10 Ways to Beat Procrastination for Peak Performance When you stop putting things off, you'll start to see the success you're after.
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
Procrastination can be the most expensive cost in life and business, leading to stress, misunderstandings and missed opportunities. Many people put off tasks until the last minute, and, according to Psychology Today, 20% of people are chronic procrastinators.
Today, distractions seem like the norm. More than ever, people are getting pulled in different directions, and demands on time, schedules and energy are increasing.
In order to cope with the pressures of life and work, many spend excessive time tuning out non-work activities: scrolling on social media, engaging in gossip, reading blogs and watching TV. They're activities that make us feel better in the moment, yet prevent us from taking action on our tasks, dreams and desires. How can we perform at peak performance levels when we self-sabotage and hold ourselves back?
Why do we procrastinate?
According to an article by Balkis and Duru, procrastination occurs because of poor time management, lack of organizational skills and motivation, inability to concentrate on work, unrealistic expectations and personal problems, fixation on negative thoughts, negative beliefs about one's capabilities, low self-confidence, perfectionism and anxiety and fear related to failure and success.
In my own life, I was living in the space between intention and action. I procrastinated on work and personal deadlines that led to missed opportunities, misunderstandings and stress. All could have been prevented if I got out of my own way and didn't procrastinate.
Here are some ways to overcome procrastinaion for peak performance.
1. Question and get real with yourself
Have you looked at your situation from a different viewpoint? Most of the time, we know what is getting in the way. If you don't know where you are, you won't be able to get to where you want to go. Here are some questions that may support you in getting real with yourself and the situation at hand. Where are you setting unrealistic expectations for yourself? How are you putting pressure on yourself? What types of things are you saying to yourself? What is the why behind what you want or need to do? What are the consequences or rewards for getting this done? What is getting in the way? Take time to answer these questions for yourself.
2. Forgive yourself
Accept the fact that it happened; many of us have procrastinated at one point or another. There is no need to beat yourself up. The fastest way to make progress and move into a state of peak performance is through acceptance. Acknowledge it, forgive yourself and then move on. Eliminate the overthinking and take the necessary actions that will move you forward.
3. The Eisenhower Matrix
We live in a time where everything is urgent and important, but is that really true? Many of our tasks and deadlines can be adjusted or re-negotiated. A powerful strategy that helps prioritize tasks based on urgency and importance is called The Eisenhower Matrix. There are four quadrants that help label tasks: Urgent/Important, Urgent/Less Important, Less Urgent/Important, Less Urgent/Less Important. Identify which tasks go into which quadrants; this helps focus where your energy, time and attention need to go.
4. Jump in: The One-Minute Method
Start something for one minute. All it takes to get into action and get moving is one minute. Jump in regardless of how you are feeling; start before you are ready. Many people think too much and take too little action. Set your timer now and take action.
Related: 6 Ways Top CEOs Beat Procrastination
5. Break up a project into smaller tasks
When there is a lot to do, we want to do it all, which can cause overwhelm and analysis paralysis before we even start. We freeze; therefore, no action is taken. Breaking up the overall goal into smaller tasks over time helps create consistency, cultivate confidence and increase momentum. It's a game-changer.
6. Remove distractions
Today, people are more distracted than ever by their phones, social media and the news. Attention spans are shorter and life is noisier. According to Udemy's survey, nearly three out of four workers (70%) admit they feel distracted when they're on the job, with 16% asserting that they're almost always distracted. Turn off your social-media notifications, find a place where you are not bothered or interrupted and take note of what other things cause you to become distracted. Once someone becomes distracted, it takes about 23 minutes to get back to the task at hand. When we live and allow distractions to occur, it makes it easier to procrastinate.
7. The Bracelet Technique
I learned this attending a seminar lead by T. Harv Eker. Start out by getting an elastic or rubber band and wear it on your wrist. Every time you find yourself procrastinating or thinking negative thoughts, snap the elastic or rubber band on your wrist. This act associates physical pain with negative thoughts and procrastination; it can be an effective way to overcome procrastination and the negative thoughts that occur.
8. The timeline experiment
Can setting deadlines and timelines help when overcoming procrastination? According to a study, mentioned in Psychological Science, it has been reported that setting deadlines does in fact improve the ability to complete a task. Self-imposed and external deadlines are effective. Play a game with yourself. Run an experiment and set a small internal deadline to see if you can complete it in a specific amount of time — a little competition between your intentions, word and actions can be fun.
9. Reward yourself
Let's say you want to start on a task that needs to get done and decide to chip away at the task for one hour; at the end of that one hour, you reward yourself with something pleasurable. This creates positive reinforcement for short-term tasks. Plan these rewards ahead of time. Taking action and rewarding yourself builds your self-trust. Start out small and keep track of your progress and rewards. The more rewards you give yourself, the more motivated you will become. Self-trust and success beget more self-trust and success.
10. Environment and energy
What time of the day are you most effective? Which environments are you most productive in? Both your environment and energy are critical when it comes to getting into action and setting the stage to eliminate procrastination. For example, if you feel most energized in the morning and are in an environment where you feel motivated, safe and inspired, this will lead to action. Identify which times of the day you feel your best and the types of environments where you have thrived — this will cultivate feelings of success and energetic alignment.
When you understand the underlying emotions and the external and internal reasons that are causing procrastination, you can identify which strategies and techniques you can use to achieve greater productivity and less procrastination in your life.