Don’t Waste Your Life: Stop Procrastinating & Become a Person of Action
What’s Your Relationship with Procrastination?
Thinkers Vs Doers
Some people are natural-born thinkers, and some people are naturally doers. Some do a lot of thinking, but never get anything done. While others, like me, bounce back and forth between the two.
When we’re in action mode, we’re organized and know exactly what we need to do to go from one project to the next, with little to no effort. When we’re not, we find ourselves disorganized, jumping between projects that we never complete, or even start.
How a Person of Action Feels
When we’re pinging off the items on our to-do list, we’re on top of the world. We’re full of energy, and can’t wait to move on to our next project. When the day’s over, we’re still energized, looking for something else to work on.
How an All Talk and No Action Person Feels
But, when we’re not in action mode, we’re tired, listless and do the opposite of action mode – we start to procrastinate.
When we get into procrastination mode, we tend to avoid the most important project(s) we have to do, and continuously let ourselves get sidetracked with menial, unimportant projects.
At the end of the day we will feel like we’ve run a marathon, but know we didn't take action. So basically, we feel like crap. Both physically and mentally.
If you’re one of these people who never procrastinates, you won’t be able to relate to what follows. But for those of you who often fall into procrastination, or even procrastinate occasionally, the following tips can help you snap out of it.
How I Became a Person of Action
Below are the methods I used to stop bouncing between procrastination mode, and action mode. To become a person of action, who stops procrastination before it starts. This article covers the following:
- Causes and Effects of Procrastination
- Causes and Effects of Taking Action
- 10 Steps to Overcome Procrastination and Become a Person of Action
Are you Tormented by Procrastination?
Procrastination turns into a bad habit, if we let it.
It is a time killer that begins as mere moments, but then carries on into hours, days, and months. Often, we’re totally unaware that we’re even procrastinating.
Until one day it hits us, but by then it’s too late. The time is gone, and we can never get it back.
This is what I call wasting your life. All the time spent procrastinating is time completely wasted.
Your Life Has to Mean Something
As humans, we have a strong desire to make an impression on our world. We want our days to be memorable, we want to accomplish as much as we can, we want to help others, and we want to make a positive impression in the lives of our families.
We can’t do this when we’re in procrastination mode. To reach these goals, we have to be productive, pure and simple.
Don't Wait for a Loss
Mindset: Procrastination Vs Productivity
Since October 21, 2012, changing my mindset has become the main focus in my life. First, personally, then professionally.
On that horrible day, my 16-month old grandson, Chase, passed away suddenly - two days before his mom was bringing him to visit me.
I’m sure you can understand how I went from utter excitement to total despair within those few days. To get out of it, I had to change my mindset.
And although there are thousands of life changing thoughts and emotions that go with the sudden loss of a small child, giving my life meaning was one of them.
Procrastination’s Hidden Disguises: What is Procrastination
It’s interesting to note that according to the Oxford Dictionary, procrastination is the action of delaying or postponing something. I feel that technically since it’s something we do to avoid taking action, procrastination is actually an inaction. As opposed to action, which means a thing done.
Whether procrastination is an action, or an inaction, it disguises itself into other forms.
There’s always a good reason - I didn’t start this project because I didn't have/or couldn't get, all the parts I needed, or it was too hot outside to start it.
I couldn't do this, because I haven’t done that yet, or I couldn't do that for this reason…The list goes on...
But rationalization is really just a defense mechanism we use to justify something to avoid the truth.
Eventually, procrastination becomes a habit, and if you don’t replace it with a new productive habit, it will never leave your side. You’ll always find ways to put off tasks because other things will come up.
Often they are just excuses we tell ourselves we need to do, such as going on Facebook, checking emails, surfing the net, or the TV, because we have to make sure we don’t miss anything important or interesting. Or we have to get groceries, do laundry, and clean the house, because if we don’t, our world will fall apart.
The Difference Between Real Reasons and an Excuses
I’ve found that I need to recognize a legitimate reason from an excuse to delay a project. And what I generally find is that it is an excuse because I find the project distasteful, and I don’t want to face it, or it’s too overwhelming because it’s really big.
