How to Stop Procrastinating

 

If you're anything like me, you procrastinate. 

A lot. 

You procrastinate the little things...

like doing your laundry...

or doing your dishes...

or calling that person back.

And the big things...

like getting that paper done...

or exercising...

or actually spending time doing something you love.

 

If you're anything like me...

stopping procrastinating

seems impossible.

 

But, since you can choose what you believe... 

And what you believe shapes your reality, 

Let's start this journey with the belief that... 

stopping procrastinating

is possible.


STOPPING PROCRASTINATING IS POSSIBLE. 


When you're stuck in a habit, escaping it seems impossible...

Until you do. 

In the past six months, I've escaped the impossible by... 

  1. Letting go of obsessively exercising and loving my body as it is.

  2. Letting go of drinking, taking action on loving my body. 

  3. Letting go of depression by breaking free of business school and embracing my true writer self. 

  4. Letting go of social anxiety, by being honest with myself about the problem, and challenging myself to be around lots of people. 

  5. Letting go of a relationship I didn't want to be in anymore, despite feeling like there was no way out. 


Before I let go of every single one of these things, it felt impossible...

until it didn't. 


Letting go of procrastination always seemed impossible to me. 

Eventually, I just convinced myself that it was normal to have procrastination in my life.

Everyone does it. It must be normal. It's okay to procrastinate. 

I thought there would never be a day where I would reach the end of my to-do list. 

And then I realized that most of the stuff on it didn't actually need to be done. 

And that I actually didn't need a list at all. 

Here's how I beat procrastination. 

(And how you can too.)


STEP #1: CLEAN & GET ORGANIZED


Let's reverse engineer what your life would be like without procrastination. 

You wouldn't be all over the place, lost with what to do, where to start. 

You would be fully aware and in control of your time and your tasks. 

Ultimately, you would be in control of your life. 

If you're ready to start taking action on eliminating procrastination from your life... 

Here are the places you're going to start getting organized in. 

1. Clean up your fucking room. (Physical world)

If you have a hope of getting control of your mind, your tasks, and other intangible things... 

You better have all the physical things under control. 

Since your physical and mental worlds are deeply interconnected... 

Cleaning up your physical world is a great start to cleaning up your mind. 

This means cleaning up your room... and your kitchen... and your bathroom... and your living room. 

MAKE YOUR BED EVERY MORNING AFTER YOU WAKE UP. 


THERE IS NO FUCKING EXCUSE FOR HAVING A MESSY ROOM. 


2. Clean up your to-do list. (mental world)

Do you have items that have been carrying over week to week? 

Or even worse... month to month? 

Delete as many items as you can. If you've put them off for this long... 

You probably don't need to do them. 

If they haven't been important enough to cause you to take action on them... 

They're not that important. Let them go. 

With the rest of the tasks, just do them.

JUST GET THEM DONE.

This might help you do them faster. 

3. Clean up your FOCUS. (LIFE)

Do you have commitments that you don't enjoy? 

Are you busy all the time and not able to take care of your body? 

Does finishing all the tasks on your to-do list seem impossible because you have no free time? 

Cut out the bullshit in your life. No, you don't have to be in three clubs and play four sports. 

You don't even need to be in one. 

Cut the fat, and clean your life up.

The cleaner your life, the easier it will be to focus on eliminating procrastination. 

If you need some extra help getting your ass in gear with your cleaning, check out this book... 

 The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing


SUMMARY: CLEAN & GET ORGANIZED

1. Clean up your fucking room. (Physical world)

2. CLean up your to-do list. (mental world)

3. Clean up your FOCUS. (LIFE)


STEP #2: CLEAN UP MESSES AS YOU MAKE THEM


You need to maintain a clean state to avoid procrastination... 

So once you've cleaned up your life... 

You need to learn to keep it that way. 

It's really just as simple as...

Cleaning up messes as you make them. 

1. Clean up messes as you make them (physical)

When you dirty a dish, wash it and put it in the drying rack. 

When you change your clothes, put them in the laundry or hang them up in your closet. 

When you move a piece of furniture, put it back in its place. 

If you want a hope of organizing your mental world and life... 

