Did you know that the word procrastination is actually derived from the Latin word ‘procrastinare’, which means ‘deferred until tomorrow’. Isn’t that funny? That’s exactly what most of us say when we’re procrastinating! ‘Ahh, I’ll do it tomorrow’…
But as we all know, we usually say the exact same thing tomorrow and eventually, we postpone the task to the very last moment — or we end up never doing it at all. That is why procrastination slowly but surely takes your ambition to the grave if you do nothing about it. Without you even realizing it, you slip into the habit of procrastination.
Every time you postpone your work, you strengthen the chains of procrastination. Then one day, you notice how much inner resistance you feel towards practically any type of work, no matter how simple the task.
To counter this success-sabotaging problem, I’ll share 4 of the most effective steps that I (and my clients) use whenever procrastinative thoughts arise. Over time, when you continue to use these 4 steps, overcoming procrastination will become much easier and will feel less like fighting with Mike Tyson in his prime.
Step 1: Create Clarity
For most people, procrastination is an issue of not having enough clarity. When you lack clarity about what exactly you need to work on, when exactly you should be working on it, how you’re supposed to do it effectively, why you need to do it in the first place and what your priorities are, you’ll procrastinate. It’s as simple as that.
As soon as any of these factors are unclear, your brain will start telling you that it’s too difficult, too uncomfortable and it’ll cost too much energy to work on your tasks, so it’ll start convincing you to do something easier, like watching Netflix. Your present self simply won’t feel like working when all (or some) of these elements are unclear.
Our brain is designed to preserve energy and to avoid uncomfortable, unknown situations. And when we lack clarity about what to work on, why to work on it, how to work effectively on it and when to work on it — we create a very uncomfortable, energy-draining and unknown situation for ourselves.
So what’s the alternative? Do something comfortable, something familiar, something less energy draining. Do anything besides working on what we’re supposed to be working on. Therefore, it’s critical that you start to create clarity on your work process in order to remove the friction that causes procrastinative behaviour.
Maybe your goal is to ace your upcoming exam, but you have an infamous track record of procrastinating on studying for your exams (like I used to). In that case, simply ‘studying for your exam’ is way too vague and unclear. You’ll experience a lot of resistance and it’ll be very likely that you’ll procrastinate on this task.
The key is to get precise. Very precise. For example, instead of saying to yourself ‘I need to study for my exam today’, create a solid battle plan. One that is precise and that leaves no room for interpretation anymore. For example: ‘From exactly 09:00 to 11:00 I’ll study chapter 4 and from 15:00 to 18:00 I’ll study chapter 5’. This way, you know exactly what to do and when to do it. It’s simple changes like this that will help you massively in order to overcome procrastination.
Make sure you remove every piece of guesswork from the equation. Know exactly what it is that you’re going to work on today, so set a few goals for the day.
Know exactly when you’re going to work on what task, so schedule your entire day in your calendar.
Know exactly how to do something effectively, so practice, read books, follow courses and practice some more.
Know exactly what still needs to be done in order to achieve your goal or complete your project, so create a list of all the tasks you can think of that are involved with its completion.
And lastly, know exactly why you need to work on your tasks at hand in order to create the ultimate clarity.
All of this will make it much easier for you to stop procrastinating and to start crushing it. When the ambiguity is removed and clarity is created, you’ve cleared the path to work smoothly.
Step 2: Change Your ‘State’
After you’ve created the clarity on exactly what to do, when to do it and why to do it, it’s time to change your state. Knowing how to change your mental state at will is one of the most powerful skills to develop. That’s because your state of mind determines everything from your thoughts, actions and behaviour within the moment.
Despite having ambitious goals, you’ll procrastinate simply because you don’t feel like it within the moment. At that particular moment, your mental state of mind is working against you.
It’s what I like to call a ‘lousy’ state of mind. It’s when you prefer to binge-watch Netflix instead of working on your side-hustle — and when you prefer to eat a pizza instead of working out. This lousy state of mind can be caused by certain lousy habits or activities such as:
- Hanging out with unambitious people
- Sleeping in and snoozing
- Watching a lot of TV or Netflix
- Scrolling through social media non-stop (especially in the morning)
- Eating bad foods
- Procrastinating on your work
By being engaged in these activities you’ll find yourself getting sucked into a lousy mindset relatively quickly, making it much harder to work on your goals without feeling inner resistance.
(Of course, there’s a time and place for all of these activities, but you need to be mindful about how often and when you are engaged in them.)
Fortunately, we can take control over how we feel and how we act as we can change our state of mind on command. All you need to do is apply certain state change ‘hacks’ that put you in a peak state of mind instead of staying in a lousy state of mind. From a peak state of mind, you’ll feel more motivated, energized and inspired to take actions that are aligned with your ambitions.
