Ok so I’m gonna level up with you here, I procrastinate, a lot. Like, seriously a lot. Working for yourself means needing to wear countless different hats to keep everything rolling and growing the way it should. Given that my brain prefers to focus on one subject at a time, I can struggle with the switching back and forth that is necessary as a freelancer or business owner. Often, I find myself so overwhelmed by the tasks I need to complete or the ideas I want to develop, that I end up totally paralysed, unable to move, unable to focus on one thing for more than a few seconds before remembering something else that needs to get done. I get more and more frustrated with myself and my lack of ability to focus, a quick glance at social media and my fears are confirmed, everyone else finds it easy, right?! Agh comparison, comparison. The more frustrated I get, the less chance I have of actually getting anywhere, it’s my least favourite vicious cycle and it’s something that I have to deal with more regularly than I’d like to admit (I’d bet I’m not alone either!). So, here is my system for when I need to beat procrastination, knuckle down and get shit done.
I get up from my desk and I spend 20 minutes moving. I go for a walk, do a quick yoga flow, some stretches, jump around whatever is required to get the energy flowing and remove me from my desk / sofa / bed and the feeling of being ‘stuck’. Historically I might have tried to ‘muscle through’ these moments, thinking that if I stare at my screen long enough and think hard enough, the work will eventually happen. It usually does happen but not before a crazy amount of time has been wasted and I’ve used up all of my willpower (willpower is finite people, we don’t have an endless supply of it!) which then has negative knock-on effects for the rest of my day.
You might be tempted to skip the movement and muscle through it like I used to, don’t. Trust me on this one, keep things moving.
I close down all my tabs, all 341+ of them. It’s hard enough to focus on one thing as it is, what we definitely don’t need is more temptation. At this point, I also do a quick tidy up of my desk. You might find that mess fuels your creativity, in which case you can skip this part of the process. For me, a tidier desk means a tidier mind. Don’t spend long on this, just a few minutes, if you find yourself re-organising your drawers or colour coding anything then you’re probably just procrastinating, sorry!
I make a list. Now, this might sound like procrastination but hear me out… I make a list of all the things in my head, they can be goals, to-do’s, half-baked ideas, whatever it is, I get it out of my head and onto paper. Then I go through my list and order each thing by importance, I look at what will get me the most return on investment. Not necessarily financial return but what will ease the bulk of my stress or make me feel the most accomplished.
I set a timer and I get to work on that most important task. I usually find that step one to three has turned the volume down on manic overwhelm, just enough that I can more easily settle into a task. The important thing here though is that even if you’re still struggling, keep at it until that timer beeps. Then regardless of the outcome, it’s onto the next task. If you didn’t get into your groove with the first task, you probably will with the second, or third.
For me, this process is absolutely foolproof. Sure, some days I get more done and the quality of my work is better than others but when I’m feeling really stuck and don’t know which way to turn, completing these steps always results in some action being taken. As we all know, baby steps forward is infinitely better than no steps forward.
All of that said, sometimes you just really need a day off.
If you’re usually a productivity ninja and you find yourself really struggling to beat procrastination, take the day, take a breath, you’ll be back.
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