We’ve all been there. Faced with a task that we don’t want to do but know we must. How can you get unstuck? Based on psychological science, as well as our experience as leadership coaches and counselors, we’ve found three ideas that often work with procrastination.

  • Do the Next Thing. There’s no need to figure out every detail in order to get started on most projects. Many times, it’s as simple as doing the next thing. Keep it to one specific behavior. If you’re writing a report, for instance, put your name on the top; if you’re painting a room, pull out the brushes and can of paint. You’ll find that once the momentum starts from the simplest of behaviors, you’ll often keep going.
  • Work in 30-Minute Increments. Rather than setting aside eight hours for a project and then avoiding it, set aside a half hour at a time. Contract with yourself to work thirty minutes with an option to renew and continue on. But, if you don’t renew, there is no guilt. You contracted only to work thirty minutes. Again, the momentum will often kick in and you’ll be able to proceed full force for at least thirty minutes and probably longer.
  • Find a Deeper Meaning. If you’re doing a task just to check it off your list, you’ll often find it a chore. What if you could tie it to a deeper meaning? Students might want to link it to a dream of graduation and a future career, and office workers might be motivated by envisioning a promotion or developing an expertise. For our clients who are spiritually oriented, we’ll often link it to a spiritual truth, such as picturing how a dreaded phone call might be an act of compassion through building a relationship or healing a conflict, even if it’s uncomfortable.

A final thought is to maintain perspective. Almost everyone gets stuck in procrastination from time to time. That goes for you, too. You’ve likely experienced it before and moved through it successfully. Take heart that you will do it again.

Mark Sundby, Ph.D., LP, a psychologist at LeaderWise, specializes in cognitive behavioral strategies for personal well-being and professional effectiveness. To learn more, contact him, mark@leaderwise.org

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