According to CNBC, 33% of Americans file taxes at the midnight hour. And the states with the most procrastinators? Texas and California are first and second with Maryland coming in third.
Some of us are chronic procrastinators. Why do today what can be put off until tomorrow, right? ! How often do we wait until crunch time to finish what we have to do. What should’ve been relatively painless becomes overwhelmingly stressful.
But the good news is that we can overcome procrastination with practice.
Here’s a three-step plan to crush procrastination and get more done than ever before.
Step One: Set a Goal.
Is this profound. No. There is no secret. If there were a secret, it’d be this: create momentum, which you start by setting a goal and organizing it into small steps, but it doesn’t stop there. Keep reading.
The great thing about small steps is that they don’t feel painful or overwhelming, which means you’re less likely to avoid them.
Step Two: Set a Deadline.
Someone said that a goal without a deadline is a wish.
Let’s use taxes as an example, usually due by April 15. This year, 2021 taxes are due by Monday, April 18, according to IRS.gov, “By law, Washington, D.C., holidays impact tax deadlines for everyone in the same way federal holidays do. The due date is April 18, instead of April 15, because of the Emancipation Day holiday in the District of Columbia for everyone except taxpayers who live in Maine or Massachusetts. Taxpayers in Maine or Massachusetts have until April 19, 2022, to file their returns due to the Patriots’ Day holiday in those states.”
So, we have a pretty good idea of what paperwork we need regarding filing our taxes, and we also know the deadline. We have a well-defined goal (get the taxes done!) and an IRS-imposed deadline, usually around April 15 each year.
But at least 33% of us will still procrastinate, so the remaining steps are essential to overcoming procrastination.
Step Three: Write it Down.
It doesn’t matter if it’s a post-it note, a piece of scrap paper, your favorite journal, a special notebook dedicated to this project, or a note that you type or dictate into your phone. The important thing is to get the goal out of your head and write it down somewhere to make it real.
That accomplishes two things.
First, it helps you clarify your goal because writing it down forces you to get more specific.
Second, writing it down makes it real and gives you something to look at – to focus on when tempted to put things off and procrastinate.
Want to make it even more powerful? Write why you want it.
A compelling why gets you to take action when you don’t feel like it.
Step Four: Start! Create Momentum!
The hardest part of a rocket launch is getting off the pad. It takes a massive amount of energy to shoot a rocket into space, but not a lot when it’s there. Same thing with a locomotive; it takes an enormous amount of energy to get a train rolling down the tracks but not so much when it’s up to speed.
You need momentum. And you’re the only one who can create it for yourself.
A cool trick you can play on your mind is to say you’ll give yourself five minutes to start a task, and if you feel like quitting after five minutes, you can stop. You’ll find that you’ll have created enough momentum that you’ll want to keep going.
Give yourself the gift of momentum because you tend to stay in motion once you’re up and running.
So, what’s something you’ve been putting off that you want or need to do? Set a goal; write it down and why you want to do it. Next, think about something you can do to get started or a series of things you can do to move in the direction of getting it done. Then give yourself the gift of momentum by getting started.
Will you always feel like doing it? Nope. That’s why it’s so important to be clear on the next small step because when you don’t feel like doing it, you’re going to look at your goal and why it’s important to you, and you’re going to take five minutes to get started to create momentum.
In fact, think like NASA and give yourself a countdown, after which you’ll launch yourself into action. It can be as simple as saying out loud: Three. Two. One. Or give yourself a proper ten-count countdown just like NASA at rocket launches, and as soon as you say “one,” launch into the task. After you’ve crossed that task off your list, start on the next one.
To overcome procrastination, you must get yourself to launch into action. Each morning, start by looking at your goal and the next thing you have to do to make it happen. Then give yourself a NASA-worthy countdown and take action. Before you know it, you’ll feel so good about getting things done that procrastination will be a thing of the past.
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