How To Beat Procrastination Down To Size

Why It Matters More Than You Think

Procrastination isn’t a joke or a trivial matter. This is especially the case for the 20% of adults claim to be chronic procrastinators as well as college students where the rate may be as high as 70% among college students.

The impact and deleterious effects are pretty sobering, as Dr. Joseph Ferraris mentions in this WSJ article (read about 2/3 of the way down):

  • Lower salaries
  • Higher unemployment
  • Failing to save for retirement
  • Neglecting preventative health care
  • A lot of negative self-talk

Regardless of who you talk to, everyone seems to have an “inner procrastinator” at some level. How about you? I know I do, which is why I have to beat it down to size every day. Amidst the sea of information about procrastination, I’ve found a few simple hacks that work really well for me.

Before I share how I beat my inner procrastinator down to size, it’s important to clarify what kind of procrastination I am talking about. There are 2 types:

  1. Productivity procrastination- Related to daily routine or work-flow items that show up intermittently or on a regularly basis and consist mostly of physical or intellectual labor. This type of procrastination is the culprit that will not only limit your productivity, but steal your life if you let it.
  2. Creativity procrastination- Usually related to much larger projects or ideas where the creation process is the primary focus. Surprisingly, a little bit of this type of procrastination in a creative context might just be a good thing (as this TED talk by Adam Grant points out).

However, If your wrestling with productivity procrastination, then you have to take that one by the throat and deal with it very directly.  Here’s how I do it and how you can too:

  1. Firmly commit to the 2 minute rule.  If something….anything….takes less than 2 minutes then knock it out right then. This would include seemingly trivial tasks, like bringing in the 3-4 cups that have collected in the back seat of your car, hanging up the keys you just placed on your dresser because you forgot to do it when you walked in, etc. I could go on here but you get the picture.  By committing to the 2 minute rule you will likely form a “keystone” habit. The discipline associated with keystone habits will spill over into other areas of your life and you’ll be more effective in “getting stuff done” in those areas as well.0062 Procrastination II
  2. Set your Anchor every night before going to bed. What’s your Anchor?  Your Anchor consists of the top three things you want to get done the next day.  This means you chose them intentionally and write them down (literally).
  3. Consistently practice the following small set of Do’s and Don’ts that make the biggest difference in getting your top 3 things done:
    • Don’t get faked out by distractions- Learn to associate them with sabotage instead of sweetness or a serendipitous reward.
    • Don’t give in to feeling good, it’s a trap!- Instead, focus on how you’re going to feel when you do the right thing…the thing that is right in front of you.
    • Do it immediately- if you’ve committed to the 2 minute rule you’ve already got this step licked.
    • Do break it into small chunks- even if it’s already small.

A lot has been written about procrastination. Most procrastinators don’t need to know more, they just need to know and then repeatedly do a few simple things.

If you do want to know more, the 10 bullet points in this short article will be enlightening.  And for those who wish to become serious students of the subject, simply Google Dr. Joseph Ferrari and Dr. Timothy Pychyl, who are two of the most prominent researchers in the field.

If you want to do more, Here is what you need to know:

  • Procrastinators are made, not born.
  • There are big costs to procrastination.
  • Change is possible but not always easy.
  • Sometimes the hardest part is making a decision to start.

How big is your inner procrastinator and how do you keep him or her in check?

I’d love to hear any procrastination beat-down hacks you have, so please comment!