Like many people, I’m skilled in the art of procrastination. The excuses I give myself range from, “There’s not enough time to finish” to “I really don’t want to mess this up.” But overall, the hardest part about getting started is the intimidation factor: I’m afraid of the scope of tackling the unknown.
Leo Babauta, the founder of the popular self-improvement site Zen Habits, proposes a simple solution: start with small chunks and reconnect with why you’re doing the work in the first place.
With the help of his Unprocrastination Sea Change program, this month we’ll work towards putting an end to putting things off. This challenge will be the ultimate test in pushing past the uncomfortable and unfamiliar.
According to Babauta, there are three key habit changes we need to make to put an end to procrastination:
- Picking a Most Important Task each morning.
- Developing the habit of starting.
- Learning to pause when you get the urge to procrastinate.
To acquire these habits, as well as heightened awareness, Babauta has broken the challenge up into weekly tasks. Here’s the plan:
Each morning, or even the evening before, write down your most important task of the day. Before answering email or checking messages, this is the first task you will work on. Don’t know what your most important task is? Ask yourself: of the tasks before you, which will have the biggest impact on your life? If you have a few contenders, it doesn’t matter where you start–just pick one.
Next, report your task to someone. It could be through social media, or to a person in your life that holds you accountable for your actions. Report your most important task each day, and continue to do this for the rest of the challenge.
Keep picking your daily MIT, but now focus on starting. To do this, break the task down into chunks and make the first one super easy to accomplish. If you want to start running, for example, make your first task as easy as simply lacing up your shoes and walking out the door. Forget about the 3 miles you want to run. Once you get started, the rest will come. If you want to do more than starting, and keep going, that’s fine, but not required. Report on your progress each day.
“When we fail, it’s because we act on urges without thinking, without realizing it,” Babauta writes. “We have the urge to check Facebook or email, and we do it.”
After you start your most important task for the day, when you feel the urge to procrastinate, simply pause. Try not to act on the urge, pay attention to it, and learn as much as you can about it. Keep doing this each time you feel an urge to procrastinate. Pause and observe. Then report your findings to your accountability group or person.
To continue forming these new habits, keep repeating them and keep observing your procrastination urges and causes this week. Observe your fears, irrational beliefs, and what distracts you. Block these addictive distractions and continue to pause when their pull is strong.
Tune in to find out how this challenge went and share your experiences of your own anti-procrastination challenge during our live chat with Leo Babauta on Friday, April 17 at 11 a.m. ET.
Please note: The live chat has been canceled.