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7 Tips to Stop Procrastination

Woman in computer room with feet up thinking

It’s funny how procrastination works. It feeds upon insecurities, negativity and frustration. Procrastination quite literally makes mountains of molehills. Would you believe I found myself procrastinating writing this very article? Sometimes writing comes easy to me, other times I am distracted by something as small as dust floating by.

I don’t think there is one person who hasn’t experienced procrastination at some point in their life. This inspired me to share a few tips I often use to stop procrastination and to start getting things done. Here they are!

Be realistic with your time

One of the biggest reasons why people procrastinate is because they underestimate the time it will take to complete a task. They lead themselves to believe it will only take an hour or two, when realistically it’s an all-day assignment. In return, this causes you to become overwhelmed by and frustrated with the task at hand. Be realistic with the time it will really take. Maybe it is a 3-day project, but knowing that will allow you to properly manage expectations and to get in the zone to get it done.

Choose a smart work environment

Another good piece of advice to stop procrastination is to pick the right work environment. This will depend upon your personality, so think about the setting where you tend to get the most, uninterrupted work done. For me, this is a calm and completely silent setting. There’s no background noise, the lights are dim and there are no other people. Did I mention I’m an introvert? This isn’t ideal for everyone. I know a lot of people who can’t work when it’s silent. They actually need background noise, bright lights and other people to drive their energy. To each their own! Learn what works for you and replicate that work environment the best you can when you need to get in the zone.

Put it on your calendar

Next, pick a specific day and time that you plan to tackle the seemingly insurmountable project and put it on your calendar. Block out time that you can dedicate solely to this task and make it a commitment. If you can treat a project like a meeting or conference call, meaning you don’t schedule something else during this time and you show up on time, you will have a far better shot at knocking it out in one fail swoop.

Start your day with the hardest task

I’ve written about “eating a frog” for breakfast, and by that I mean taking your least favorite task of the day and getting it done first. Why? First, it ensures it gets done even if nothing else does. Second, once you tackle the thing you’re looking forward to least, everything else seems easy. By starting your day with the hardest task, you’ll go on to conquer the world!

Shut out distractions

When it’s really crunch time and you need to get something done, don’t allow any distractions to interfere. For some people, this may mean burying your phone under a heap of laundry and turning off your computer’s wifi. You may even need to leave the office and head outside or to a library just to avoid phone calls and small talk. Procrastination will make everything in the world, but the task at hand, a welcome distraction, unless you make an effort to shut it out. Don’t rely on your own self-control; do what you can to eliminate even the potential for distraction.

Set mini deadlines

If you’re task is exceptionally large, you may need to set mini deadlines to make it less daunting. Section it out so that you create smaller tasks that build upon each other to get you to the finish line. This also gives you obvious breaking points so that you can step away, refresh your mind and come back with a renewed focus.

Get excited about it

Finally, change your frame of mind about the task. You’re likely procrastinating because you’re intimidated by the task or you just really don’t want to do it. Dig deep and put a positive spin on it, even if the only positive is that it will be off your shoulders. Convince yourself that you’re going to knock it out of the park. Get excited for the finished product and the sense of accomplishment you will soon feel. A little positive self-talk will go a long way toward breaking through that procrastination!

Have you fallen victim to procrastination? Share the tips you’ve used to overcome it!

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Posted by on July 17, 2017 in Business & Success, Life

 

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Moment versus Momentum: Learning to Harness Fleeting Inspiration

Momentum Newton's BallsWhile pursuing a career in the uncharted territory of entrepreneurship, I frequently encounter other entrepreneurs along my journey. Some are decades ahead of where I am (and hope to be) and others are merely minutes into their decision to take the leap. Among this group of individuals, the veteran entrepreneurs always seem to have at least one quality in common regardless of industry or age—they have momentum. For the greener entrepreneurs, I struggle to access whether they possess this same momentum or whether their inspiration is merely a fleeting moment. The difference in the meaning of these two words – and the affect they have on the success or failure of a dream – is far more profound than two little letters. Rather this “um” holds the inspiration, the drive and the courage to turn a single moment into a momentous career.

Is your dream a mere moment or does it carry momentum?

Among your friends and acquaintances, think about those who you would consider a dreamer or an entrepreneurial spirit. Chances are you have a variety. These people are likely different, each with their own qualities that earn them a spot in this category. Now think about those in this group who have taken a goal or idea and are in the active process of taking it to the next level. Chances are this no longer applies to everyone you originally thought of. Maybe those that don’t fit this description more accurately fit the description of coming up with brilliant and creative ideas one day, but then you never hear or see anything more about it. This is the truest differentiation I can illustrate for you between moment and momentum. I, too, have contacts that I would consider entrepreneurs at heart, but this doesn’t mean every one of them has become a real life entrepreneur. Instead, there are those who think of innovative ideas all the time, but I’ve learned to not get too excited for they’re just having “a moment.” By the next month or even the next day, the big plan for a life change has already been forgotten as quickly as it was conceived.

How do we harness this moment of inspiration and turn it into momentum?

At the root of this problem are the differing qualities of each individual. Not everyone is meant to be an entrepreneur, just like not everyone is meant to be a doctor or a rocket scientist. We all have different strengths and for some, this is taking an idea from conception to completion. For others – this is a weakness. But just like how you were told when you were little that, “you can be anything you want when you grow up,” you CAN become an entrepreneur and find your inner momentum regardless of prior failed attempts. You have at least two options to better harness your moments of inspiration and turn them into something more substantial.