To get of procrastination mode I ask myself, “Does this project need to be done?”
If the answer is YES, then I:
- Complete the project, using the tips in this article.
- Assess what I’ve done and see why the project was worth my time and energy.
- Give myself a reward for beating procrastination and taking action. No matter how small the action was.
Very rarely does it turn out that I was procrastinating for a good reason - it's usually always an avoidance mechanism.
If Your Answer is Yes the Project Needs to be Done
Other Causes of Procrastination
- Lack of Direction
Causes procrastination because you don’t know how to start a project, or what to do next. When we don’t have a beginning or an end, we can’t fill in the blanks in-between.
Disorganization is a major cause of procrastination, because you don’t have a plan mapped out that will take you from the beginning of a project to the end. Even if you have direction, you need it organized to start your journey.
The Completed Project is the Most Important Part
“All that matters is the ending, its the most important part of the story, and this one is very good. This one is perfect.”
Johnny Depp quote from the movie The Secret Window.
End of a Story and the Completion of a Project
A completed project is the best part of productivity, just as the ending of a story, is always the most important part to a body of work.
Treat thoughts of your completed project as you would the perfect ending of a book, or short story you've read.
Organization - One Item To-do List
A to-do list with the most urgent or important project at the top can help you overcome your lack of direction, and disorganization. Don't put anything else on it so you can stay focused.
We make huge strides when we take small steps.
If it’s a huge project, break it down into smaller projects on your to-do list. This way it isn't so daunting and you’ll be able to picture the completed project in your mind.
Work Backwards Starting at Your Goal
In an article on the Mind Tools website, they talk about revers brainstorming to solve problems:
"Reverse brainstorming helps you solve problems by combining brainstorming and reversal techniques. By combining these, you can extend your use of brainstorming to draw out even more creative ideas."
In the article, they explain how to use this tool to solve problems by following these 5 steps:
- Clearly identify the problem or challenge, and write it down.
- Reverse the problem or challenge by asking, "How could I possibly cause the problem?" or "How could I possibly achieve the opposite effect?"
- Brainstorm the reverse problem to generate reverse solution ideas. Allow the brainstorm ideas to flow freely. Do not reject anything at this stage.
- Once you have brainstormed all the ideas to solve the reverse problem, now reverse these into solution ideas for the original problem or challenge.
- Evaluate these solution ideas. Can you see a potential solution? Can you see attributes of a potential solution?
Think Backwards - Organization and Problems Solving
Organization - Think Backwards
One of the most memorable lawyers I worked for used to think backwards to organize solve problems. I’ve also used this organization method with teaching difficult concepts, and gathering and structuring information for an outline:
- What is the project you want to complete, what does it look like?
- What has to happen just before it is completed?
- What has to happen before this step can happen?
Continue thinking backwards until you get to the starting point of your project.
This way of organizing your project may seem weird at first. But it can really help you understand your project inside and out. Thus giving you direction.
Thinking backwards can also be used to solve big problems or help with small decisions such as what dress to wear to your Christmas party.
Below in Seth Godin's video he explains how to think backwards to be more successful in business - if you own a business, or work for someone else.
Just Make a Decision – Indecision Kills Action
Decide what you need to do, then do it. Even if you make the wrong decision, at least you don’t procrastinate, and you’re taking action. When we’re taking action procrastination doesn’t exist.
As well, when you just make the decision and get going in the direction you need to take, the process gets clearer. You’ll get clarification, and it will become easier to decipher what path you have to take.
While you’re making your decision, write-up a simple list of the pros and cons of the outcome.
I’m an introvert and even deciding what to eat can take me a while. I like to think about it, study the ingredients, weigh the pros and cons of my choices, etc. So mastering decision-making was a struggle at first.
In fact, I won’t lie, it was actually mind numbingly hard, and extremely frustrating. But I found that the more I did it, the easier it got.
And soon, making quick decisions became my new habit.
