To stop procrastinating forever, transform your perception of your tasks to make them fun and well-defined so that you look forward to them. Identify and eliminate things you don’t want to do. Self-Hypnosis may be used to attain clarity around what needs to be done, enhance focus, get into the zone, build motivation, minimize the risk of distraction, create supporting habits, and change your perception of the task at hand.
That might sound like a lot.
In reality, each of these requires a relatively small amount of work.
And since our brains tend to be good at figuring stuff out, we don’t even have to do all of it.
Usually we only need to do enough to get ourselves moving.
Then we can tack on more as needed.
The effort required to stop procrastinating is tiny compared to the sheer amount of time people might otherwise waste.
All that’s required is understanding a few simple principles of the mind, and a tiny bit of re-organization to make it happen.
We can use self-hypnosis to cause a lot of that to happen automatically.
Understand What Drives Procrastination
Procrastination is primarily the result of prioritizing an immediate reward over a long-term one.
This can happen in a number of ways, and it’s important to address each of them in order to overcome procrastination.
Human beings have a predisposition towards continuing doing what’s always worked. This is a survival characteristic since what we’ve always done has kept us alive up to now.
This same mental inertia can keep us procrastinating.
If we always pick up our phone whenever there is a notification, the process quickly becomes habituated.
Once something becomes habituated, it is a lot easier for us to keep on doing it.
Most of the time when we procrastinate, it’s because there’s a task we know how to do that will give us an immediate reward.
In order to break free from procrastination, we need to make it easier for us to work towards our goals than it is to procrastinate.
Things that make it difficult to work towards our goals include not knowing what those goals are, not believing we can achieve them, not being excited about them, feeling overwhelmed, and not knowing how to start or proceed towards them.
When each of these is addressed, it can become easier to work towards your goals than it is to procrastinate.
Decide What You Want
In order to overcome procrastination, it’s necessary to have a goal. Find a way to make your goal important to you, then use self-hypnosis to step inside your vision of that future.
Did you know that it’s possible to procrastinate about deciding what you want?
The very first step in overcoming procrastination is to have one or more goals.
These can be anything at all.
I have lots of goals, including writing this article, repairing my dinghy, and going sailing in the South Pacific.
Your goals may fit together to support a larger goal, and they may be independent.
Choose a goal big enough that it scares you a little bit. Then hypnotize yourself and build up a vision of what it will be like once you’ve achieved your goal.
Once you’ve got that image clearly inside your head, pay close attention to whatever you can notice about the feelings associated with having achieved that goal.
Take a little time to work out exactly why that specific goal is important to you.
How much effort you put into this part depends quite a bit on the size of the goal. Huge, long-term goals require a much stronger vision than small tasks you’ve been putting off.
Make A Plan To Get What You Want
It is much easier to achieve goals when we have a plan. To build a plan, write out your vision of what things will be like when you’ve achieved your goals, then work backwards from there. Start with a high-level view, and fill in minimum details required to get started.
Making a plan is easy.
For all but the simplest plans, assume that you cannot track everything in your head.
Grab a sheet of paper and a pen, and write out all the high level things you will need in order to accomplish your goal.
At this level my plan for cruising in the South Pacific includes things like a cruising boat, boatbuilding skills, various required certifications, and an ongoing source of funds.
Don’t go into the details too much. Just list out all the bits and pieces you will need.
Next, choose one thing to work on first. This is your first step.
Work through that step and break it down into small tasks. If the step is more than a couple of weeks long, break it down into chunks that will take about 2 weeks each.
In the case of my cruising plan, a 2 week chunk might be repairing the deck on my current boat, fiberglassing it, and then covering it with teak.
In agile terminology, these 2 week long tasks are known as iterations.
Figure out why the first iteration is important to you. Break it down into smaller tasks. Then write down your best guess about how many hours each of these will require.
Aim to make these smaller tasks small enough that when you look at the individual task it seems straightforward.
Returning to the example of repairing my deck, a small task might be going to the store and buying sanding supplies for 1 hour. Or it could be removing the fittings for a day. Or sanding the deck for a week.
The idea here is to build a clear picture of exactly what you’re going to do, and to make the individual steps so small that you do not become overwhelmed.
Do not be tempted to create any details for the plan beyond the current iteration unless it is absolutely necessary. It is expected that the plan will change as you learn more while working through it.
