Unless you’re a robot, procrastination is a normal part of your work life. It took me a while to learn this lesson after graduating. It was fine to waste days or even weeks while in college, but that’s a sure-fire way to lose a job in the real-world.
Almost all of us have delayed or said “I’ll do it tomorrow,” at some point. That said, procrastination is an indulgence you must learn to temper, particularly if you’re up against a big deadline or want to impress a new boss or convince a customer to buy a product from your business.
Go easier on yourself. Research shows show regulating your emotions will help you manage moments of procrastination.
These seven strategies can also stop procrastination once and for all and accomplish more while working in your content business.
1. Keep A Procrastination Pad
Do you sometimes sit down at your desk to work on an important project, like creating a sales funnel, for 30 or 60 minutes only to find yourself clicking on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram? Or perhaps you use Google like a slot machine, typing in random search queries because you’re bored.
Consider keeping a procrastination pad next to your keyboard. Whenever you think of something to look up, write this thought on the procrastination pad and return to the task.
After focusing on your work for at least an hour or ticking an item off your to-do list, look up something from your procrastination pad guilt-free. Think of it like chocolate after the gym.
2. Pick Small Tasks
Let’s say you want to create a ten-minute video for your landing page. If you haven’t recorded many videos before, this new activity might feel off-putting. Instead of considering all that goes into writing the script, recording, editing and publishing the video, ask yourself what’s the smallest action you can take to progress.
Perhaps you can open up the Word document and write out the few bullet points for your script. Or you could simply write one paragraph for the introduction. Starting small is usually enough to gain momentum on important tasks or difficult projects. From there, chip away at your creative projects.
3. Create A Prompt Or A Trigger
When I was training for a marathon, I put off some training runs, because I didn’t feel like running in the cold. A more experienced runner recommended leaving my trainers and gear by the front door each morning so I’d see them before leaving the house for work.
This practice works in all sorts of areas. A while ago I wanted to cultivate mindfulness during stressful moments at work. I listened to a lecture on the meditation app HeadSpace. Andy Puddicombe recommended leaving a small pebble on the desk. This pebble served as a trigger for me to pause during a normal workday.
What trigger could you create related to a key business project? Leave it somewhere visible so it reminds you to act. As an example, I keep a book of writing prompts on my desk. Similarly, you can use calendar reminders and due dates as prompts too.
4. Impose A Constraint
A constraint is a limitation placed on a big project, typically involving time, money or people. It should encourage focusing on the essentials and mitigate scope creep. For example, Jeff Bezos is known for his constraint of holding meetings in which two pizzas will feed all attendees.
Rather than giving yourself an unlimited budget, put a cap on what you’ll spend. As an example, you might decide to only spend $500 on generating paid traffic towards your landing page each month.
Instead of allocating your entire team to creating an online course, assign only those you need. Rather than giving yourself until the end of the year, ask what you can get done this month or even this week? Defining a set period of time for accomplishing a big project encourages focus.
Learn more about creative constraints.
5. Eliminate Distractions By Going Analog
Productivity tools enable collaborating in ways that weren’t possible years ago, but they’re also a massive distraction. You can spend an entire day tweaking the settings of your tool of choice while trying to get it to connect to everything else you depend on.
If you find yourself getting distracted by digital tools and want to overcome procrastination once and for all, switch them off. Disconnect the internet and work away from the screen.
Take a pen and notepad and go for a walk. Or map out your sales funnel using a whiteboard and markers. Getting up from the desk will unlock fresh, clear thinking. Beating procrastination is easier if you get your heart rate up!
Consider the humorist David Sedaris who spends an hour or two each morning writing his journal entries before spending the afternoon picking up roadside trash in West-Sussex England. He sometimes spends his evenings writing or editing.
Often changing your physical state or environment is enough to get back to work.
6. Keep A List Of Mini-Achievements
Keep a list at your computer of everything you finished today, this week or this month. These might include simple achievements like writing 500 words for your next lead magnet, selling three coaching packages to your students or completing a SWOT analysis. When you’re unmotivated, read your list. Progress in your business might feel slow, but you might be surprised by how far you’ve come.
As procrastination tips go, it's often best to celebrate small progress rather than beat yourself up about setbacks.
7. Focus On What You Enjoy
If you work on challenging or difficult tasks for an extended period, you’ll become more stressed and eventually dread work.
Pick one task you like working on or feel confident about and focus on that for a little while. Or remember to take a break.
When you feel more motivated and fresh, return to those other, slightly more unpleasant tasks and work through them as quick as you can. Or ask another team member who enjoys them for help. It’s fine to procrastinate once you know how to manage these moments and then refocus on your work.
I also like going to a coffee shop to write sometimes as I enjoy drinking coffee and it feels like a treat, rather than work
Stop Procrastinating: The Final Word
At college, you might have procrastinated about essays or deadlines. Chronic procrastinators can usually get by as the stakes are lower. When you get a job or start a business, it’s natural to procrastinate about important projects too. The trick is managing these moments when they arise, knowing when to push forwards and when to stop.