Do you have a project that’s either sitting on the shelf waiting for you to start, or halfway done and you can’t seem to muster the motivation to get it done? Are there things you know you need to do, but find a hundred reasons you can’t do them right now?
Procrastination is a funny beast. On the one hand, it delays or prevents success, but on the other hand, it feels really, really good in the moment!
Procrastination feels great because as you imagine doing the task you’re avoiding, you receive a reward in the brain. That’s right! Your brain can’t really tell if you’ve actually done the thing, or you just thought about doing it, and so it rewards you with those yummy neurochemicals like oxytocin and dopamine. That’s why it feels so good to say, “I’ll do it tomorrow after I …”
But then… the thing is still there. It’s still hanging over you, and you can’t get it out of your head because you know you have to do it. Day after day, even month after month or decade after decade, unfinished business weighs heavy on the soul.
Brian Tracy says:
“There just isn’t enough time for everything on our ‘To Do’ list – and there never will be. Successful people don’t try to do everything. They learn to focus on the most important tasks and make sure they get done.
There’s an old saying that if the first thing you do each morning is to eat a live frog, you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that it’s probably the worst thing you’ll do all day. Using ‘eat that frog’ as a metaphor for tackling the most challenging task of your day – the one you are most likely to procrastinate on, but also probably the one that can have the greatest positive impact on your life – Eat That Frog!”
I am a big fan of eating the frog first. When I look at my to-do list, it’s very tempting to do the easy stuff first (and yes, that includes cleaning my desk!). But if I can force myself to do the hard thing first, I am literally flooded with so much satisfaction that I become super motivated to take on everything else.
Here’s why it works: momentum.
You know that when you “get the ball rolling” you make progress. The hard part is getting the momentum rolling… and the best way to do that is to do that “thing” – the hard thing – first. It’s heavy, and once you get it rolling it will keep on rolling!
When you do the easy stuff, you move through your tasks quickly but you don’t really accomplish much on your way to your goal. I mean, how much real progress can you make by clearing your workspace and blogging for a bit… when the real progress comes from writing a chapter of a book, calling the editor and listening to her painfully honest evaluation?
I’m no different from you – I like to feel good about myself. I like that dopamine rush. I like to think I’m busy, and I don’t like to work harder when I can work smarter.
But… I do like results. A lot.
That’s why I highly recommend the following anti-procrastination tips:
- Do the hard thing first.
- Do the second-hardest thing while you’re still fresh.
- Take a break. Reward yourself with a guilty pleasure if you like (you’ve made huge strides already!)
- Prioritize the rest of your tasks. Remember that 20% of your actions yield 80% of your results and you have already done that 20% – so whatever you’re doing now should be easy, and fun, and not as important.
- Throw out or delegate the tasks that don’t yield much momentum.
- Do whatever is left. If your motivation starts to wane, remember that unfinished business can hang over you like a dark, smelly blanket and it feels good to get it off your to-do list!
If you put in a couple of hours of focused, dedicated effort, you will move mountains.
Meditation will help you! Start the day by setting an intention to generate momentum toward your goals. Imagine yourself growing stronger and smarter with each moment you spend meditating – lift your energy by feeling grateful for the opportunity, the lessons, and the satisfaction you’re about to feel – and then boldly eat that first big frog, and the little one too.