How To Stop Procrastinating

Strategy

woman planning work in a notebook

Do the hardest thing first

Bonjour everyone! I’m writing this blog post today from sunny France, where I have been fully committed to cheese-eating and wine-drinking for the last week.

Along with the cheese-eating, I’ve also fallen into a new habit.

Sea swimming and surfing at 7am. 

Yeah, big deal, you’re probably thinking. Who doesn’t love a nice swim on holiday? But actually, we’re talking about the cold Atlantic in Brittany (roughly the same temperature as the sea in the UK) and it’s been overcast and a chilly 12°C before the sun rises.

Everyone who knows me, knows I HATE the cold. Loathe it. But I’m married to a man who is as firmly committed to cold showers and ice baths as I am to cheese-eating. 

Apparently, cold sea swimming is the best way to jump-start your metabolism each morning (and thus increase my cheese-eating allowance).

So, against my better judgement, I’ve been in the sea every morning at sunrise. Not gonna lie. Getting in is tough but I’ve been forcing myself to just walk in and start swimming immediately.

And it’s absolutely brilliant! It sets me up for a productive day of doing….absolutely nothing. (I am on holiday after all).

The hardest part is actually deciding to do it and it’s made me realise how weirdly your brain handles the process.

Theoretically, not only do I KNOW that it’s good for me, I KNOW I’m going to love being in the water and I KNOW that I’m going to feel amazing afterwards.

And yet, every morning, when my husband turns to me and says “Swim?”, I have to force myself to say yes, get in the car and go.

But it is working. Maybe I actually can rewire my brain to do hard things first?

You’ve probably heard this great quote before…

“Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.” – Mark Twain

It’s got me thinking about all of the live frogs I could eat in my business.

Accounts, batch scheduling social media, answering emails…

I know that scheduling and actually doing all of these things makes me feel great, but I don’t always do it. Everyone procrastinates sometimes.

So, I’m inviting you to pick one frog (grenouille!) and take a big old bite out of it first thing each day.

Know your triggers

Logically, we know that eliminating distractions makes sense but often we leave the mental triggers in place because we fear ‘missing out’ on an important message or opportunity. 

Notifications from apps are an obvious place to start. Both the visual and audio cues create an emotional itch that we feel compelled to scratch immediately. 

Even muting the ‘new message’ sound from your email programme can help. I need to be in and out of my emails all day, but I’ve found that visual notifications really distract me from my current task, so as well as muting the sound, I’ve also removed my email from the notifications bar on both my desktop and phone. 

Perhaps your triggers are more general. Maybe you find it harder to concentrate when it’s sunny or when you’re hungry? Take some time to examine the interruptions in your workflow that occur the most regularly. 

Plan your procrastination time

This might sound a bit counter-intuitive but bear with me. It’s almost impossible to avoid some kind of procrastination so you might as well admit that it’s going to happen and plan it in.

For example, I keep my Monday mornings free for browsing social media, reading articles and only answering the emails I want to. I give myself permission to be completely unproductive until late morning and binge all of the internet content I want. It’s a little gift to myself and it means that for the rest of the week, I can be strict and get down to serious work more often. 

I also give myself 30 minutes at the beginning of every day to ‘legally’ procrastinate.

Hold space for deep work

Deep work is the ability to focus on a significant or challenging task or project, without distraction or a hard deadline. These kinds of tasks are generally important, but not urgent, so it can be easy to shelve them, even though they are likely to help your business significantly. 

For me, deep work includes creating new themes or courses. 

The trick to embarking on ‘deep work’ sessions is to play to your strengths, choosing times of the week and the day when you know from experience that you can be more productive. For me, I schedule three deep work sessions per week. 

For example, my first session is Wednesday morning, meaning I’ve got my scheduled procrastination time out of my system, created all of my content for the week and dealt with any urgent enquiries or client requests. 

The only way to really commit to deep work is to treat your scheduled sessions as if they were important client work. They are the big, immovable rocks in your weekly schedule that can’t bump to a later date.

This kind of scheduling will also help eliminate long panicky last-minute project work. I don’t know about you, but I don’t do my best creative work when I’m under pressure. 

Batch similar tasks

This is kind of an obvious one I know, but so many people don’t batch similar tasks together. 

I used to be this person. I was a slave to my never-ending to-do list, completing tasks in order of priority and still allowing interruptions from emails and social media messages. It was hopelessly inefficient. 

I now respond to emails only twice a day and dedicate a whole afternoon each week to creating content for my blog, breaking the post down into daily Instagram and Facebook posts and then re-purposing it to other channels like Pinterest.

In just a couple of hours, all of my social content is completed and scheduled, leaving me free just to respond to any comments as the week unfolds. 


More about scheduling

If finding time for marketing is one of your weak spots, then here’s a little further reading. This blog post about scheduling gives you a step-by-guide to my personal scheduling system. If you know you could be working smarter instead of harder, this is the blog post for you.

If you’d like to join an inspiring online community, you can find out more about Melissa’s online membership, The Marketing Fix, at www.themarketingfix.co

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