5 Practical Strategies to Stop Procrastinating in the New Year
The new year is almost here, and if you’re like most people, you’ll make at least one new year’s resolution. I recently read that the average person makes the same resolution ten years in a row without completing it, and within four months, 25% of people give up on their resolutions altogether.
Nothing will get in the way of accomplishing your new year’s resolutions more than procrastination. Procrastination will have you sitting on the couch bingeing on Netflix when you should be working on that new project or going to the gym. Because it steals your motivation and initiative, I call procrastination the great thief of productivity. It destroys your chances of accomplishing your goals in a timely fashion and kills your dreams of advancing to your next level.
Procrastination has many causes such as feeling overwhelmed, poor time management, and negative self-talk and beliefs. When you better understand what’s holding you back, you can devise a strategy to overcome procrastination and move forward into your new season. Below, are 5 practical strategies you can use to address these root causes and to stop procrastinating now:
Schedule Time to Work on a Task
Time is our one non-renewable resource, and in fact, we don’t manage time, but rather we manage tasks within time frames. To better manage your tasks within the time you have available to you, block off periods of time on your calendar to work on a particular task each day. Make the task a priority and avoid canceling it if something else comes up at the last minute. Estimate the amount of time you will need to complete the task and then schedule it as a recurring event every day for the number of days in a row you think it will take to complete it. Repetition and consistency are critical to the formation of a new habit and establish the foundation for achieving your new year’s resolutions.
Divide + Conquer
If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude or scope of a task, break it into smaller chunks or subtasks. Rather than seeing the mess on your desk as one big, insurmountable chore that you might as well not even tackle, identify several subtasks that are needed to have a clean desk. For example, clean out the center desk drawer on Monday, clear off all of the paper on the top of your desk on Tuesday, organize the first ten files in the file drawer on Wednesday, etc. Most people underestimate how fast small chunks add up and try to do too much at one time. But if you divide and conquer, you’ll calm that feeling of overwhelm and make progress toward your goals.
Organize Your Environment to Minimize Distractions
“Cyberslacking” is becoming a more common source of procrastination. Ten minutes on Facebook can turn into an hour. Checking a statistic online for work morphs into surfing the net for the latest sports update. Employers lose hundreds of thousands of dollars a year in productivity due to cyberslacking and it can derail your own personal goals outside of work. If you are easily distracted by the internet, close your web browser while you are working on a report so you won’t be tempted to check your social media. If you work from home and the television is a distraction, remove the TV from your home office. If your cubicle is near the break room and you are frequently interrupted by passersby, consider working in an empty conference room on a laptop. Organize your environment so that it works for you, not against you.
Get Rid of “Stinking Thinking”
Cognitive distortions or irrational, erroneous beliefs and false assumptions are at the root of procrastination and are fueled by negative self-talk. This “stinking thinking” wreaks havoc on our ability to implement new habits, and negative self-talk such as, “I can’t do anything right” or “I’m going to mess this whole thing up” gets in the way of making progress towards your new year’s resolutions. Identify your stinking thinking and replace negative self-talk with statements like, “I can do this” and “Done is better than perfect.” Make up your mind that you can and will overcome procrastination and accomplish your new year’s resolutions. Keep repeating your mantras to yourself until you believe them.
Some new year’s resolutions are their own reward. For example, losing weight and fitting into your old clothes (or buying new ones) is rewarding in and of itself. But the tasks along the way to getting there are often perhaps not so rewarding (at least not at first). For example, to lose weight, you may decide to start running every day. If you wait to feel like running that first day, you may never get started. So, I tell my clients, “Pretend you did feel like doing it; what one small thing would you do first?” Then do that one small thing, and be sure to give yourself a small reward after you finish it (and a bigger reward when you reach your final goal). These little rewards along the way will help keep your motivation high and are an important element in establishing new habits.
In the end, as Nike said, you’re going to have to just do it. You’re going to have to take that first step toward your goal. If you prioritize and focus on one small task at a time, do it consistently, believe you can do it, and manage your distractions, you’ll eventually get it done. When you implement these suggestions, you’ll be able to overcome procrastination and build the momentum you need to achieve your new year’s resolutions.
I would love to help you overcome procrastination in the new year. Give yourself the gift of change and schedule a free discovery session with me to learn how I can help you to make this your best year ever.