You need to form habits that keep your physical world clean. 

These are the easy wins that will fuel you to keep the harder areas of your world clean. 

2. CLEAN UP MESSES AS YOU MAKE THEM (MENTAL)

When something that needs to get done comes up, you clean it up immediately.  

You either: 

  1. Determine it doesn't need to get done, and don't do it at all. 
  2. Do it immediately. 
  3. Put it in the reminders app on your phone to remind you to do it at a convenient point in the future. 
  4. Put it in your calendar. 
Doing an unimportant task well doesn’t make it important. It makes you stupid.
— John Samuel Gray

The way of cleaning task messes up is in order. 

Ideally, you just say 'no' to something, which is the easiest way to clean up the mess. 

If it absolutely needs to get done, do it as close to the assignment point of time as possible (immediately). 

Maybe, the task will only be relevant at a particular point in time, like tonight at 7pm when you get at home. 

So, put it in your phone as a reminder to come up when you get home around 7pm. 

Beware, putting a task in the reminders app doesn't make it important. Always screen it for importance first.

If it's something that's going to take a good chunk of time, put it in your calendar. 

3. CLEAN UP MESSES AS YOU MAKE THEM (LIFE)

As you navigate through life, you're going to be fully focused on the present. 

Your commitments are set in your calendar, like the time you have to show up for your job, or classes. 

But in your free time, you work before you play. It's as simple as that.

You clean up the messes of work before you play. 

More on this in the next section. 


SUMMARY: CLEAN UP MESSES AS YOU MAKE THEM

1. Put things back in their place when you're done with them. (Physical World)

2. Let go, do, remind, or calendar tasks immediately after they come up. (Mental World)

3. Work before you play. (LIFE)


STEP #3: FOCUS. EXECUTE.


If you're not focused in your life yet... 

If you don't have a big goal you're fiending after... 

If you don't have a reason to stop procrastinating... 

Here's one. 

YOU ARE GOING TO DIE. 

And you might die soon. 

If you have trouble focusing just remember you're going to die. 

It might be today, tomorrow, or in decades. But it's going to happen. 

And I can promise procrastinating will not lead to a proud death. 

So don't fucking procrastinate. 


HERE'S HOW TO SPEND YOUR FREE TIME

With all of your little tasks (messes) handled in the above section, you're left with mostly free time. 

Other than following your calendar and completing tasks immediately after you're reminded of them... 

Your time is fully free.  

There are other things that you need to get done that come up.

We'll call these important, non-urgent tasks. 

Once you stop procrastinating, you'll be spending most of your time on these types of tasks. 

These are the types of tasks that are so big and important that you can't possibly forget about them. 

These could be things like: 

  • big essays
  • reading books 
  • practising a skill (writing, instrument, magic tricks, dancing, etc.)
  • walking outside
  • socializing
  • building a business
  • being in nature
  • taking care of your body

The main key of this section is understanding that: 

YOU ARE FULLY IN CONTROL OF YOUR TIME.

Even when you're going to 'mandatory' class, it's still your choice. 

You're in control.

If you don't take responsibility for your own life, someone else will. 

There are tools you can use to make organizing your free time easier. 

The main theme is that you're doing your hardest, most important work first. 

1. WORK EARLY IN THE MORNING. 

When you work early, ideally first thing in the morning, you are most productive. 

There is no one around to distract you. 

You have more energy than any other time of day. 

And you can enjoy your day much better when you know you've gotten the hardest stuff out of the way first. 

2. WORK EVERY DAY. 

Build the habit of working every day. 

Ideally you build a morning work routine, and just stick to that. 

Regardless, get shit done every day. Even when there's not much to do. 

It's easy to work hard when there's lots to do... 

And to not work at all when there's not much to do - when the deadlines are far in the future.

If you want to overcome procrastination, you need to understand and believe this: 


THE COST OF BREAKING YOUR DAILY WORK HABIT 

FOR THE BENEFIT OF RELAXING WHEN YOU 'DON'T HAVE MUCH WORK TO DO'

IS NEVER EVER EVER FUCKING WORTH IT. 


Procrastination happens when you wait too late to start working. 

The way to overcome it is simple: work consistently to make consistent progress. 

