Procrastination is a trap that many of us fall into. In fact, according to researcher, 95 percent of us procrastinate to some degree. While it may be comforting to know that you're not alone, it can be sobering to realize just how much it can hold you back.
Check out these tips from 14 members of Forbes Coaches Council as they share their top tips on how to overcome chronic procrastination.
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Chances are that you know a procrastinator or may, in fact, be one yourself. A deadline fails to move you to action until the last moment, even if you’ve known about it for a long time. It isn’t until the due date is staring you in the face that you get into gear and do the work with your full attention. If this sounds like you or someone you know, then you may be dealing with a chronic procrastinator.
The catch is that while procrastination may help some find focus right before a deadline, for others it can lead to gaps in work followed by mad sprints to the finish line, leaving no room for error or causing unforeseen circumstances. So, what are the best ways to view and/or overcome chronic procrastination? Below, 14 members of Forbes Coaches Council share their top tips.
1. Create To-Do Lists And Stick To Them
Benjamin Franklin has been credited with saying, “Failing to plan is planning to fail.” The procrastinators whom I’ve worked with don’t plan. If you think this is you, start small. Sit down once a week and make a to-do list, ranking items in order of importance, and keep the list with you. Look at it once or twice during the week. If you master that, try adding deadlines! I can hear some of you gasping from here! - Teresa Ray, Ph.D., Leadership Arkansas
2. Weigh The Return On Investment
I have suffered from procrastination for most of my life. The tip that helped me become focused is to weigh out the ROI of the project. For example, I will tell myself that if I get this done then it will get me closer to the main goal that is going to elevate me to greatness. Focusing on my “why” helps me get things accomplished much faster. - Dr. Aikyna Finch, Finch and Associates LLC
3. Get To The Root Cause
When a high-achieving client comes to me with a procrastination problem, something is usually blocking them. Sometimes it’s lack of clarity, but more often than not it’s fear—fear of speaking up, of putting something out into the world or of putting something into motion that they don’t feel ready for. Take a hard and honest look at what you’re really trying to avoid and manage that first. - Starla Sireno, Starla Sireno Professional Development, LLC
4. Do The ‘Scariest’ Thing First
After you identify the specific actions you need to take to reach your goals, block time in your calendar to do the scariest thing on the list as soon as you start your workday. Often people fill the day with busy work to avoid the “thing” they fear doing (because it’s new, scary, annoying, etc.). Doing it first allows you to prioritize what’s important and creates a sense of accomplishment. - Jean Ali Muhlbauer, People at Work
5. Get An Accountability Partner
To handle chronic procrastination, involve an accountability partner. First, start with how you define the word “accountability” with this partner. This may look like daily phone calls or emails to report results. Second, you should set specific and measurable goals that you can be consistent in. If you cannot be consistent and it isn’t working out, then it is time to get a new accountability partner. - Jon Dwoskin, The Jon Dwoskin Experience
6. Break It Down Into Bite-Sized Chunks
When the task is broken down into bite-sized chunks it appears less overwhelming. Take these bite-sized chunks and number them from easiest to hardest. Start with the easiest so that when you get to the difficult tasks, you’re already in the swing of things. Before you know it, the task is done. - Claudette Gadsden, Coach Claudette & Associates
7. Don’t Try To Get It Perfect
“Great” is the enemy of “done”! Many people procrastinate because they want to get it right—or even worse, get it perfect. Learn to identify what “good enough” is for each task, and complete tasks to the “right” level of effort, leaving time for the important ones you need to get right. Many people find that knocking out the pile of easier tasks that clutter their inboxes leaves them feeling encouraged. - Maureen Metcalf, Innovative Leadership Institute
8. Set Your ‘Top One’ And ‘Top Three’ Every Day
All of us have way too many “to-dos” each day, with only a small handful equating to progress. End each day with this simple practice: Set your “Top One” and “Top Three” for tomorrow. The completion of your Top One should equal a great day all by itself. It’s the one key objective to achieve. Your Top Two and Top Three are bonuses. This practice means you progress daily on what’s important. - John Hittler, Evoking Genius
9. Start Anywhere
Procrastination is often a byproduct of perfectionism. You don’t need to have the whole project or presentation planned out in your mind before you start. If you don’t know where to start, start anywhere. Once you get into the flow you can organize. Envisioning the best outcome of the procrastination object can also kickstart the project. Have to deliver uncomfortable news? Rehearse in advance. - Barrett McBride, Ph.D., MCC, Barrett McBride & Associates
10. Focus On Execution
My tip comes from an old military quote, “Amateurs talk strategy, professionals talk logistics.” For chronic procrastinators, I have discovered that it is often an issue of having too many options or great ideas, which eventually leads to analysis paralysis. To address this dilemma, prioritize your focus and execute ruthlessly. To overcome procrastination, focus on execution! - Dr. Flo Falayi, Hybrid Leaders, Inc.
11. Slow Down
With neverending to-do lists, it’s no wonder that we get overwhelmed and procrastinate. We don’t typically experience the joy of finishing our tasks. One thing I have implemented in my life, and I encourage my clients to do as well, is identifying three to-dos each day outside of your daily responsibilities. Accomplishing three tasks gives a sense of accomplishment, giving us a reason to keep pushing! - Brooke Schultz, Brooke Schultz LLC
12. Create Pressure
Procrastinators can be perceived very poorly, but they often deliver fantastic results under tremendous pressure. If you are one of the many “proud” procrastinators out there who do their best work under pressure, then create more pressure for yourself! Take on more projects, set tight deadlines and ensure that you schedule sufficient time for the last-minute push that brings out your best work. - Jim Vaselopulos, Rafti Advisors, LLC
13. Get Real And Get It Done
Our minds have a tendency to increase the significance of a task we dislike. We procrastinate because we perceive the energy, time or pain of completing the task as greater than it actually is. To get it done, get real with yourself and don’t overthink the task! You are more productive when your mind is free. Focus, dive in, don’t waste time on worry and put the task behind you! - Erin Urban, UPPSolutions, LLC
14. Keep It Up
Procrastinating isn’t all bad. If it’s not impacting the actual quality of your work, just keep doing what you do best. Some of my best work has been done under the little boost of stress I get toward a deadline. The other good thing about procrastination is that it usually means you’re totally focused on getting a single task done. This level of focus is awesome. - Brian M Harman, Business Management Hallmark