How To Stop Procrastinating (& Start Taking Action)

I'll let you in on a secret. 

The secret, if you're trying to figure out how to stop procrastinating, is not about developing insane willpower, gaining ninja focus, or learning some secret productivity hacks.  

It's about choices. 

“It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.”
— Albus Dumbledore (Harry Potter)

The definition of procrastination: 

the action of delaying or postponing

I disagree with the definition.

As someone who has worked with people on productivity, business, marketing strategy, video projects or even buying or selling a home, I've dealt with many perceived procrastination issues. 

Business owners that wanted to increase sales, or launch a new website, or hire more people but just can't seem to get started.

Or can get started but never finish. 

  • Maybe you want to start a blog, or you've been struggling to get started on a blog post idea because a new show on Netflix just launched.
  • Or maybe you're a student that should be studying but instead find yourself on Snapchat or Instagram. 
  • Or you might be a parent wanting to get in shape and start exercising, but find yourself tired when you get home, so you sit on the couch. 
  • Have you thought about getting a will or some life insurance but haven't scheduled the time yet?

See, procrastinating is NOT about putting things off.  You're not actually putting all things off and doing nothing; you are choosing to do something else with that time.

If you want to stop procrastinating it comes down to making better choices. 

IT'S NOT YOUR FAULT FOR PROCRASTINATING

And it's not your fault if you find yourself procrastinating, not taking action on things that could have a positive impact on your life, your business or health, it's because it's so easy to find something else to do with your time and energy. 

Here's what you'll learn in each section of this guide on How To Stop Procrastinating:

And at the very end I have an audio recording of me walking someone through these exact questions. You'll also be able to download a printable version of the 15 questions so you can write down your answers. 

Section 1

Carrot Or Stick? What Motivates You

When I was deciding to write a How To Stop Procrastinating guide, I struggled with the idea of focusing on stopping, or starting. 

I found myself asking, "Do people want to stop procrastinating or do they want to start taking action?"

The first thing I did was some simple research using a Google search. 

First, I searched for how to stop procrastinating

I came up with just over 2 million results for how to stop procrastinating. 

Next I searched for how to start taking action

This gave me 42 million results. So it looks like there are more articles out there, online, about taking action vs stopping procrastination. 

Next I did what any good marketer would do when researching. I went to Google Keyword Planner.

The Google Keyword Planner is a tool that shows you roughly how many people are searching for a word, or phrase on Google. 

This way you can decide as a business or marketer if it's worth it to you to run an ad when people search for that word or phrase. 

What I found checking these results is basically the opposite of the other search results.

More people are searching for "how to stop procrastinating" instead of "taking action" or "how to start taking action."

In fact, there are 18,100 searches a month for how to stop procrastinating in Google Keyword Planner.

And only 30 searches a month for how to start taking action

Obviously this is not an exact science.

There could many variations of these searches that could add or subtract from the results. But it gives me a big picture. A place to start.

It helps me see one of the biggest challenges out there when it comes to procrastination. 

The first results are the articles, blogs, and website pages that exist. 

The second results are what people are actually looking for. 

There is way more content being created on how to take action, but people are actually more interested in stopping procrastination. 

So when I decided to title this guide, I slipped both in. 

Just in case this article gets some momentum and starts showing up in Google searches, it might show up for both groups. 

And that brings us to what motivates you?

Carrot or Stick?

Winning or Losing?

I hate to lose more than I love to win.
— Jimmy Connors
Losing feels worse than winning feels good.
— Vin Scully
I’m a pretty good winner. I’m a terrible loser.
— Tom Brady
It kills me to lose.
— Jackie Robinson

Some people are motivated by the carrot. They want to win.

Some people are motivated by the stick. They hate to lose.

It's yin and yang. 

I think that's OK. 

What has gone wrong, in my opinion in the self-help, motivate-you, guru, focus on the positive in everything world, we live in today is that not all of us think the same or are motivated by the same things. 

Some people love to win. Some people hate to lose. 

Some people save up money to go on a great vacation. 

Some people save up money in case they lose their job. 

Some people are motivated by their fears. 

Some people are motivated by their dreams.

I honestly think either is OK. 

But as you can tell by the results above, the Content Creators want you to focus on one thing, even though many of us are motivated by something entirely different. 

If you want to stop procrastinating you have to get real with yourself about what motivates you. 

So much time and energy is wasted by people trying to change what motivates them. 

Guess what?

The carrot or the stick... it doesn't matter.

Both can get you to same place. 

