"I know I need to do X, but I just can't seem to get myself to do it."
This was a comment that a business coaching client shared with me a short while ago.
It's a common problem, one that over half the business owners I know struggle with from time to time - the inability to get started on their top value to do's.
Top Three Causes of Procrastination
First on the list is fear. Sometimes we feel like the task is so big, or we don't know where to begin, or we're intimidated to even try.
Second is habit. We've gotten into a rut and our routine is holding us back from growing our company.
Third is perfectionism. We want to do it right; in fact we want to do it perfectly right. So we wait to get started until all the stars are aligned and we can do it just right. As if this perfect moment ever is going to come along!
Solutions to Get Yourself Started
Here are 11 ways to blow through procrastination and get yourself into productive action.
1. Get yourself to show up and just get started.
Once upon a time I was a serious athlete training to play in the Olympics. When I wasn't living at the Olympic Training Center I knew that I needed to keep up my scheduled workouts. But some days I just didn't feel like it. I learned that one way to "trick" myself into gear was to just show up at the gym or track and get started with the workout. Before I knew it I got into the action and ended up having a great session.
The same tactic can work for you. Get yourself to just start, knowing that you can quit a few minutes into it. Chances are if you just get started you'll soon get engaged in the moment and continue, getting some real, high value work done.
2. Go through the motions. This is a version of tactic one. The key is if you get yourself started on a path inertia will likely keep you going. In science they call this "overcoming the coefficient of static friction". Remember, once you're in motion it is much easier to keep yourself going than from a static stop.
3. Do it imperfectly. If you're a perfectionist, plan on doing the first version of whatever you're working on imperfectly. In fact, I tell my business coaching clients to call it a "draft" or a "beta version." This gives them subtle permission to do it imperfectly.
4. Do it now! Do it now! Do it now!
5. Get a "gym buddy" or an "accountability partner". When we know we need to update an outside person often that is the push we need to get it done.
6. Use your mastermind group and make a realistic commitment. A mastermind group is a group of other business owners who you intentionally team up with to support each other in growing your respective companies. They can be a great form of outside accountability to spur you into action.
7. Set a cool reward. Maybe it's a day at the beach, or a night out with your spouse at a great restaurant, or that new gadget you've been wanting. Sometimes a simple bribe that you give yourself after you've done the key project is an effective spark.
8. Make it a game. Often I'll set a countdown timer, turn up cool music in my office, and race to get the daunting task done (or to see how much of it I can get done) before the time goes off. This works especially well for any of you who are hyper-competitive.
9. Chunk up or chunk down. If the task seems too big, then break it into a smaller piece and get started with that chunk. If the project seems too complicated, consider grouping steps together so it's less complex.
10. Get clear on what you are really afraid of and accept the worst case scenario. This emotionally and mentally frees you up to get busy working on the solution rather than obsessing about the problem.
11. Develop your integrity to the place that when you speak it you do it. Practice honoring your word in every area of your life. Be on time, all the time. If you commit to doing x by y, then do it. As you grow your personal integrity you'll find that when it comes to procrastination, you will no longer allow yourself to fail to keep your word.