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It’s never fun to feel completely zapped of energy and willpower. It’s a state of being that makes you feel lethargic and less than productive. And, unfortunately, it’s a state that’s easy to slip into with so many of us still working from home or trying to social distance.

How can you break the lethargy and boost your willpower? How can you escape the cycle of procrastination and drudgery? As tempting as they are, distractions are not the answer. You’ll end up tuning in to the fun/entertaining/relaxing distraction and putting off what you should be doing.

Instead, try one of these five tips:

1. Focus on outcomes

The more you focus on the time beyond your procrastination, the easier it will be to move forward. Think about the positive outcomes that will occur when you do whatever it is you’re putting off. If you’re not looking forward to going to the gym, think about how nice it will be to have a healthy, toned body. If you’re dreading filling out a particular report, think about how happy you’ll be once it’s complete. Focusing on outcomes or positive results can give you the willpower you need to do the task at hand.

2. Set bite-sized goals

If you’re sitting on the brink of a large project and you’re feeling overwhelmed, take a deep breath and set a few bite-sized goals. Every big task can be broken down into smaller parts. If you need to clean your entire garage, for instance, begin by focusing on one particular section (organizing garden tools, for instance, or sweeping the floor). If you have to write a lengthy report, challenge yourself to write a single page or fill out one section. Once you dig in, it will be easier to keep going.

3. Set a reward

Once you’ve determined a few goals, think about how you might reward yourself once they are complete. For smaller goals, you might buy yourself a pint of ice cream or enjoy a glass of wine. For larger goals, you might treat yourself to a nice dinner or a professional massage. Is it bribery? Sure, but it’s bribery with a purpose! Setting rewards will give you something to look forward to and will help give you a jolt of energy and focus.

4. Pinpoint the reason for your reluctance

It’s possible that you’re putting something off because you simply do NOT like it. In some cases, that’s just the way it is; you have to fill out that annual review or write that report, whether you like it or not. In other cases, however, you can change your tasks so they are more enjoyable. For instance, if you do not like running on a treadmill to get in shape, you might switch to a rowing machine or elliptical. If you don’t like cleaning up after dinner, perhaps you could cook, while someone else cleans. At work, you might bring up your likes and dislikes to your boss and see if it’s possible to do more of X and less of Y. Maybe one of your co-workers hates X and loves Y, in which case, you might discuss shuffling responsibilities.

5. Try the 5-minute challenge

What can you do right now, within about 5 minutes? Challenge yourself to set a timer and DO IT. Completing one small task can give you motivation to complete others.

It’s never easy to have low motivation and low willpower, but it is possible to pull yourself out of your slump. Try one (or several) of these 5 tips and see how you feel. Chances are, you just need some forward motion in your life to give you the momentum to keep going.


MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS® DISCOVERY (AND DEEPER DISCOVERY) LICENSED PRACTITIONER, AND FOUNDER OF UXL. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. 
CHECK OUT MARGARET’S ONLINE LEADERSHIP COURSE.

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What are some of the reasons you procrastinate? Are you worried about the task ahead? Do you think you don’t have the right skills? Or, maybe, you’ve put so much pressure on yourself that you’re certain you can never live up to expectations?

Or maybe, just maybe, you have a thousand other things you’d rather be doing instead?

Whatever the case, we’re all guilty of procrastination sometimes. And that’s a bad thing, right? According to some experts, yes. Psychologist and success coach, Elizabeth Lombardo, tells us that research shows procrastination to be “associated with increased long-term physical stress, weaker performance, greater likelihood of illness and insomnia, less happiness, and diminished wealth.” None of those things sound great, but is that really the full story? Are there ever instances when procrastination can actually be a good thing?

“Yes,” says Adam Grant, author of Originals. “Procrastination is a normal part of the creative process.”

According to Grant, many of “the greats” were also great procrastinators. Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, Ernest Hemingway, Leonardo da Vinci, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Martin Luther King Jr. were all master procrastinators. Evidently, Martin Luther King Jr. “didn’t start writing his ‘I have a dream’ speech until the night before–and he was still jotting notes and crossing out lines right before he walked onstage.”

But, just because some of the great artists, inventors, and activists were procrastinators doesn’t mean procrastination is itself a good thing, right?

Well, not necessarily. Procrastination can actually allow your mind to explore avenues it might not have explored if you had doggedly stuck to your deadline and stayed on task. It’s been shown that moderate procrastinators are more creative than those who complete tasks ahead of time OR those who put things off until the 11th hour.

So, the lesson here is that some procrastination can actually be a good thing, but too much can lead to poor results (or NO results!).

Though it’s not usually a good idea to “play chicken” with a deadline, don’t be too hard on yourself if you do. As Adam Grant says, “Sure, procrastination can be the enemy of progress. But beating yourself up about it only makes it worse. If you’re stressed that you’re stressed, you suffer more.”

Next time you’re bumping up against a deadline, take a deep breath, focus, and let your creative side run wild! Though you shouldn’t necessarily make it a habit, procrastination isn’t the end of the world.

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS®DISCOVERY LICENSED PRACTITIONER, FOUNDER OF UXL, AND CO-FOUNDER OF THE TAG TEAM. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. YOU CAN VISIT HER WEBSITE AT WWW.YOUEXCELNOW.COM

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beat procrastination in 2 minutes

It’s easy to put things off. It’s easy to find reasons to NOT do things. Many of us fill our lives with excuses, opting to skip the gym, delay starting a difficult project, or avoid having tough conversations.

What holds you back from moving forward? Do certain tasks or activities seem daunting? Are you afraid of failure? Or are you simply having trouble rallying your motivation?

Step forward with excuse-free living (a concept I address in my book, The Ten-Minute Leadership Challenge) and take ownership of your future. You can do it in TWO MINUTES.

How? One of the most important steps you can take is simply starting a project. Put on your gym shoes. Set up a meeting time to have a difficult conversation. Write the first paragraph of a novel.

Starting is symbolic. It signals that you’ve put aside your fear and trepidation and are ready to move forward. Amazing things happen if you start something. You’ll likely find that the first steps aren’t so bad and you may even gain motivation to move forward and keep the momentum going. If you’re tackling a large project, create milestone markers for yourself along the way and once you pass each marker, treat it like having a fresh start, a new beginning.

If you fill your tasks with many new beginnings, they are less likely to feel old, stale, overwhelming, or unmanageable.

James Clear, expert on behavioral psychology, was my inspiration for writing about beating procrastination in two minutes. He asserts that, “Most of the tasks that you procrastinate on aren’t actually difficult to do — you have the talent and skills to accomplish them — you just avoid starting them for one reason or another.” He advises a two-fold approach for dealing with this reluctance to start something.

1. If something takes less than 2 minutes to do, do it now.

Clear says, “It’s surprising how many things we put off that we could get done in two minutes or less. For example, washing your dishes immediately after your meal, tossing the laundry in the washing machine, taking out the garbage, cleaning up clutter, sending that email, and so on.”

2. When you start a new habit, it should take less than 2 minutes to do.

This idea goes back to my “just start” philosophy. Although you certainly can’t complete a major assignment in two minutes, you can get it started. Use that kick start to motivate you into action.

 

What will you accomplish TODAY?


MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS®DISCOVERY LICENSED PRACTITIONER, FOUNDER OF UXL, AND CO-FOUNDER OF THE TAG TEAM. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. YOU CAN VISIT HER WEBSITE AT WWW.YOUEXCELNOW.COM

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