“Stop procrastinating, Giorgia!”
I had told myself I’d pop on Instagram to post a quick story and then get on with writing this article. Twenty minute later, I was still mindlessly scrolling through the Explorer page looking for… not sure what exactly. Instagram’s addictive like that.
Has the same ever happened to you?
When you have work to do and yet you’re not doing it, there’s a deeper form of self-sabotage driving you into distraction and procrastination.
Here’s how to stop procrastinating in 5 simple steps (that really work):
5 Easy Steps To Stop Procrastinating
Step 1: Get Clear On Your Priorities
My goals for August 2022 were:
- Move house (done – in 2 weeks!)
- Make a plan to turn my podcast into a video interview show (only 20% done)
- Revamp every area of my business in preparation for a major rebranding in September (80% done)
In the past, I’d have beaten myself up for not accomplishing all these goals. Heck, I’ve moved house in two weeks. That’s proof I can get anything done if I really want to. I really want to turn my podcast into a video interview show. It’s just… not a priority yet. Moving was the top priority. I’ve just broken up with my ex and needed my own place as soon as possible, so I found one.
Truth time: if something is a priority, you get it done – even if it’s hard and you don’t feel like it.
TAKE ACTION NOW
Write down a list of all the goals you want to accomplish this month. Then ask yourself:
- Why is this goal important to me?
- Why is it important for me to do this now?
- If this goal isn’t a priority right now, is it something that I could do at a later time, delegate to someone else, or simply never do?
- Now you know what your real priority for the month is, do it! (Keep reading for more tips on how to stop procrastinating on it and getting it done).
- For your other goals, follow through with your plans of deferring, delegating, or deleting it.
Related: How To Define Success On Your Own Terms
Step 2: Manage Your Emotions
Truth time: You don’t procrastinate to avoid work. You procrastinate to avoid stress.
When you procrastinate on sending that email, you’re not stressed about the email. You’re stressed about everything else that’s going on in your life. You’re stressed about how to pay the rent this month. About the argument you had with your husband. About that work deadline looming too close too soon…
By taking a break from sending that email (or whatever else you’re procrastinating on) to go watch a cat video, your mind gets a break from the stress. It also gets a boost of dopamine, the feel-good hormones. Your mind learns this is a good way to relieve stress and feel good, so you keep repeating this behaviour over and over again.
The catch? While procrastination makes you feel good in the moment, it stops you from taking the action needed to reach your goals, solve your financial worries, repair your relationships… and the problems get worse. It’s a vicious circle. You procrastinate to feel better in the moment, but overtime procrastination adds more stress to your life.
TAKE ACTION NOW
- Acknowledge your emotions. Whether you feel stress, guilt, or something else, ask yourself, “What is this emotion trying to tell me?” Maybe you’re simply tired and need a break. Maybe you’re afraid you’re not good enough for the task. Or you’re worried that, once you’ve reached your goal, you won’t be able to handle the success.
- If you’ve uncovered a fear, challenge it. Is this really true? Are you absolutely certain this is going to happen? More often than not, FEAR is just False Evidence Appearing Real.
- What are the consequences of not getting this done?
- Most fears never come true, but it’s still wise to make a plan to prepare for the worst case scenario. How can you avoid it? And if it were to happen, what steps would you take to avoid it? Once your brain knows what you’re going to do in case of a setback (and that it’s not going to kill you), it won’t fear it as much anymore.
- What are the benefits of getting this done now? Connect with them and take action.
Step 3: Change Your Identity
Your thoughts create your reality. They’re a self-fulfilling prophecy.
For most of my life, I told myself I was too shy to network. So, guess what? I rarely went to a networking event. When I did, I’d be the girl hiding in a corner of the room, pretending to check my phone so people wouldn’t think I were a complete loser. Ahem.
My belief (I’m too shy to network) influenced my actions (not interacting with people at networking events), which determined my results (I didn’t make any connections), which reinforced my belief (I’m too shy).
This is a form of self-sabotage. When you tell yourself you’re not the type of person who can do videos, speak in public, or whatever scares you, you’re getting yourself off the hook. If you truly desire to reach your goals, you need to change your identity first and become the person who can confidently do what you dream of doing.
TAKE ACTION NOW
- What identity are you adopting to get yourself out of things that scare you or make you uncomfortable? (ex: introvert, lone wolf, clumsy, flaky, indecisive…)
- In what way is that identity keeping you from reaching your goals? How are you acting when you believe that identity?
- What thoughts and actions do you need to adopt to reach your goals?
- Who do you need to become, what new identity do you need to adopt, to take those actions and reach those big goals of yours?
Related: Who Do You Need To Become To Reach Your Goals?
Step 4: Break Your Goal Down Into Smaller Steps
The difference between a goal you keep procrastinating on and a goal you will achieve?
❌ Bad goal: I want to grow on Instagram.
This goal is vague. What does it mean “grow on Instagram?” What actions will you be taking? What results do you want to achieve? How do you measure success? Vague goals get you off the hook. If you don’t achieve them, it’s not because of something you’re doing (or not doing). The goal simply is unachievable.
✅ Good goal: I will have 5 sales conversations on Instagram Monday to Friday, from 3 to 4pm.
This goal is very specific. You know exactly what actions you’re going to take, when, and how to measure it. When you do it every day, you’re guaranteed to make sales.
TAKE ACTIONS NOW
- Create a SMART goal (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound).
- Break down your goal into smaller steps.
- Schedule them in your calendar.
- When it’s time to do them, do them! (If you don’t feel like it, go back to steps 1-3 to stop procrastinating)
Step 5: Celebrate Your Progress
I hate book-keeping. It’s the one business task I keep putting off and off and off. The only thing worse than doing bookkeeping throughout the year is doing all your bookkeeping two days before your tax return is due.
The only way I can stop procrastinating on doing my book-keeping is working on it for 25 minutes (pomodoro technique) and then take a break for a fun activity (dancing to uplifting music, going for a walk in the park, or calling a friend).
Your brain is always looking for rewards. When an activity brings you pleasure, you want to do more of it. When it brings you pain, you want to avoid it like the plague. Knowing you’re going to be rewarded at the end of a boring task helps your brain get on board with it, so it can get its dose of dopamine, the feel-good hormone.
TAKE ACTION NOW
- How can you make a task more fun and enjoyable?
- How can you reward yourself after accomplish a task (especially one that doesn’t excite you)?
Wrapping It Up
Procrastination is normal. The key to stop procrastinating is getting clear on your priorities, managing your emotions and reframing your identity, so you can become the person who gets stuff done. Once you’ve done the mindset work, it’s time to put systems in place so you can take action towards your goals – and celebrate reaching them!
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