Everyone procrastinates. Even the most successful people struggle with it every day. But successful people do something that most of us don’t —they push past it. They don’t make excuses or allow it to affect their output. They come up with smart, actionable strategies to break past mental barriers and stay productive.
Here are eight ways successful people defeat procrastination.
1. They keep themselves accountable.
Show yourself commitment to getting things done. Making a commitment to yourself helps keep you accountable. You can do this by writing your goals down, keeping a to-do list with you and creating reminders in your phone and on your calendar.
There are other more creative things you can do to keep yourself accountable: Change the wallpaper on your phone or computer to something that says “get work done.” Write your tasks and goals on a whiteboard or large sticky you keep on your monitor. Set the new tab screen of your browser to something that reminds you of the day’s priorities using Momentum or Limitless.
2. They make themselves accountable to others.
If you can’t stay accountable to yourself, you might have more success staying accountable to other people.
Tell everyone what you plan to do and talk about your goals. Tell friends, employees and employers your intentions and you won’t want to let them down. For example, if you want to go to the gym every day, ask a friend to text you every evening asking “Did you go to the gym today?”
Another suggestion is to start documenting and sharing your journey. A blog or vlog where you share the projects you’re working on and your progress will encourage you to get things done. Allowing yourself to be under public scrutiny can help light a fire under you.
3. They tie themselves to the mast.
In Homer’s Odyssey, Odysseus has his ship’s crew tie him to the mast so that he could hear the Sirens’ song without being drawn in and tempted to jump into the sea. If you’re a chronic procrastinator and simply can’t resist the temptations of things like Facebook and Youtube, it might be time to tie yourself to the mast.
There are tools such as Rescue Time, SelfControl and Focus that will temporarily block access to distracting websites like Facebook so you can work on the things that matter. It’s an extreme measure but also very effective.
There are less aggressive tools such as Facebook Newsfeed Eradicator and Distraction Free Youtube. These will allow you to have access to Facebook and Youtube but block the distracting parts of these websites (such as the newsfeed) so you can still use them for business purposes, like managing ads.
4. They have self-awareness.
Self-awareness is a common trait many successful people have. Having self-awareness allows you to properly understand why you’re even procrastinating in the first place.
Once you understand why you’re procrastinating, it will be easier for you to form a plan to beat it. This will allow you to see the root cause of your procrastination, which you can then either solve the problem or formulate a strategy to overcome it.
Becoming aware of why you procrastinate means taking a step back and looking at some of the possible reasons such as boredom, lack of confidence in the project, lack of self-confidence and feeling overwhelmed. Once you know the reason, it’s a matter of finding things to remedy it and cut your procrastination off at the source.
5. They plan ahead.
How often do you, at the start of your work day, sit at your desk and begin looking for things to work on, only to wind up on Reddit or checking email?
If you get to your work desk and have no idea where to start, it can lead you to work on low-impact tasks (such as checking email) or other worse forms of procrastinating.
Those without a map, wander. Put together a plan or to-do list before starting work or any project.
The night before is a good time to do this. It allows you to reflect on what you’ve accomplished during the day and then come up with what needs to get done tomorrow. Now, when you start your work day, you know exactly what you need to work on and what’s the highest priority.
6. They commit to at least showing up.
After starting a task, you’ll likely stick with it a lot longer than you initially committed to.
It’s like working out. Half the battle is just showing up to the gym.
Commit to just showing up and you’ll find yourself completing a lot more tasks. The next time you don’t feel like tackling a task, commit to only working on it for one minute. Set a timer for 60 seconds, then sit down and get to work. More often than not, you’ll find yourself wanting to go beyond the 60 seconds and continue.
I constantly use this technique to trick myself into working on tedious tasks.
7. They break up large tasks into smaller tasks.
The classic but seldom-followed productivity advice to conquering large or overwhelming tasks is to break them up into smaller chunks. Successful people understand that tasks need to be broken down into much more specific and measurable sub-tasks.
For example, an overwhelming to-do list item might be “write book.” Does that item in my to-do list mean I need to write the entire book today, or does only writing one sentence count towards the completion of the task?
A better approach would be to set a goal of writing a specific number or words each day, or spend a certain amount of time researching.
“Write 1000 words” or “spend 30 minutes researching examples of productive CEOs for book” are much more specific tasks, and therefore easier to tackle. This often encourages me to get more done and feel accomplished and motivated by scratching to-do items off of my list.
8. They give up.
Just because you already poured hours into a project doesn’t mean you need to finish it. This is known as the “sunk cost fallacy.” The “sunk cost fallacy” affects gamblers, investors and even procrastinators. Sometimes, a project just isn’t worth burning more hours over, and you ultimately need to figure out if it’s time to quit.
Take a step back and figure out the reason you’re procrastinating on the project or task. Is it because it’s actually not that important, or doesn’t move you closer to your big picture goal?
Subtraction, instead of addition, is efficient and productive. Maybe you need to focus on doing fewer things. Maybe this project you’re procrastinating on is actually making you much less productive and needs to be dropped.
Procrastination can be beat, it just takes some self-awareness and effort. Applying even just a few of any of the above methods can put you on the path to being a much more productive individual.