I’ll be real with you. It’s taken me two weeks to simply start writing this blog post. Procrastination is a real, debilitating habit in my life, and I can’t ethically write this post without sharing my own struggles with you.
I’ve been “planning” on doing the Precision Nutrition Certification for 2 years. I’ve been “thinking” about starting my boot camp here in SLC for 4 months. I’ve been “meaning” to put out an online program to help people thrive in life for the past 18 weeks. I’m not immune to procrastinating anymore than the next dude.
In fact, I wrote those first few sentences last night, then I went to cook a bag of popcorn, and turned on Rules of Engagement to giggle for an hour before going to bed.
Honestly, it’s debilitating, stressful, and makes me feel terrible about myself. It’s one of the worst habits that I have. Yes, even worse than biting my nails and pounding bags of popcorn at the movies.
We all know it’s bad for us. We know it prevents us from being as happy and successful than we would otherwise be. I’m not sure why we do it. Frankly, it doesn’t matter. I’ve read that some do it out of fear of failure, others out of laziness, and yet others out of apathy.
I don’t care what your reason is for procrastinating, what I do care about is how to solve it.
The first insight to realize is that procrastination is a habit.
The more we do it, the more ingrained that habit becomes. It’s also why we look at people like Gary V and Will Smith like, “where do they get all of this energy to grind 24/7/365?”
It’s because they don’t have the habit of procrastinating, they have the habit of hustle. Which is just as powerful. The way some of us can’t help but watch March Madness and pound beers instead of working on that project for work or school, they can’t help but grind.
Once we acknowledge that procrastinating is a habit, and not a personality flaw, we have the power to change it.
So, now that we all agree that we can change it, how do we go about doing so?
Here’s a three-step formula to stop procrastinating that actually works. It works in the research, and it has worked in my own life. It’s actually the formula I used to finally sit down and write this post.
“I’m going to do it. It’s done. The second I decided it’s done it’s already done. Now we just gotta wait for y’all to see.” – Will Smith
I love that Will Smith quote because it taps into the power of choice. In Charles Duhigg’s new book, Smarter Faster Better, he writes that the most important factor to feeling motivated is feeling in control, and the easiest way to feel in control is to make decisions.
Duhigg quotes researches from Columbia University saying, “Each choice, no matter how small, reinforcers the perception of control and self-efficacy.”
I know it sounds simple, but this is an important step. By making a choice, we feel like were in control, which psychologists say is the key to sparking motivating. Make the choice that you’re going to go to the gym today. Make a choice that you’re going to sit down and grind out that project. Consciously decide that you’re going to make that dentist appointment.
Once you decide, move on to Step #2.
2. Set a Day & Time
Write it down on a notecard, type it into your iPhone notes, or tattoo it on your tongue, I don’t care.
When will you do your task and where will you be?
What time? What date? What day of the week? Where will you be? Which chair will you sit in? The more details you put down on your notecard or tattoo the better.
In Be Excellent at Anything Tony Schwartz quotes a study on procrastination saying, “Those who wrote down exactly where and when they would complete the task were 8X as likely to complete the task” Eight times!
If there was a 30 second tactic that could increase your chance of success in life by 8x, wouldn’t you do it?
Spoiler alert: This is that tactic.
In another study, researchers asked people to exercise one time over the next week for a mere 20 minutes. Only three-out-of-ten people did it. A whopping 29%.
When people were asked to give specific days, times, and locations they were going to exercise, nine out of ten made moves and exercised.
Last night, I wrote down that I would be at Starbucks at 8:30am, and write like a mad man until 9:30am.
And what do you know, I’m at Starbucks, pounding coffee, and dropping bombs on procrastination.
3. Win the “fight thrus”
I’ve written about this philosophy by Jason Selk and Tom Bartow, authors of Organize Tomorrow Today before, but it’s essential to beating procrastinating.
When we do (or don’t do) activities, we build momentum in that direction. That’s why Gary V has a Hustle Habit and I have a Rules of Engagement Habit. Every time we push through and go to the gym, we’re more likely to go the next time. Everytime I say “I’ll write that blog tomorrow,” I’m more likely to say the same thing again… tomorrow.
In these moments of “I’ll do it tomorrow” we must fight thru and do the task today. When we succumb to Do-it-tomorrow syndrome, it builds momentum for procrastination. Every time we fight thru and do it today, we build momentum for beating procrastination and developing a Hustle Habit.
This 3-Step Formula is real. It works in research studies, and it’s worked for me. The problem is that it’s not easy to implement all the time. I’d much rather go grab mimosas with Kels than workout. I’d much rather watch #MarchMadness than write a blog post. Doing the easier thing is in our DNA. We are wired to choose the path of least resistance.
But by using this formula, and winning the fight thrus over and over, we can develop the habits and tendencies to stop procrastinating forever.