Working daily will make it impossible to fall far behind. 

3. WORK ON THE MOST IMPORTANT STUFF FIRST. 

When you're always working on your most important, most difficult tasks first, procrastination can't happen. 

Pair this with working daily, and you'll never fall behind. 

Procrastination is worst when it's the night before and you have to do something difficult

But, if you're always working on the most important, difficult stuff before the easy stuff... 

You won't ever get stuck being forced to unpleasantly attempt the impossible in one night. 

To learn more, I recommend one book (the greatest book on productivity of all time):

Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity


SUMMARY: FOCUS. EXECUTE. 

1. WORK EARLY IN THE MORNING.

2. WORK EVERY DAY. 

3. WORK ON THE MOST IMPORTANT STUFF FIRST. 


TIME IS THE MOST IMPORTANT THING.


Early on in my academic career (grade 8), I started procrastinating. 

All the way through to the end of university, I used many hours of my precious life to hide from my responsibilities. 

Like a baby, I cried until I got what I wanted: all my work done. 

Unlike a baby, this never worked. 

Procrastination gave me:

  • Less time
  • Less energy
  • Less focus
  • Less happiness 

To get my work done. 

So, what's now very obvious, I took much longer than I needed to get work done. 

Once I was able to overcome procrastination, life was very similar. 

I was still getting all my work done... 

But it was way more fun. It was 10x more enjoyable when it was ahead of time. 

Plus, once I learned to work really efficiently, I would 'cram ahead of time'. 

I would work so fast that I would be left with all the time I would normally procrastinate with... 

But instead of using it to procrastinate (enjoy myself when I have work to be done)... 

I would enjoy it guilt-free. I became much happier. 


If you procrastinate, I would seriously recommend prioritizing fixing this problem in your life ahead of all others. 

While you're young, and still able to set your life habits, rewrite 'get shit done' over your 'procrastination' habit. 

If you don't, when you're older, you'll procrastinate the important things you don't have to deal with right now... 

Like:

  • finding work you love
  • finding a partner you love
  • creating a family you love
  • maintaining excellent health
  • maintaining strong friendship

Figure your shit out when the stakes are low. 

If you don't, you'll procrastinate receiving life's most important gifts. 

And what a shame that would be. 


This post will eventually become a video course. 

If you're able to contribute any ideas to improve it...

Or even better, if you can share how it has worked in action in your own life, please let me know at this link


BONUS MATERIAL

Another approach to capturing tasks as they're assigned to you: Thomas Frank's Quick Capture System

OPEN LOOPS 101 (see below)


OPEN LOOPS 101


When something you need to get done comes up, an open loop is created.

When you procrastinate, you leave this loop open. 

Filling your life with open loops creates overwhelm.

And overwhelm deprives you of the focus you need to...

GET SHIT DONE.

Getting shit done is as simple as...

Closing open loops. 


HOW TO CLOSE OPEN LOOPS


1. do it never.

It's very to convince yourself that something needs to get done when it doesn't. 

Maybe it's someone else that convinces you. 

But for the things that don't need to get done... 

Doing them is a HUGE waste. 

Your first stop in closing loops is asking yourself: 

"Does this need to be done at all?" 

If it doesn't, don't do it... and the loop is closed.

If it does, move on to step two. 

 

2. DO IT now.

There is a huge cost to carrying around open loops. 

So, whenever possible, we want to close our loops as soon as we open them. 


Examples

1. Wash your dishes once you make them. 

2. Put your clothes away as soon as you take them off (hello, never having to clean your room!)

3. If you say you'll send someone something, send it immediately once you finish saying you will. 


As you're about to find out, handling open loops is a complicated process. 

So, if you're sure something needs to get done, and you can do it right away... 

...no matter how you're feeling...

Do it right away. 

3. do it next. 

If the task needs to get done, and you can't do it now, you'll have to do it next. 

That's where our task capturing systems from earlier come in. 

If you can, put the task in your calendar or in your reminders app. 

Otherwise, let it go.

If it's a big important, non-urgent task, don't worry about it. 

Since you're spending most of your time on these types of tasks... 

Next time you're working, if the task is really important, you'll remember it.