How to Stop Procrastinating and Why You Do It

7 Reasons You Procrastinate & How to Stop

Everyone procrastinates. The challenge is to procrastinate on the right things. ‘How to stop procrastinating and why you do it and how it is like a theme park is about sharing 3 things; What makes you procrastinate, How you can start getting those things done, and a metaphor that will help you next time you are putting a task off.

Why?

7 things that make you procrastinate:
You…

  • Don’t know where to start.
  • Need time to reflect because you ‘just haven’t got it straight in your head yet’.
  • Are concerned that you’ll get it wrong.
  • Don’t know how to do it.
  • Leave things until the last minute because ‘you do your best work like this’.
  • Lack the motivation, or the big task does not have sufficient reward for you.
  • Don’t have all the information that you need.

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Start Getting Things Done?

We believe that the most powerful next step to learning is understanding why. In this case, why do you procrastinate. The theme park metaphor will help you realise where you are, in order that you can determine whether this a conscious choice or an unconscious choice. By making a conscious choice you can more easily decide your next step.

The metaphor is a theme park, like Disneyland Paris.

A spread out paper Disneyland Paris Map
The theme park metaphor allows you to see where you are so you can see where you need to go

1. You Don’t Know Where to Start

Unfolding the 1, 2, 3 folds of the Disneyland Paris Park map, you see roller coasters, available shows, the parade, and so much more. We are dazzled by just how much there is. Where do you start? This is how it can feel with a big task, it is so big and there is so much to do that you don’t know where to start.

#1 – Action on How to Stop Procrastinating: The answer is just to begin. Identify one practical action you can do and just do it because the momentum that you achieve by doing one thing will lead to doing another, and then another. As Brian Tracy, the Time Management guru states, ‘Slice and Dice the Task‘. Just decide that Space Mountain will be great and go ride it.

The words begin anywhere in Scrabble tiles
Just making even a small start will make you feel as though there’s progress

2. You Need Time to Reflect 

The kids are shouting, ‘I want to go and see Mickey’, ‘I want to go on Space Mountain’, ‘I want to…’, can be much like people in the office sharing their demands on a big task to deliver the changes quickly.

#2 – Action on How to Stop Procrastinating: Buy yourself some time, but not to procrastinate. Instead, to make progress in your own head. Inform those demanding people that you’ll come back to them on Thursday next week with next steps. During the next time do one of 3 things; Book a 121 with someone who listens well so that you can air your thoughts, 2. Mind-map the big task, or 3. Write down the SMART objectives for the big task.

Woman in towel looking at reflection
Reflection is key to understanding why you procrastinate

3. “You’ll Get it Wrong”

‘In one day we’ve got to see all the shows, go on these 3 rides because we’ve heard that they are fantastic, see the parade, buy some souvenirs, allow time for queuing, get something to eat & drink a few times today – We’re gonna miss stuff’, is what is going on in your head as you look at the park map. One of the reasons that we can procrastinate on big tasks is because we are afraid that we won’t do our best work and may actually get it wrong.

#3 – Action on How to Stop Procrastinating: Find out from the stakeholder what is the 80:20 of the brief. In essence, a clear understanding of what are the key pieces that need to be delivered, how and by when. This is like asking the family at the theme park, what do you really want to see and do, and we’ll make sure that we do those things, as a minimum.

Tickboxes next to words Right and Wrong
Fear of getting it wrong is another common reason for procrastination

4. You Don’t Know How to Do it

‘I’ve never been to Disneyland before, what’s your advice on getting the most from our day here?’, says the Dad to the information desk in Disneyland.

#4 – Action on How to Stop Procrastinating: Someone else in your company will have tackled this type of big task before. Find them and ask them for their advice.

Pile of post-it notes with Expert Advice written on them
Avoid procrastination by asking an expert their advice on how to do the task

5. You Leave Things Until the Last…

This is a myth. Many people believe this. Actually, the reason they leave big tasks until the last-minute is because they are either perfectionists, or thrill seekers, or both. Perfectionists do not trust themselves to set their own deadlines on a piece of work, especially big tasks. Instead they set a hard deadline by allowing exactly enough time to do the big task and handing it in just in time.

If they were to have started the big task with time to spare, they would have continued to perfect and perfect, and ended up spending twice as long as they should have. Thrill seekers are tight deadline junkies. Those people who want to get into the theme park and immediately run towards the big roller coaster to get the front seats.

#5 – Action on How to Stop Procrastinating: Perfectionists – Start to trust yourself. Remember that ‘Good enough’ is ok. Thrill seekers – Be conscious that the adrenalin rush is huge, but so is the stress. People like people who are in control, because thrill seekers are exciting, but hard to work with.

Woman in kitchen staring alarmingly at her watch because she's late
Leaving things until the lastminute can be because your a perfectionist

6. You Lack the Motivation

‘We want to go to Disneyland’, say the kids. That’s ok, but you’re the one that has to sort out work so that before you go and after you come back is not a nightmare, find the best deal, organise the flights, book the car park, pack, find the money to pay for it, drive to the airport, drive back, unpack, change back the unused currency, and so on.

#6 – Action on How to Stop Procrastinating: Identify what’s in it for you. If there’s not enough in it for you, can there be more? Can you delegate? Are you able to automate? Can you get more reward/credit for you? Or do you accept that it’s a JFDI and just do it?

7. You Don’t Have All the Information

‘What time does the park close?’, ‘When is the exclusive hour?’, ‘What time are the shows’? – These are the types of questions you may ask at theme park. Similar with a big task, they’ll be information that you need and typically we just start by firing off emails to get what we need.

#7 – Action on How to Stop Procrastinating: Make a list of the information that you have and don’t have. Decide on the 80:20 of that information and ‘get the hares running’ by asking for that information now so that you will have it when you need it.

Stamp with Information written on it
Having all the information is key to avoiding procrastination

For a toolbox of tools to manage your time better please checkout our Time Management training course because many clients like what we do or try our Supplier Time Management Masterclass.

In Summary:

  1. Start?: Identify one practical action.
  2. Reflect: 121/Mind-map/SMART.
  3. Wrong: Get a clear brief from the stakeholder.
  4. How: Who’s done it before?
  5. Perfectionist/Thrill: Do it ‘Good enough’ and know the stress you cause.
  6. Motivation: Get more motivated.
  7. Information: List and get the important ‘hares running’.

Want to hear some more useful tips? Listen to our podcast learn some helpful techniques to help you stop procrastinating and start learning to trust yourself

How do you stop yourself procrastinating? Please share your view by commenting below.

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