Do you feel overwhelmed by tasks or activities that you are struggling to complete? When you try to get started, does the task feel too daunting or overwhelming? Everyone has struggled with procrastination at one time or another.
Why do some people procrastinate and avoid while others seem to simply tackle whatever is thrown their way? I have spent years studying procrastination and helping those who struggle with it make the leap to becoming “doers.” The good news is that it’s actually much easier than most people realize. Here are six simple steps to help you achieve your goals and beat procrastination:
1. Pick your goal. The goal could be anything – organizing your finances, decluttering your closet, updating your resume, training for a marathon, or climbing Mount Kilimanjaro. Once you have a goal in mind, the next step is to write it down. Putting your goal down on paper will help it feel real and you will hold yourself more accountable.
2. Develop a plan. To quote The Little Prince, “a goal without a plan is just a wish.” It is critical to make your plan as specific as possible by breaking it down into its smallest parts. For example, if you want to update your resume, some steps could include buying resume paper, writing out your educational and professional history, researching jobs to which you’ll tailor your resume, writing a draft, revising it, and sending it to a friend for feedback. Remember, the more detailed and specific, the better!
3. Make a date with yourself. Mark off a specific date and time on your calendar to work on your plan. Keep your appointment with yourself! You are your own boss. Most people would not cancel an appointment with their boss so don’t cancel your appointment with yourself. Treat yourself with the same respect and consideration you would someone else with whom you made an appointment.
4. Make a list of everything that could get in the way of your plan. Will you be distracted by emails, social media, or the latest episode of your favorite Netflix series? Will you have to take care of the kids or run errands? Think about what could get in the way and, once you have your list, develop a plan to address those obstacles. If you’re someone who finds themselves scrolling through social media instead of focusing on the task at hand, plan to turn your phone off or leave it in another room during your appointment. If you are caring for children, plan to schedule your appointment when they are in school (Zoom or in person) or after they go to sleep. By being proactive and planning around known distractions you will set yourself up for success.
5. Start working on your plan. Remember, action usually comes before motivation. Most people do not suddenly feel motivated to do the things they’ve been putting off. Combat this inertia by planning to work on the task for only a short period of time. For your first appointment, and for all your appointments, you should schedule no more than 10 minutes. After you have completed 10 minutes – stop. Congratulations! You have accomplished your goal. You may find that the task has become much less daunting once you’ve gotten over the initial hurdle of starting. If that’s the case and you’d like to continue working, go ahead! Otherwise, you can stop knowing that you have completed what you set out to do. You are now a doer!
6. Continue to revisit your goal and plan. As you go through the steps above, you will begin to notice what works for you and what doesn’t. If a distraction you hadn’t planned for gets in the way, that’s okay! Incorporate it into your plan for next time. It’s important to revise your plan and your goal based on your experience. As you are learning to become a doer this will become second nature to you.
It’s important to think about these experiences as learning opportunities. If you haven’t completed your task or gotten the results you were hoping for after your first, second, or third attempts – don’t despair! With each effort you’re learning what works for you, what doesn’t, and adapting for next time. What’s most important is that you continue trying and developing good habits to tackle any task or goal you choose.
Now go get unstuck and get moving! Pick a goal, spend 10 minutes, and become a doer!
Kim Reichig MS, LMFT is a licensed psychotherapist practicing in Scarsdale, NY. She specializes in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy helping her clients use tools to manage their stress, reduce their anxiety, and improve their emotional, personal, and professional lives. Her approach is goal oriented, and involves a collaborative, warm, and supportive relationship. Kim works with individuals, parents, and couples. She also sits on the International Advisory Board for the Columbia University – World Health Organization for Global Mental Health. In her spare time, she enjoys spending time with family and friends, cooking, skiing, and hiking.
To learn more about Kim click here www.cbtofwestchester.com