And even more time and energy is probably wasted trying to change what motivates other people. 

I believe all humans are motivated. And all of us get inspired. 

The problem is when we are trying to get motivated by something that doesn't motivate us.

This is why you're procrastinating. 

You're wasting all your time and energy trying to get motivated by a carrot, when you are a stick person, instead of working on the thing you should be...

  • starting the blog
  • building a business
  • getting fit
  • saving more money
  • studying for a class 

Or vice versa. 

How To Know If You're A Carrot or Stick Person

You already know what type of person you are. 

The challenge is that in our culture in the United States you're suppose to be a Carrot person.

Experience has shown me that Carrot People like to set goals. Stick People are great at solving problems.  

Carrot People would rather win. Stick People hate to lose. 

One of the big mistakes that people make is assuming that Carrot People are positive and optimistic. While Stick People are negative and pessimistic. 

Motives are not attitudes. 

What makes someone negative or pessimistic is when they have to act like someone they are not. 

You're feelings and reactions will tell you who you are. What resonates with you when you hear certain phrases will tell you if you're a Carrot or Stick Person. For example, do you want to stop procrastinating? Or would you rather start taking action?

WHO GETS THE MONEY?

When I was consulting a client on a project and they were struggling with implementing things I had to assess what motivated them. 

After witnessing a reaction to a political candidate's name, I had them write a check.

The check was worth roughly one hour of their time, that's how much time they would have to invest into their part of the project. And I told them, that if they did not do what they needed to do I was going to send this check to the political candidate's campaign they didn't like.

Later that day I got a call from my client telling me they had finished their project.

After weeks of procrastinating, they finally took action in just hours.

Their motivation was a Stick. 

FINDING THE RIGHT MOTIVATION

Finding the right motivation is about getting things aligned. 

If you can get your projects, tasks and goals aligned with what motivates you and WHY you're doing it, you'll discover procrastination is not an issue and you can start take action and implementing faster. 

Section 2

MYTHS ABOUT PROCRASTINATION

The Time Myth

A popular myth about why we procrastinate is because we just don't have the time. We are too busy. 

According to Bureau of Labor Statistics:

  • On an average day, nearly everyone age 15 and over (96 percent) engaged in some sort of leisure activity such as watching TV, socializing, or exercising. Of those who engaged in leisure activities, men spent more time in these activities (5.8 hours) than did women (5.1 hours).

According to a Time.com article:

  • Using these metrics, we can derive that each individual subscriber spent 568 hours watching Netflix in 2015 on average. That’s 1 hour, 33 minutes per day of streaming.

And a NYTimes article reports:

  • Fifty minutes. That’s the average amount of time, the company said, that users spend each day on its Facebook, Instagram and Messenger platforms (and that’s not counting the popular messaging app WhatsApp).
Time is wasted because there is so much time availble.
— Tim Ferriss

You have plenty of time to do the things you need to, or should do.

You're just making a choice to do something else right now. And making the choice to do the other thing later. 

The Better Under Pressure Myth

Author of The Power of Habit, Chris Duhigg, says we push against deadlines to build up tension. The release of the tension and extra drama we've created becomes a powerful reward for ourselves. 

Director of the Procrastination Research Group, at Carleton University, Tim Pychyl has said he's not aware of a single study that supports the idea that people perform better under pressure, or with a deadline approaching. In fact, he says, the research says just the opposite.

"Stress makes it harder for your brain to function, burdening it with cognitive loads that can interfere with your ability to not only learn and assimilate knowledge, but translate ideas into meaningful information."

There are many more myths about procrastination and here are some additional resources:


WHAT HAPPENS IF I GET IT WRONG?

Here are two quick examples of why Taking Action is OK, even if you think it won't be right.

Why you should focus on progression over perfection:

Let's start with the Walking Dead comic and TV Show. 

If you're a fan you'll know the comic is different from the TV show. 

Not much, but enough.

WHY?

If the comic is good enough to make into a TV show, why change it all. 

Robert Kirkman, the creator of The Walking Dead says,

“To not do that story simply because I didn’t think of it when I was writing the comic, or because I did the comic a little differently is absurd to me. Staying true to that stuff is great when it’s necessary, but there are so many great ideas thrown around in the writers’ room that you just have to do that stuff. And I think it makes the show that much better.”

Did you see that?

He says he "simply didn't think of it at the time". 

The first time he was writing it...

Even though he is getting some better ideas know... it didn't stop from creating and publishing in the first place. 

He didn't wait for perfection. 

