Holistic Ways to Overcome Procrastination
Insights from 9 consultants, coaches, and mentors.
What if you can’t get yourself to do what you know you need to do?
May the following 9 perspectives be uplifting for you.
These wise, heart-based business owners are part of an online mastermind group I facilitate called MasterHeart.
Regular Resets + Expression
I use two super simple approaches to help me shift out of procrastination.
- The first is regular resets. I am a master of drifting away from what is important into busy but irrelevant and largely unconscious activities. The only way that I have managed to combat this is by getting into the habit of checking in regularly to how I am doing. And I mean regularly — several times each work session.
- The second is expression. I find that getting how I’m feeling in this moment out of my system clears the tubes for my inspiration. If a friend is there that’s great, and if not I find automatic writing to be invaluable. Just writing (or more likely scrawling) whatever is going through my mind in the moment for a few minutes seems to put me back in touch with what I need to be doing.
Set Up Your Workflow
Setting up a clear and organized workflow, one that I can enjoy, is the best way to get me started.
When I have to tackle an activity I have been procrastinating, I begin by ordering my workspace, laying out a good methodic workflow.
I set it all up, making it really nice, and this makes me want to get into hands-on doing.
This principle works for computer work, as well as other activities. Tackling taxes, writing or even handling a cooking project.
It all starts with ordering my workspace and setting up pleasurable conditions for getting the workflow going. If you love working (as I do), but you need to enjoy the flow in organized and efficient ways, you are likely to resonate with these suggestions.
Methods that combine clarity, beauty and ingenuity make me WANT to get started. And once I get started, I can’t wait to see it DONE!
Break it into Small Doable Steps
I procrastinate my passion projects, the books without deadlines. I don’t know if I fear failure or success, but I’ll do anything to avoid the feeling. Here’s how I deal with it:
+Break the project into small, doable steps. Big steps are scary. Instead of, “Write book,” I try: “Write paragraph about procrastination.” If any step feels too big, I break it down into a tinier step.
+Schedule 15–45 minute blocks of time to work.
+Try five minutes! We can do anything for five minutes. I set a timer and write. Once I’m in the project, I can usually keep going. Pro tip: Rewards help.
Here’s the rub: fear often shows up anyway. But most emotions flee after 90 seconds. If we can work through the fear, it goes away. Promise!
“Do the best I can within the deadline.”
For many years I procrastinated on publishing to Youtube.
Why? I had a ‘perfectionistic’ image of my desired outcome and I knew that my skill level wasn’t good enough to produce that result — so I procrastinated!
What a paradox! If I do it my result won’t be good enough, so I won’t do it until I am good enough. But how am I supposed to get good if I never take action?
My solution? I shifted from a ‘perfectionist’ mindset to an ‘optimization’ mindset. Rather than trying to ‘do it perfectly’ I set a deadline and to ‘do the best I can within the deadline’. I gave myself 25 minutes to write this article — and with only 25 minutes there is no time to procrastinate!
This mindset has allowed me to fail fast, get crucial feedback, and improve upon my results with each iteration. Give it a go for yourself!
The next time you judge yourself for procrastinating, ask yourself if you’re really just tired. You’re perhaps tired physically… tired of working when you really want to play … or just tired of doing things the way you’ve always done them.
When this happens to me, I take a break to reassess and listen to the wisdom within which always knows the way. Even if I feel that I “should” be working, I will instead honor what my body is telling me.
When I take a deliberate period of rest for the purpose of gathering my energy for the project I’m avoiding, I come back with more clarity and new solutions for overcoming my struggles.
One Step At A Time
When I become aware that I am procrastinating and footling around, I’ll check in to see if what I should be doing is what I want to do.
What else might I want to do? If nothing comes to mind, I’ll probably have a nap. That usually works as the mind is relaxed and creative juices flow!
Sometimes I wake up full of ideas and energy, and can’t wait to get to work. Otherwise I go and do something else — a walk, a cuppa, read, play a game.
Another approach: I tend to see the task ahead as MASSIVE. This is counterproductive, because “what’s the point of starting as I’ll never get it done?”
What is most helpful is to practice being in the Present, One-Step-At-A-Time. Small achievements completed give a rush of satisfaction that inspires to more action. The greatest adventures begin with one step.
“Can I work on this for just one minute?”
An ever-present and constant friend.
I never was really good at getting work done way before the deadline. Instead, I would always wait until things were super urgent to finish my work as it became a necessity instead of a desire.
For years, I would try to figure out solutions to my procrastination. I would try to build more willpower, effort, and discipline. While those solutions worked temporarily, they were never long-lasting.
However, all of this changed when I asked myself a simple question when facing a task I wanted to put off: “Can I work on this for just one minute?”.
That question alone made it easy to get started on the task, and momentum did the rest.
Healthier Approaches to Procrastination
I used to be the queen of procrastination, and for years I tried to push through it. Thankfully, I have learned to adopt healthier approaches to it:
- If it is something that must get done, I step away for a while, then try to find positive aspects about it. I align with it as much as I can before taking action — inspiration rather than motivation!
- If it is something that is not essential/urgent, I accept that procrastination is trying to tell me that I’m not ready for it, or that it’s not the right time, or the right thing. I practice self-compassion whenever I react with frustration or self-doubt.
Procrastination has taught me to tune into my intuition — if it feel ‘off’, it is ‘off.’ So, if things don’t feel aligned, I don’t act. I’m happy to say I have made procrastination an ally rather than an enemy! Most of the time 😉
Clarity through Self-Compassion
When it comes to moving beyond procrastination, what I find works best is to focus on how I want to feel. It’s so easy to become distracted, question if I know enough or many other things that can keep me from doing what I want to do.
When I step away from the distractions and anything else getting in my way, I can focus on the meaningful work that brings me joy (aka how I want to feel).
A question I can ask myself when I’m procrastinating, is to see if I’m working on what feels like a “should”, or if there would be a better use of my time. The more compassionate I can be with myself, the greater the chance the answer will appear.
These wise, heart-based business owners are all part of an online mastermind group I facilitate called MasterHeart. — George Kao