.
If procrastination is having a detrimental impact on your life, or it’s holding you back from the things you need to do to succeed, it’s time to delve deeper into why you do it and how you can stop. Marketing guru Eduardo Sonoda offers these simple tips for overcoming crippling procrastination.
Procrastination is avoidance. It’s a way of giving yourself solace when you feel a task is too unpleasant or too overwhelming to start. Instead of digging in and getting done, you delay. And then you delay some more. You engage in pleasant distractions such as watching television or shopping online to prevent addressing the issue. And then you tell yourself you’ll tackle that looming obligation tomorrow for sure.
This is when you need to ask yourself that all-important question: Why are you putting things off? Does the task feel too daunting? Do you feel resentful that it’s your responsibility? Are you afraid you might not do the task well enough? By analyzing the primary reason why you’re reluctant to begin, you may begin to spot patterns in your own behavior.
Maybe you only procrastinate when you feel burdened. Maybe you do it for one client and not for another. Why is this? Is one person more appreciative than the other? Do you feel, deep down, that it’s really someone else’s responsibility? Once you’ve begun to understand why you’re delaying the inevitable, you can put an action plan in motion to change the way you respond.
All you have to do is begin. Take that one initial step forward, and get your hands dirty. Remind yourself that you don’t need to complete the whole project at once. Just focus on the beginning. Do a small portion at a time, and take a break before starting the next. In this way, giant chores become more manageable. Using this approach, you may find you’re able to complete even the most mundane and redundant tasks on time.
Eduardo Sonodo contributes much of his success to his ability to set achievable goals. “Make a plan. Keep it quick, simple, and very no-nonsense,” he tells Carlyn Runnels of Ideamensch. “My firm takes a very no-nonsense approach in both marketing and day-to-day operations. We don’t have those meetings about having more meetings.”
In other words, there’s no procrastination involved. Projects are shared and feedback is sought and given. As a result, projects get done on time, and done well.
While you may not have a team to help you manage every project, knowing when and where to ask for help is an essential part of being successful. And so is learning how to manage your time constructively. If help is available, reach out. Maybe you can delegate areas of the unpleasant task and distribute the workflow more fairly. If so, this will free up more time to work on your portion of the project and may help you feel more confident in your own abilities and less like you’re being used.
Life, itself, requires adaptation. The strongest, most successful people are the ones who’ve confronted change head-on and learned how to innovate with it. If the current way you approach projects isn’t working, think about how you can adapt your process to make it more effective. For instance, if you’re a content creator who has trouble meeting deadlines due to procrastination, consider using different methods. Do you type everything out in Google Docs? Maybe a voice-to-text application would work better. Do you schedule your deadlines to come due all at once on a single day? Maybe think about how you can stagger them instead.
“Staying adaptable is key to sustainability,” says Sonoda. “ … Look at your problems from all angles, and contextualize them. It may not be a problem with your method, but perhaps with your target market and messaging.”
If you can pull yourself back far enough to see the whole picture, you may find it easier to spot the things that aren’t working. In this way, you can change and adapt to move forward with more confidence and less procrastination.
Procrastination is rooted in emotion. You avoid projects or tasks because of the unpleasant emotions associated with them. When feelings such as fear, resentment, anger, and inadequacy are present, it becomes difficult or even impossible to continue. Instead, you stay stuck in that continuous rationalization that there’s always tomorrow.
If you’re ever to conquer chronic procrastination and the chaos it causes, you must do the emotional work and learn to separate what needs to be done from how you feel about doing it. Only then will you be able to move forward with ease, even through projects and assignments you dislike.
Eduardo Sonoda is the founder and Chief Executive Officer of Eduardo Sonoda Advisory. His work reaches around the globe, expanding from a company that once employed seven people to an organization that now embraces 700.