He took action. 

Then when an opportunity came to make it better, he did. 

Progression over perfection. 

The next example is from one of my favorite bands.

The lyrics that Adam Duritz writes.

The story he tells, the pictures he can paint with his words and his voice I find captivating.

Even the music itself seems to be a character in the story of the song.

On a live album, Adam Duritz, the lead singer and songwriter for the band tells a quick, power story that I believe you can apply to your business.

To me, it is about moving past procrastination and getting impactful things done.

The first disc of the live album was recorded for VH1 Storytellers.

It is supposed to be acoustic and stripped down versions of the songs.

But the band is playing with electric instruments during much of the performance.

Some of the songs they play sound entirely different from the earlier studio version.

Even different instruments are being used.

Adam justifies this is by saying,

"We are playing some of these songs electric is because they have changed so much and I think we really know how to play them now."

Wait!

What?

How does a song change?

What do you mean you know how to play them NOW?

What was a listening to before?

Put It Out There - Start Where You Can Start

What if the Counting Crows had waited until they got the songs right?

What if they wouldn't have waited until they really knew how to play them?

Many times, people are procrastinating because they are waiting for something.

Waiting for motivation. Waiting for inspiration. Waiting to get better. Waiting for more.

Maybe you procrastinate because of fear.

Fear that people won't like what you put out there.

Maybe you are procrastinating because you don't really know how the marketing piece should look, or what the website should have on it, or what the blog should say, or how to do the video or how you'll hold the person you hire accountable.

Maybe you are waiting until you know you can get it right.

That's not what the Counting Crows did.

That's not what Robert Kirkman did.

They put it out there.

And if you would have asked me, I would have told you they did get it right the first time.

It was only in their head, they didn't get it right or didn't really know how to play the songs.

But they still put it out there.

Might it be....

Could it be...

That if whatever you are procrastinating on...

Whatever you are afraid you will get wrong...

Whatever you are afraid of not really knowing...

That if you put it out there, people will think you got it right?

Section 3

15 QUESTIONS YOU CAN ASK YOURSELF TO HELP STOP  PROCRASTINATING

Listen to the audio below the questions to see how I guide my friend Jonathan, a real estate investor and founder of The Podcast Factory, through the questions. 

You don't need someone to guide you through the questions. It might not hurt or you might find it distracting. You might not be able to be 100% honest if you're doing this with someone else. 

So do whatever works best for you. 

I've also included a PDF Worksheet of the Stop Procrastinating Questions that you can request, if you'd like to download, print off and write your answers down. You'll see where you can sign up for that below the questions.


#1: What are you procrastinating on?

#2: What are you choosing to do instead of [answer from #1]?

#3: What feelings do you get from [answer from #2]?

#4: Does [feelings from #3] from [answer from #2] have a long term, significant impact on your life, your world, and your goals? If Yes, how? 

#5: If you continue to procrastinate on [answer from #1] what is likely to happen?

#6: What is at stake for you if you continue to put off [answer from #1]? 

What else? What else? What else?

#7: What’s at stake for others around you (family, business, partners, clients, etc) if you continue to put off [answer from #1]?

What else? What else? What else?

#8: When you consider [the possible outcomes from #6 and #7], what do you feel?

#9: If you made the choice to do [answer #1], what long term, significant impact on your life, your world, and your goals would there be?

#10: When you think about [the likely outcomes of #9] what do you feel?

#11: What could you do immediately to move towards finishing [answer from #1]?

#12: What could you do next after that immediate action?

#13: When will you take action on [answer from #12]?

#14: What is going to try to roadblock you from that and how will you get around it?

#15: Who is going to follow up with you to see what you accomplished? When?



NOW TAKE ACTION:

Are You Ready To Stop Procrastinating?

You can get a PDF version of these questions by signing up below.

ONE MORE THING TO TAKE ACTION ON

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Darin Persinger spends his days and weeks, helping people sell their home, making property tour videos and video marketing, helping Katherine with her homebuyers, serving on the Lake Stevens Chamber of Commerce board, serving on the Citizen Advisory Committee for the planning of the new Lake Stevens downtown, VP of the Lake Stevens Business Network, recording a weekly podcast called the Inside Real Estate Show, making a daily vlog called This Is The Life, writing books like, SOLD: What To Expect When Selling Your HomeHome Buying Made EasyThe 5 Levels Of Success For A Real Estate Agent, still speaking & training some times, and playing with his daughter, Morgan, and French Bulldog Pearl, as much as possible.