Do you have a really big goal that you are procrastinating on? We know we procrastinate on the things we don’t really want to do.
From doing the tax return, to getting a difficult piece of work to the awkward customer. Or just getting out the door in the morning.
But it will get done. Eventually. Right before the deadline. But at least it will get done.
What about the big stuff?
The stuff that has no deadline.
The most important tasks.
Your big life goals.
Like starting the business, you have always dreamed of. Taking on a member of staff so your business can grow. Taking that big trip. Starting to exercise and eat healthily.
It can feel overwhelming and takes you out of your comfort zone. Today seems too busy and you think you will have more time in the future.
So, what can you do to get started on that big goal, the life changer.
1/ Clearly identify your Big Goal
This is the first step to preventing procrastination.
If you don’t have clearly defined goals you won’t know which direction to go in, so are more likely to put off taking any steps.
Goals show you the way.
And write them down. Writing down your goals make them real and tangible.
Once you have a clearly defined goal you can then take the next step.
2/ Break it down into achievable steps
If possible into very small tasks, and do one a day.
Starting a business is a big task, do you even know where to start? When you have an idea of a goal, whatever it may be, a good place to start is to brainstorm.
Brainstorm all the different actions you think you will need to take to get started and to keep going. What will you need to learn? What will you need to research? Is there anything you need to buy?
They may not be things that need doing now or be in small enough chunks for now. That will come as you learn more and progress.
If you don’t know how to do something then your first task will be research, “Research paying tax” for instance. From there you can decide what the next steps need to be.
If appropriate test out each stage. When you are making something, have a go at producing it and see if it is as simple as planned to scale before marketing. If you are creating a new service for your business maybe testing out the first draft by sending to trusted business friends.
3/ Tell everybody
It just adds an element of peer pressure.
When the going gets tough it can be really easy to just give up. But knowing that there are others cheering for you to succeed can be the extra incentive you need to keep going.
And specifically tell someone who can hold you accountable every step of the way. A coach, an accountability group, a trusted mentor. So that you stay on track. Then you won’t be able to procrastinate on any step of your journey.
4/ Make a deadline
That is the easy part, the tricky bit is sticking to it when you don’t have a client or a government department to deal with if you miss it.
Rewarding yourself for meeting that deadline will be a big help in preventing procrastination.
Or here is an even more crazy idea. Give your friend £100 and if you miss the deadline, they get to keep it….or give it to an organisation who’s ideals are an antithesis to yours. Would that be motivating enough to get it done?
That is a commitment contract. Stickk is an American company founded by researchers at Yale University and is an online version of the same. You commit so much money to completing a goal, and if you don’t make it, you give them the money which gets distributed to charities.
5/ Remind yourself of your goals and what would happen if you did nothing
You will see much advice about reminding yourself daily about your big goals. It keeps you focused when the going gets tough.
But sometimes it is useful to remind yourself what would happen if you didn’t start your business? What would happen if you didn’t go on that big trip?
It might be that your life goes on much as it does now. May be that you don’t get to live the life you want. It may be that you will need to take a cause of action that is not as preferable.
And the consequences of your inaction are not immediate. Which is why it’s easy to put off taking that first step. Waiting for a better time.
Remind yourself daily of what would eventually happen if you don’t keep taking steps towards your goal.
6/ Surround yourself with people who have big goals too
The people we choose to surround ourselves with impact on the way we think, feel and act. If you surround yourself with positive people who are seeking to make their dreams come true, you are more likely to as well.
We also procrastinate less when we are in a positive mood, so surrounding yourself with positive people will have an important impact on whether you work through those difficult days.
7/ Make habits of the smaller stuff.
We have a limited amount of willpower for use in any one day. If you need to make decisions about your goal, it is best to do it as early in the day.
Try to avoid as many decisions as you can beforehand. Make your morning ritual a habit. So you don’t need to decide, should I get up? Should I do exercise this morning? Or even what should I have for breakfast?
Just do it and then get on with some big decisions regarding your business.
8/ Come up with a Plan B for each step
Sometimes things don’t always go exactly to plan and we might need to go a slightly different route to get to our end goal. Think of different actions that might be needed at each stage, if the first doesn’t go exactly as your hoped.
Having a set of actions ready can help prevent inaction if faced with needing to change tack. Rather than panicking you can think, ‘Right that marketing idea didn’t have the desired effect, but no problem I will do my plan B instead’.
(Thanks to Caroline of Occasional Purl for her suggested edits in this section and in section 2.)
9/ Celebrate every little success
No matter how small.
Even a very simple acknowledgement will have a positive impact. We motivate ourselves best when we can see the progress we have made. The only way you can do this, is if you pay attention to the small steps you have made.
What have you done this week that means you have made steps towards your goal?
The more you celebrate your successes the easier it will be to keep taking small steps everyday towards your goal.
If you have been procrastinating about starting on that big goal or struggling to take that next big step in life, then maybe commit to taking that first step.
Write it down.
In as simple and clear terms as possible.
There, that was easy. Now you just need to take that next step of breaking it down into manageable tasks/actions on you’ll be on your way.
I originally wrote this blog post for Your Virtual Mentors but is now no longer there. Paul kindly gave me permission to repost it on my site.