Do you want to overcome procrastination? Nicholas cage contemplates his new treatment in Adaptation - 6 ways to overcome procrastination

We’re all good at putting things off.

Of course, if we were that good at procrastination, you’d think we’d simply put off doing it. But somehow it doesn’t seem to work that way.

Instead, we huff and puff. We try willpower. We try looking in the mirror every morning and saying “I don’t procrastinate!” The trouble is that willpower and affirmations only reinforce our feeling that it’s all very difficult.

The truth is – we don’t procrastinate over things we enjoy. I don’t know anyone who has to force themselves to eat chocolate cake or stay longer in bed.

Here are six tried and tested – and easy – ways to overcome procrastination.

Well, relatively easy…

1. Remember the “Why”

Why do you need to do the thing you’re putting off?

Is it a novel you always wanted to write? Or a phone call you’re dreading making. We spend so much time worrying about what might go wrong, or how difficult the experience might be that we forget there was often a good reason for doing it in the first place.

Hopefully, there’s a good and exciting goal at the end of it all. Make a picture of the goal – whether it’s achieving something pleasing or avoiding something painful.

Imagine yourself celebrating. Make the picture bigger, more colourful, add sound, music even. Like a strong magnet, an exciting picture can draw you through.

2. Focus on the first little step

Big actions can sometimes be daunting. One of the best tricks I was taught was to focus on nothing but the smallest first step.

Starting a painting? Booking a dentist’s appointment? What’s the very first thing to do?

Laying out the paintbrushes. Finding the phone number…

First steps are easy. Once you’ve started, you may even find yourself doing the second… and the third…

3. Realise what’s missing

Sometimes it’s difficult to overcome procrastination, because procrastinating is actually the right thing to do.

Maybe something needs to be done first. You can’t begin the screenplay because the main character isn’t yet clear.

Or you aren’t digging the garden because you haven’t yet researched which shrubs to plant.

Sit down. Check there’s nothing missing – and if there is, fix it now.

4. Do something else

This is one of my favourites. Use all that procrastination energy to achieve something else.

Putting off doing the filing? You can use the time to dash off that email you’ve been avoiding doing. (Or vice versa). That way you feel good about avoiding the first and good that you’ve done the second.

Then, with all that momentum and good feeling, you may find yourself doing the first thing you avoided anyway.

5. Enjoy the process

Whatever it is you’re not doing, however mundane or scary, seek out parts of it that you can enjoy.

Be proud of how you polish the floor. Focus on the clarity of your handwriting…

Get Zen about the tiniest action.

6. Do nothing

Perhaps the most powerful technique of all. Get bored!

The key to this one is to prepare everything you need to and then ensure that you absolutely do nothing that could distract you. Switch off every other device. Close the door.

Sit and wait until you are so fed up with not doing anything that you just have to do the thing you’re supposed to.

Stick with it. I guarantee that the boredom will get you every time.

Tell me how you get on

Read more

Delay, Delay, Delay: How to manage procrastination so it doesn’t manage you

More articles on procrastination