THE BLOG
09/08/2015 09:38 am ET | Updated Sep 08, 2016

6 Surefire Methods for Overcoming Procrastination

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6 Surefire Methods for Overcoming Procrastination

Many of us have goals -- a set of deep-down desires that we ultimately want to see realized. Yet, with each passing day, we can't find the energy to move forward. And, as the deadline approaches and passes for achieving our goals, we're no further ahead than where we started. Often, we might even find ourselves a few steps behind.

So, what gives?

While most of us say we want to achieve something and realize our goals, our behaviors indicate otherwise. We're unable to take action, paralyzed by distractions and bad habits, succumbing to the death-knell of procrastination. We're unable to realize our goals because we're stifled by our own inability to act.

But how can we overcome procrastination to ensure that we make progress in life rather than being left behind? How can we override our seemingly natural tendencies to put things off for just one more day, and actually tackle our to-do list with gusto?

Overcoming procrastination can be difficult at times. We're creatures of habit. And, when those habits involve things that lend themselves to our tendencies to procrastinate, the hurdles become even greater. But, by leveraging a few powerful hacks, we can help to override and overcome procrastination at its core.

#1 - Set Written Goals

It's easier to ignore things and put them off when we fail to write out our goals. When goals live solely in our mind, they remain wholeheartedly in the abstract. When they're written, they become more real and concrete. If you haven't set written goals, you might find overcoming procrastination to be far more difficult.

Take the time to write out your goals. In short, your goals should not only be written out, but they also should be specific and measurable. You have to know precisely what you're trying to achieve, and ensure that it's quantifiable.

Your goals should also be profound -- you have to have a strong enough reason to want to achieve your goals, especially if you want to overcome natural tendencies to procrastinate. And, of course, your goals should have a deadline -- define a specific date, down to the exact day, that you want to achieve your goals.

All of this helps to make the goals much more real. We're more likely to overcome procrastination when we have our written set of goals in front of us and staring us in the face on a daily basis. Read them twice a day - once when you wake up and once before you go to sleep. Try to visualize your goals in your mind as you recount them repeatedly.

#2 - Write Out a Plan
When we have a plan for our goals, we're far more likely to follow through and overcome procrastination. We're less likely to get distracted when we've detailed out the steps needed to take to achieve our dreams.

Yes, procrastination can get in the way and be very distracting, pushing us further from our goals. But, a plan can help to divert some of our natural tendencies to procrastinate by highlighting the specific steps we need to take on a daily basis to get there.

When creating your plan, create a long-term plan along with daily goals. What could you do today (right now) to help you reach your goals? These are also considered your Most Important Tasks (MITs) of the day. Outline those each morning and tackle your plan to help you avoid procrastination.

#3 - 15-Minute Rule
Sometimes setting specific goals and having a plan doesn't help to get us there, especially if we don't have strong enough reasons why we must achieve our goals. When that occurs, and you still find yourself procrastinating, just invoke the 15-minute rule.

What's the 15-minute rule? Set a timer on your smartphone, watch, or any other device you have handy, to 15 minutes. Then, tackle the one task you've been putting off for longest, for just 15 minutes. That's all it takes -- 15 minutes.

Why just 15 minutes you might ask? Because, 15 minutes allows us to build momentum. But, it's also an impossible-to-fail timeframe for doing anything. We can all do something for just 15 minutes. But, what you'll come to find is that after the 15 minutes are up, you'll keep going.

As the saying goes, an object in motion stays in motion, and an object at rest stays there. This is a great procrastination hack for helping push past some of those daily hurdles and plateaus that we all reach.

#4 - Effectively Manage Your Time
Effective time management is a skill to help even the most distracted individual to overcome their tendencies for procrastination. How does it work? The method is simple -- divide up your day into four categories of activities based on a scale of urgency versus importance.

This is also known as the Quadrant Time Management System, and was originally envisioned by President Dwight D. Eisenhower, but later popularized by Stephen R. Covey in the book, Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.

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  • Quadrant 1: Import & Urgent - Short-term crises and problems
  • Quadrant 2: Import but Not Urgent - Long-term strategic goals
  • Quadrant 3: Not Import but Urgent - Distractions and interruptions
  • Quadrant 4: Not Import & Not Urgent - Time-wasting activities

To start, all you need to do is audit your day. Jot down every activity you engage in, and indicate what quadrant it falls into. Then, at the end of the week, find out what percentage of your time you spent in each quadrant.

The goal? Spend as much time in quadrant 2, the long-term goal-related quadrant, as you possibly can. If you find that yourself procrastinating, pick two tasks that you can do at the start of your day that will help progress you towards your long-term goals the most.

#5 - Change Your Environment
Sometimes, all we need to do is change our environment. This simple hack can help us to overcome procrastination by interrupting the habitual routines of our lives. By displacing us into another environment, most of the same habit cues that we run at home, don't exist.

While this won't entirely eliminate procrastination, it will help to short-circuit some of those existing neural pathways that lend themselves to distractions. This includes excessively watching television, over-indulging in social media, chatting on the phone, snacking, and so on.

Find a place nearby you can go and focus. Whether it's a coffee shop, a nearby beach or lake, or just a grassy field, by changing your environment, you'll be far more able to focus and concentrate without all the everyday distractions surrounding you.

#6 - Join Forces with a Friend
Often, we do better when have someone else to motivate and push us to get things done. That's why some people rely on professionals such as coaches and personal trainers to help them achieve their goals.

While hiring a professional is a great way to overcome procrastination by removing the element of choice, not everyone can afford to so. In that case, locate a friend who can act as your accomplice. Join forces with them. Rely on each other to push and motivate your way through an otherwise difficult task or goal.

When you see your friend slacking, act to help inspire and encourage, and ask that they do the same for you. When you're accountable to someone you know and trust, you can work together to help achieve similar goals, eliminating procrastination in the process.

Image Credit: Shuttertock