Success comes from doing the things that most people don’t want to do–when they need to be done. You repel success when you procrastinate. Here’s how to beat procrastination once and for all.
From To Do to Why Do
A to-do list looks like an endless list of tasks waiting to be completed. It can feel like an uninspiring list of work demanding both your time and attention. But doing what needs done–when it needs done–is what you must do to be successful.
A list of tasks divorced from some big, compelling mission can be uninspiring. You can make the tasks you need to complete more compelling by attaching them to a bigger reason “why.” Instead of looking at a mind-numbing list of to-do’s, create an inspiring list of “why-do’s.” Attach the task to your greater mission, your goals, and your identity.
I have a half a dozen tasks I have to complete regularly, all of which take time and require me to be creative. I have very little interest in these tasks, but they are important to my marketing goals. These tasks are attached to my goals around my personal brand, my income, and my financial goals. Because they outcomes are important, I do the tasks.
Being productive has a technical component, like making task lists. But all the action is on wrapped up in the emotional aspects of being productive. You can hate the task and still be compelled to get it done when you are in love with your mission and the meaning it creates for your life.
Look at a couple of the tasks that you’ve been putting off for far too long. Why are these tasks important to you and your success? How do they move you closer to your goals? When you think about who you are at your core, how does avoiding these task jeopardize your identity? Would the best version of yourself avoid these tasks, or would they get them done?
Many of the tasks you complete are boring, mindless, and mundane. But they are also necessary. Some of the things that you need to do are unpleasant, but critical to your success. You can avoid procrastinating by making these tasks routine. Here is an example of the morning routine that I follow each and every day.
- 5:00 AM – 5:10 AM: Meditation and affirmations
- 5:10 AM – 5:30 AM: Update personal journal (each day I start with an entry on what I am grateful for that day)
- 5:30 AM – 6:00 AM: Write blog post for TSB
- 6:00 AM – 7:00 AM: Complete daily training and exercise
Most days I don’t want to do my meditations and affirmations. That’s why I do them first. I never want to make a journal entry, but if I don’t write the entry, I will not have a record of the things that were most important to me at this time later, and I am compelled to examine my life. I am a writer, so that one is easy. If I exercise in the morning, it gets done. The later it gets in the day, the greater the likelihood that I miss my workout.
I have also made it routine to tackle the most difficult or unpleasant task first thing every day. Problems don’t age well, particularly not problems that require difficult conversations with other human beings.
Look at your list of tasks. What tasks do you need to bundle together and create a routine to follow with a frightening level of devotion and consistency?
Do Three Things Each Day
You are constrained by time and energy. When you invest these resources in one area, you eliminate your ability to invest them elsewhere. You can’t do everything that needs to be done. Looking at the entire list creates resistance because it’s overwhelming (my task list today has 153 tasks, an impossible feat in a month, let alone a day).
It’s easy to stop procrastinating when you stop looking at the massive list you have in front of you and focus on only the three most important outcomes you need to achieve each day.
Choose three major outcomes for each day. What are the tasks that must be done that contribute the most to your major outcomes or goals? Block time for the three most important tasks each day, and focus on completing those three tasks. If nothing else gets done, you will have still made progress towards your mission and your goals.
By devoting 90 minutes to each of your three tasks without procrastinating, you will be doing more work than most of the distracted, urgency-addicted, reactive people you know. You will be intentional and proactive instead.
Right now look at your task list. What are the three things that, if completed today, would have the biggest impact on your results and move you closer to your goals? Put those on the calendar and get them done.
Follow this recipe to stop procrastinating and take the actions that move you closer to your goals now.