First, you can commit to making a personal effort to stop the bad habits that have led to loss of momentum in the past. This includes procrastination, lack of confidence, fear of hard work or fear of failure. Just as you would commit to quit smoking or lose weight, changing any existing habit takes energy and effort. Pick a single, well-defined goal and create a timeline of specific actions. When I knew I wanted to begin my own business, I defined all the steps I had to take to reach the point of leaving my former job. I knew I needed a functional web site, enough clients to pay the bills and to register myself as an official business with the government. And so I added these to my timeline and was specific in the actions I had to take to achieve them. Every day I would assign myself one immediate thing I could do to further this timeline, whether it was sending an email to a prospective client or creating a blog. These immediate action items prevented me from falling victim to procrastination or overwhelm because they kept me on track and made me feel accomplished each and every day. Over the course of a week and then a month, these actions ultimately came together to achieve my bigger goal. I still use this tactic when I’m in a phase of business growth.

If you’ve tried or are trying to change your habits to become a person of momentum, but it just isn’t picking up as quickly as you’d like – it might be time to consider the second option. You can team up with another person or group of people who will provide complimentary skills to help turn an idea into reality. Not every business is a sole proprietorship and that’s because sometimes working together is the only way to achieve a goal of a certain scope or size.  If you have an idea for a product, but have no knowledge or direction on where to start with manufacturing it; find a partner who can provide expertise and connections in this area. A partner or team will also keep you accountable to your ideas and actions. It’s not so easy to let a dream fade if the dream is shared by many different people.

In talking with even the most successful entrepreneur, I would be shocked to hear that they never once had a failed idea or fleeting inspiration prior to their current business. To find our true calling, we must allow our mind to wander as creatively as it chooses without feeling pressured to turn every idea into reality. But when you do dream up an idea that you can envision changing your world, or the world of many others, you must find a way to harness this inspiration and keep it moving. Sometimes all it takes to turn a moment into momentum is the willingness to change yourself or team up with others…and of course a little “um!”

people-say-that-motivation-doesnt-last

 
 

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When To Hit Delete: Starting over is NOT the same as giving up

giving up, starting overThere are some weeks where my Monday blog topic clearly presents itself. It’s an obvious epiphany, life lesson or a piece of business advice I’m thrilled to share. But there are some weeks where finding an inspiring blog topic consumes more time and energy than some of my biggest work projects. Because this blog is more a creative outlet and not my bread and butter, I have to be careful how much I allow something that’s supposed to be an enjoyment stress me out. Well if this blog’s title isn’t indication enough…this week fell more under category #2.

I started off with everything in my advantage. I began writing good and early (I like to pre-write my blog posts no later than the Thursday prior to publishing). I even had a quote that inspired me to write about a particular topic and the ideas flowed easily. By a few paragraphs in, I realized I didn’t like the direction I was headed, but felt I had come too far to turn back. A little unsettled by the fact I didn’t love my work, I kept going. I concluded with my final thought and realized I had invested even more of my time into half-heartedly completing a project I would call “mediocre” at best. I may have been bitter, but I wasn’t going to give up. So I spent yet more time scouring my writing for ways to reorganize and direct it back to my original point – but it couldn’t be done. The editing it would require to become the finished product I wanted it to be would take more time than simply starting over. If there’s something I hate more than failing it’s wasting time – and I had successfully (or unsuccessfully) done both.

I couldn’t bear to hit delete and erase hours’ worth of work, so instead I hit “Save,” opened a new Word doc and began again. The ideas continued to flow, but not too long into writing, I realized I still wasn’t loving the direction I was headed. I read and re-read, outlined paragraph topics and jotted down ideas all in an effort to make a roadmap that would lead me to the final point that so perfectly coordinated with the quote that was the blog’s inspiration. I closed my laptop for the night and refused to confront the issue until two days later.

When I looked at my work again, my feelings hadn’t changed. I was still out-of-love with the words and turned off to the whole topic by this point. So I deleted every one of those 2,243 characters and began again. And then it hit me – I was so stubborn and unwilling to start over because I felt like starting over was the same as giving up. Instead of cutting my losses on a few hours’ worth of work, I was more willing to continue to put even more time into a project that was going to fail anyway. I know I’m not alone in this feeling whether it’s in writing, business or in life. There are times where we feel like we’ve invested so much that we can turn back, that hitting stop and starting over would be the biggest failure. No. Investing even more time into a failing project is the failure. Stopping and never staring again is the failure. But restarting and rebuilding from the ground up is a humbling and rewarding experience.

Writing has always been and will continue to be one of my most favorite hobbies. The only time it really becomes an effort is when I refuse to let the words take me where they please. This is just as applicable to life – when we’re too focused on reaching a specific end point, we lose the ability to wander down a different path and find an even better destination. I would have never thought that the struggles of writing could teach me such a broad life lesson, but I suppose my doubt is what led me to write three versions of this week’s blog in the first place.

In a funny twist of fate, I’ll share with you the original inspiration quote I worked so hard to mold my writing around. It looks like everything I just wrote was everything I wanted to write all along…

“The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser people are so full of doubts.” Bertrand Russell

 
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Posted by on July 30, 2012 in Business & Success, Life

 

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