10 tips for getting past procrastination


Do you have a reputation for being great at Getting Stuff Done? (BTW, one of Zoomly’s clients has that phrase as a core competency – except instead of ‘Stuff’ they use another word beginning with S…)

If we’re honest, most of us seem to have things that we put off – even people who seem to be great at Getting Stuff Done (let’s just call it GSD).

I had the good fortune to be given some top tips for this by Master Coach Jennifer Corbin back when I did my coach training with CoachU, and I’ve added a few of my own since then.

If there’s something that you’re putting off, or something that’s bugging you, try one or some of these steps:

Do it now – set a timer, say for 30 minutes, and get the job done. This can really help with things that contribute to overwhelm, such as an avalanche of email.

Ditch it – this requires us to look hard at our habitual ways of doing things, and identify any that may no longer be helpful. Getting angry about things we can’t control, holding on to unhealthy habits we’ve ceased to notice, or judgemental responses to others’ behaviour are just a few examples. Weigh up the time and headspace this is taking – and the results it gets. If it’s not working, if it’s old news, it’s time to dump it.

Delegate – who can help? Think of colleagues and team members who could take the job on, or someone in another discipline who could swap the task for something you’re able to do faster than them. Or you can outsource – ask around for recommendations.

Digitise – it may be as simple as using a scanner app on your phone to scan your notes from that meeting, or using the dictation function to quickly respond to emails.

Divide it – break the task down into small steps. That way, it won’t seem so daunting to simply take the first step. You may also be able to delegate some of the steps.

Deal with it – often that which we’re putting off goes deeper than we realise. We don’t clear our desk because we’re unsure what to do next, or we’ve lost sight of our priorities, or we’re ducking the thing we really should be doing because we find it scary, or we’re fearful of change. Ask yourself what the risks and rewards are for dealing with the situation to help clarify next steps.

Due date it – “I’ll do it later” doesn’t cut it here. Put a slot in your calendar when you will get the task done, or have the difficult conversation. Add reminders so you are prepared.

Discuss it – ask a colleague or friend for their advice; on procrastination in general, or the particular thing you keep putting off. If you’re bugged by someone else’s behaviour and need to clear the air, it’s essential to prepare for the conversation. I’m not kidding – the risks can be great. My tip is to rehearse and record what you’ll say into your smartphone and play it back, asking yourself how you’d feel on the receiving end of this comment. Keep going until you have the words that work. When you’re ready, ask them when’s a good time to talk.

Dream – you can mentally rehearse taking the action, visualising how you’ll feel when you’ve done it / digitised / dealt with it. See, hear and feel what’s it’s like to have done what you’ve been putting off.

Decide – how will you know which method is right? You could weigh up the pros and cons or ask yourself, “What’s the worst that could happen if I do / don’t?” You might ask for advice. Or choose from the list by marking each method out of 10.

P.S. As someone who’s just spent an astounding amount of time doing a long postponed clear-out, I can personally recommend another D for when you’re Done: Dance!

You may also find this post useful: 12 ways to get your day off to a good start.


Dawn is the author of ‘The Feedback Book’, available now at bookstores and on Amazon.


Image © franckito

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