To get into a peak state of mind, I recommend doing the following things right before you start working (but also regularly as part of your lifestyle, so you’ll find yourself in a peak state of mind automatically):
- Take a cold shower
- Visualize about your goals
- Review your goals (and your ‘why’)
- Read affirmations
- Read 5–10 minutes in an inspiring book
- Do a quick exercise (can even be as short as 20 push-ups)
- Do Wim Hof breathing exercises
- Watch a motivational video
For example, this morning before writing this blogpost, I did 20 kettlebell swings, read my affirmations, reviewed my goals and did one round of Wim Hof breathing. This helped me go from a sleepy and sluggish vibe to a more motivated and energetic mindset within 5 minutes.
Simply doing a few state change hacks before you start working makes it so much easier to do the work without feeling a ton of resistance. In fact, you’ll feel highly motivated and you’ll be able to use that power to work with more ease and passion.
Successfully changing your state at will, over and over again, is what will set you apart from the rest. It’s what will help you perform at the highest levels, stop procrastinating and do the things that are right for you and your future.
Step 3: Use Pain and Pleasure To Your Advantage
Step number three would be to use the forces of pain and pleasure to your advantage so that you’ll stop procrastinating. Essentially, you need to make the long-term consequences of procrastinating immediate so that your present self feels the pain of not taking action right now. You need to get to the point where not taking action becomes more painful than taking action.
We can do so by focusing on how our procrastination habits negatively impacts the important areas of our lives, such as our finances, health, business growth, personal growth, relationships and self-image.
Clearly imagine how these areas will suffer if you continue to adopt the lousy behaviour of procrastinating and postponing your work. Think about what it’ll cost you in all of those major areas of your life if you fail to take consistent, massive action — and thereby fail to achieve your main goals.
- How will your career be influenced if you continue to procrastinate?
- How will your productivity suffer?
- How will your finances be affected?
- What about your self-esteem and happiness?
- How could your procrastination habit influence your relationships?
Clearly imagine it and truly feel the pain of not taking action.
Then, think about all the pleasure you would gain from completing the task at hand. Will completing this task help you get closer to a promotion? Can it improve your finances? Your relationships? Your health? Your business? Or do you simply get a boost in self-esteem when you make the disciplined decision to stop procrastinating?
Clearly visualize all the pleasures you’d gain from actually completing the task — whether these pleasures will be experienced somewhere in the future or right now, it doesn’t matter. As long as you clearly visualize them and feel the pleasurable effects right now, you’ll be more motivated to take action and much less likely to procrastinate.
Step 4: Do The 15-Minute Exercise
According to the laws of physics, something that’s already in motion requires a lot less force to keep in motion — compared to trying to get something in motion that’s standing still.
If your car has ever broken down by the side of the road and you needed to push it to a safer place, you know what I’m talking about. The beginning is by far the hardest part. You need to push with all your strength and effort in order to get the car moving. But once you managed to do that, it’s not that hard to keep the car rolling forward. It requires a lot less energy and strength from your side. This works exactly the same when it comes to you and your work.
When creating momentum, we should keep things as simple and low-barrier as possible. And that’s where the 15-Minute Exercise comes in:
Step 1: Pick out the task that you should be working on.
Step 2: Set a timer for 15 minutes.
Step 3: Work for 15 minutes on the task.
That’s it. Simple right?
The reason why the 15-minute exercise works is because we’re starting to get in motion by simply working for a limited amount of time. We went from standing still to moving — and according to the laws of physics, something that’s already in motion requires a lot less force to keep in motion. That’s exactly how momentum works in our mind too. The longer we wait to gather momentum, the stronger the inner voice of resistance will become
Anyone can work for 15 minutes, and that’s why it’s so effective to gain momentum. Instead of being intimidated or overwhelmed by a challenging task, it’s much more approachable to just sit down and work for only 15 minutes.
The trick with this exercise is it’s very likely that you won’t stop after 15 minutes. You’re already putting in the effort. You’re already in motion. That will definitely help with keeping procrastination on the low.
Now Do It
Overcoming procrastination can’t be done by just knowing about how to do it. Instead, you need to take action upon what you know. Therefore, I highly encourage you to follow these 4 steps the next time you feel procrastination coming up.
In fact, you can even follow these steps before you feel any resistance in order to be one step ahead of procrastination.
To Your Personal Growth,
Founder Personal Growth Lab
Ps. If you struggle with procrastination, I highly recommend you check out my course ‘Stop Procrastinating’. You’ll learn the exact psychological reasons why you procrastinate and the strategies to get rid of it for good.
Hundreds of people have already learned how to overcome procrastination using this course, and are now crushing their work with impact and consistency.
If you want to become highly productive, achieve better results and remove this #1 success barrier, click on the link below!