Beat Procrastination – Reward Yourself

HikerFrom the time we are born, we are socially conditioned to operate within a reward system. If we do something good (or correct), we are rewarded. If we do something bad (or wrong), we are either not rewarded or punished. That socialization is ingrained deep within us, and can be used to help us focus on our goals. In this fourth blog post about beating procrastination, we explore how to reward yourself.

Iconic physiologist Ivan Pavlov conducted a small experiment with dogs on salivation and digestion more than a century ago. That project led to the discovery of classical conditioning which, Pavlov concluded, was a learning¬†process that occurred through association of stimuli. Throughout the research project, the dogs became conditioned to behave in a certain way. Even though he himself was not a psychologist, Pavlov’s work has contributed greatly to the field of study that we know today as behavioral psychology.

Just like Pavlov’s dogs, we all need a reward now and then. When it comes to beating procrastination, you can reward yourself for accomplishing great things. You may have written an outstanding report and submitted it early. Or you may have published your first article in a leading industry publication. Or you may have finally completed that huge project and delivered it on time and under budget. What will be the reward for your achievement? Here are a few ideas: A day off. A massage. Tickets to a sporting event or a live performance. A shopping spree. A weekend getaway. That diamond tiara or gold watch you’ve been admiring at Tiffany’s.

How often do you reward yourself? At the end of every week, month, quarter, or save it for a big trip at the end of the year? The choice is yours. Setting up a reward system could be the tool you need to keep you focused and achieving your goals.

Beat Procrastination – Reflect Weekly

LeafClose-upIt can be challenging to stay focused on your goals. Sometimes you need to get creative to handle the tasks at hand. Try this simple weekly check-in that will make you feel good about your accomplishments and give you a much-needed boost. Each Friday afternoon (or any other time you prefer to organize, review, set goals, etc.), answer two simple questions:

  1. What did you accomplish this week?
  2. What made you feel really good?

Here’s what you will discover: Even during the weeks that you think you didn’t do much or accomplish much, you will realize that you did considerably more than you thought. By taking a few moments to jot down those thoughts, you can close that week feeling great about your progress.

For me, accomplishments can range from the simple to the sublime — receiving an inquiry from a potential client, receiving an email from someone in another part of the world who read and enjoyed one of my articles, or getting a personal note from someone who appreciated one of my professional development seminars. They all made it to my list that week.

Pausing, reflecting and acknowledging that you did a great job will keep you motivated and will inspire you to do a better job during the next week, month, quarter, or year.

Beat Procrastination – Find a Buddy To Help You Stay on Track

361102_best_friends_foreverIf you have a proclivity to procrastinate, you may need to partner with a “goal buddy” to help you get focused and stay on track. Begin by asking yourself this question: “Of all the people I know, who is a natural at getting things done and achieving their goals?” That is the person you want to ask to help you achieve your goals. Where do you find such a person? Look no further than a good friend, relative, trusted co-worker, business colleague, spouse or significant other. It could be someone who already plays the role of mentor or coach, someone to guide you through the process. It’s one thing to be accountable to you, however, you can cut yourself way too much slack. It’s entirely different to be accountable to someone else because you have nowhere to hide! You are much more likely to reach your goals if you are accountable to another person.

I have been blessed for more than a decade to work with my goal buddy, Susan, one of my training colleagues. We first partnered up during a goal-setting exercise at an informal gathering of trainers. We enjoyed the process so much, we decided to continue as goal buddies. We kick off each year by sharing our business and marketing goals. We then meet at the end of each quarter to review what we have accomplished, and what we have planned for the coming quarter. We support our dreams and celebrate our successes. Knowing that I am accountable to Susan makes me want to accomplish even greater things.

There is no need to suffer in silence with your procrastination. Find a goal buddy to help you focus on achieving your goals.

Beat Procrastination – Chunk It!

282121_me_in_the_spotlightChunky Monkey is my favorite Ben and Jerry’s ice cream flavor. Bananas. Chocolate. Nuts. What’s not to love about that? I could sit down and eat an entire pint in one sitting and end up with a bellyache. Instead, I choose to enjoy it in smaller portions and savor the flavor.

Looking at tasks is no different. Your plan can seem daunting at first if you look at it as one large piece. If it appears too big for you to get your arms around, then reduce it to smaller pieces, more manageable “chunks” that you can handle easily.

When you set aside just 10 to 15 minutes a day and take smaller portions of a larger task, before you know it, the task will be done, and you will be ready to move on to something else. Or set aside uninterrupted longer periods of time to focus on just one part of that larger project.

When I began writing my first book, Everything I Do Positions Me: The Simple Path to Professional Success,¬†it felt like a huge project, and it was. I didn’t know where to start, and my thinking was scattered. A colleague of mine, Meg, recommended that I consider every section as its own project, with its own deadline and of course a celebration when it was complete. It helped me to break that huge task into bite-size portions.

To help you “chunk it,” ask yourself these questions:

What one part of this large task could I focus on today?

How much time can I devote to it?

What can I complete today that will bring me closer to my ultimate goal?

When you break down a larger project into smaller tasks, you will complete it faster and easier without the worry or the bellyache!

Conquer Procrastination by Moving Thought to Action

Businessman Wearing CapeYour day is filled with hundreds of thoughts. Sometimes those thoughts remain just thoughts with no action. “I want to get promoted.” “I want to read more.” “I need to get more involved in my community.” If you find yourself repeating those same phrases over and over without action, then listen more carefully to your language. If you say “I want to…” “I need to…” “I would like to…” what I call “no-intention mentions” then it is time to do something about those thoughts.

Change your language to “I am…” and make it happen! Those thoughts will develop into action. “I am going after that promotion.” “I am reading every day.” “I am involved in my community.” On a broader scale, if you say something like, “My plan to end world hunger is bringing sustainability to the most remote regions of the world,” then you are taking responsibility for your actions, whether your action provides financial or physical assistance.

When thoughts remain just thoughts with no action, you can think those thoughts for days, months, years, or a lifetime. Nothing ever happens. They remain thoughts and nothing more. A thought is the “what” – what you want to happen. Action is the “how” – how you make it happen. The choice is yours. You can choose to take action. Don’t just think about it. Do it!