Even when I make the wrong decision, rarely does it turn out to be a waste of time, or a lost cause. When I realize I’ve made a wrong decision, the right one ends up staring me in the face.
After I have my Aha moment, I get started on completing the project, the right way. It usually only takes a bit of tweaking, but sometimes it means taking an entirely different approach.
Either way it’s worth it, because I learn something about myself, my process, or what I was trying to accomplish.
Remember: Taking action is never a waste of time!
Make a Project Exciting – Mix it up
I’m launching a blog soon called Pre-Blogging “The Get Your Poop in a Group Project,” so I’ve had a ton of writing to do. I’m going to use what I did to take action on this huge writing project.
After I completed the brainstorming, organizing, structuring and outlining my blog, I knew exactly what I had to do to complete it. I had my content, product funnel, and marketing, etc. all written out in steps. And it was time to start writing.
When I started my project, I worked through my outline from the beginning and was working my way to the end. This got boring, and it felt like I was doing a homework assignment. I felt my enthusiasm waning, so I had to think of something to make it more exciting.
Put Writing Projects in a Sandwich Bag
I put the titles of all the content I had to write on a piece of paper, and cut them into pieces and crumpled them up. Then I put them in a sandwich bag.
Every day when I work on my blog, I put my hand in the bag and pull out the mystery content I’m going to write.
Not only is it exciting to me to see what I’m going to write about because it’s a mystery, I’m excited to write each piece.
How to Fail
Fear of Failure: Procrastination is Failure
Fear of failure is another huge cause of procrastination. But I’ve learned that when I procrastinate, I fail. The End.
Procrastination = Automatic Fail
It’s that simple. When you continually put off your project you don’t get anything done, except for spending hours, days and weeks putting mental energy and thought into avoiding it, and in the end have nothing to show for it.
How to Become a Person of Action – 10 Steps
Procrastination is out of the Picture, and Doesn’t Exist.
- Mindset: Get it in your head that you want to become a person of action, because you don’t want to waste your life away. You want your life to mean something so you have to be more productive, and you can’t be productive if you’re a slave to procrastination.
- Hidden Disguises: Don’t rationalize why you can’t start or complete your project, and don’t fall into the habit of putting it off.
- Ask Yourself: Does the project need to be completed? If your answer is yes, focus on the how and why. Think of the outcome of the project and the benefits it will bring once it’s complete.
- Direction and Organization: Focus on the end of your project, like it’s a story.
- To-do List: For big projects, only put your big project on your to-do list. Break it down into categories, if necessary. But don’t have anything else on your list.
- Think Backwards: Start with the end, and work your thoughts backwards until you get to the first step.
- Make a Decision: Decide what you’re going to do and stick with it – take action. If it turns out to be the wrong decision, tweak your process or change your approach. Be sure to learn from your decision-making process. Create your outline of steps you have to take.
- Steps: Break your project down into steps. Create an outline as your guide.
- Make it Interesting: Challenge yourself to something, or make a bet with yourself. Give yourself a reward when you complete a step. If you can, break it down into steps and put them all in a bag like I did. Pick one out when you’re going to work on your project.
- Take Action: Remember that taking action is an automatic pass.
Overcoming Procrastination/Becoming a Person of Action
How do you Feel About Procrastination and Taking Action Now
Time Warrior by Steve Chandler
If you feel a little weak and not sure if you have the emotional energy it takes to overcome procrastination, you should read Time Warrior by Steve Chandler.
Time Warrior, is a book you can use every day to get back on track and keep procrastination out of your life. You won’t have any excuses left after you read this book.
Time Warrior Review
Read This Book for an Ego Boost
Beat Procrastination and Become a Person of Action
As I said earlier, I bounced between procrastination and taking action. Thankfully, with a lot of practice and changing my mindset. I have taken control over procrastination, and it’s a great feeling.
Don’t waste your life away. Beat procrastination and become a person of action.
Do you have any other tips on how to become a person of action? Please share them in the comments. We can use all the help we can get.