Yes, I know, yelling at yourself to stop procrastinating always works.
Actually, yelling at yourself is the worst thing to do. You already know when you’re procrastinating, and deep down, you feel lousy about it.
So what can you do?
1) Be kind to yourself
This is number one for a reason. Recognize that you have some valid reasons for avoiding whatever it is you’re avoiding. Maybe it’s tedious; maybe you’re afraid of doing it poorly; maybe you worry that once you do it, the next thing will be even worse.
Whatever the reason, it makes psychological sense, or you wouldn’t be procrastinating. So give yourself a big hug and take a deep breath and move on to number two.
2) Realize that all you need to do is start
You don’t need to put a time limit on it; you don’t need to finish. Just set some time aside and get started. If you start enough times, one of those times, eventually, you’ll finish.
3) Talk yourself into it
A client of mine said something really fascinating. I was talking to him about using a supportive voice in his own head, talking to himself like a compassionate friend would, into just starting. He suddenly looked at me in astonishment, that virtual light bulb above his head, and said, “I never talk myself into doing something; I only talk myself into not doing it!”
A lot of times, procrastination is like that. We amass all our justifications and rationalizations and reasons and excuses for why we can’t do it right now (the most common thing to tell yourself seems to be, “I’m going to do it later/tonight/tomorrow.”)
Don’t believe yourself when you say that. Instead, make a concerted effort to demystify the task at hand, or to be soothing about it. (“The sooner I start, the sooner I finish.” “It might seem daunting but I’m up to the challenge. I’ve done things like this before.” “I’ll feel so much better once this isn’t hanging over my head.”)
Realize that punting something down the road might seem like it’s resolving anxiety but really, it’s just looming there, in the background. So your foreground isn’t as good as it could be.
4) Give yourself credit for getting it done
This is important. Toast yourself. Feel proud.
Often, when people have procrastinated and they finally complete something, they’re still very conscious of how long they put it off so they don’t actually validate themselves. But the validation forms a lasting memory, and will help you next time.
It’s not easy to do what we don’t want to do, especially when our subconscious is conspiring against us. So take a moment to appreciate what you’ve accomplished.
And then do it all again tomorrow.