Overcoming Procrastination with One Simple Question

Overcoming procrastination with one simple question - Nike says 'Just do it' but it when it comes to procrastination the real trick is to 'Just start it'.

I have a confession to make and it is about procrastinating. I left writing this page to the last minute. I intended to do it yesterday.

The old familiar excuses kept drawing me in....

  • “I’ was feeling tired” …. “so I told myself why not just wait till another day when I am more rested” or
  • “I want to play with the kids…they’re having fun” ….why not just join them and do the video another day.

All the excuses had an element of truth to them…but they were still just excuses.

The problem IS NOT the excuses but the CONCLUSIONS that arise from them. All of my excuses concluded with ‘hey it is better to put it off to another time’.

So it was my conclusions that needed to change if I wanted to stop procrastinating!

Overcoming procrastination by just starting it.

So how did I start on this  webpage on overcoming procrastination?

Well, I heard my familiar excuses in my head and I realized that was my signal.

Right at that very moment I was about to procrastinate - I used a simple technique that has pulled me out of this pattern over and over again and successfully kicked my own butt into gear. 

To do this I asked myself one simple question….

What do I need to do right now in the next 10 minutes?....and I just started it.

The whole point of this blunt instrument is to stop myself thinking and to launch myself into simple action.

Nike says “Just do it” but the real trick is Just start it!

Don’t think too hard. Don’t complicate your life. Don’t engage in self talk. Just go.

When I did this, a funny thing happened! The funny thing is it always happens….I felt better. 

When I was doing what I SHOULD be doing rather than distracting myself with other stuff I felt better and I realised that the thing was not as big and scary as I had thought!

But don’t just take my word for this. 

Dr Timothy Pychyl an expert on Procrastination carried out this exercise with his students and he found that when students made the effort to just get started on their stressful, difficult, and unpleasant task that once they got started the task was not as stressful, difficult or as unpleasant.

Which type of procrastinator are you? Find out here

Once they got started the task was rarely as bad as they thought!

On top of that they felt better about themselves for having started, and it created momentum to keep going. 

So what we want you to do this time is to try using the 10 minute solution for overcoming procrastination

Activity: Using the one simple question

Choose anything that is in your life at the moment on which you are procrastinating. Just the thought can be overwhelming, right?

Choose one thing that you can commit to for 10 minutes. Any kind of action – and just go. 

Some people find it really helpful to have a sound or visual cue to help them with this. A good example is the Pomodoro technique, that we mentioned in the last session, where you pick up your timer and set it for 10 minutes. While you hear the ticking sound you are on.

When those old familiar excuses start up like

  • “I’m too tired”
  • “I’m not in the mood”
  • “I would rather do something else”

Just focus on the tick.

When the ticking stops this is your cue to play the Rambo theme or I feel good – and feel proud that you didn’t give in.

Take a 2 minute break and do it again – except this time set your timer for 15 minutes. 

Repeat the pattern, gradually increasing the time that you set. It doesn’t take very long before you actually find that you can sit down for much longer sessions at a time.

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