Shape Your Perceptions
Self-hypnosis may be used to shape perceptions around the tasks required to achieve success. Use it to help see working towards your goal as positive and exciting, reduce inhibition towards getting started, build focus, get in the zone, and avoid perfectionism.
Once we have a plan, we need to implement it. The easiest way I’ve found to do this is to attach positive emotions to the act of carrying out the individual tasks.
Most people believe that doing certain things makes them happy.
And while this might be true to a certain extent, what most people don’t appreciate is that it’s possible to change how we feel about stuff.
Take a few moments to think about your goal. Go all the way into self-hypnosis, and visualize exactly what it will be like when you’ve succeeded. Notice all the positive emotions, whatever they might be.
When those emotions are as strong as you can make them, allow a symbol of some kind to emerge.
Visualize your next task, see yourself doing it in your mind’s eye, and allow your symbol to flow throughout that task.
You may need to repeat several times to get it right. Once you’ve done it enough, the act of doing the task will cause that emotional state to fire up.
The more you can make yourself excited to get started, the easier it will be. And the more you can see yourself working at the task, the more it will seem normal to you.
Our brains don’t tend to resist doing what we normally do very much.
There are a couple of extra tricks you can use to keep yourself on task.
One of the ways that people procrastinate is by trying to be a perfectionist. Luckily this is relatively easy to avoid with a little understanding of why perfectionism is a bad thing coupled with some self-hypnosis.
It’s also possible to use self-hypnosis to propel yourself into the zone. When we’re in flow like that, suddenly everything becomes much easier, and it becomes harder to stop than to keep working towards our goals.
Identify When You’re Procrastinating
In order to stop procrastinating, we need to know when we’re doing it. Take the time to notice whenever you’re not working towards your goal, and make a note of what you do and when.
Despite intending to avoid procrastination, most of us still find that ourselves doing it from time to time.
Pay attention to what you’re doing and notice when you start to procrastinate.
Keep a journal and write down when it happens and what you are doing at the time.
And at the end of each day, set aside some time to revise your day and notice any times you procrastinated. Log them into your journal.
Also, as a part of your daily check-up, pay attention to how much time you spend thinking about not doing the thing you’re avoiding. That’s procrastination too.
Make A Plan To Avoid Procrastinating
Create a separate plan to avoid procrastinating. Use self-hypnosis to make it harder to procrastinate in the first place and make the stuff you do when procrastinating less appealing. Organize your day by setting aside time to work and time to keep track of procrastination.
As you eliminate the types of things that lead you into procrastination, you’ll gradually stop doing it.
This is an iterative process. You’re very unlikely to completely stop on day one.
Typically the really big things standing in your way will be the first ones you discover.
So it’s possible to make progress fast.
Get rid of procrastination as quickly as possible by making a plan.
There are 3 things I have found to be very effective in this regard.
First, you can use self-hypnosis to create anchors to pull you back onto working towards your goal whenever you start to procrastinate again.
Look through your procrastination journal and see what patterns you can spot. If there are specific things that always lead to procrastination, you can use self-hypnosis to associate them with reminding you of your hypnotic symbol, and then being excited to get back to the task at hand.
This tends to work really well with things like deciding to scroll through social media or watch your favorite show.
Second, you can use self-hypnosis to sabotage your procrastination.
The easiest way I know to do this is to use a technique from NLP.
Go into self-hypnosis, find something you intensely dislike doing, see that inside your mind’s eye and notice all the properties that it has. Then call up one thing you do to procrastinate, and allow its properties to transform into the properties of the thing you intensely dislike.
Each time you do this, what tends to happen is that a bit of that dislike rubs off on the thing you are doing to procrastinate. This makes it harder to do that thing.
The third thing you can do is put your procrastination to good use.
Each of us has many tasks we need to complete on any given day. What I like to do is whenever I catch myself procrastinating, I do one of these tasks.
This provides a little bit of a break, and then when I get back to whatever I was doing I find it easy to continue on.
For example, I’ve just taken a break to make a fresh loaf of bread. When I returned to my PC to continue writing this article, words started to flow once again.
Use habits and gamification to get started on working through your plan.
Now that you’ve got a plan to reach your goals, and know how to make a plan to overcome procrastination, it’s time to get started.
Use Habits To Bypass Procrastination
Rather than relying on willpower and motivation, when it’s time to start, call up your positive symbol from earlier and allow yourself to bask in its glow for a few moments.
Visualize yourself doing the first part of the next task.
Then decide that you’re going to at least do the smallest thing possible.
This could be as small as turning on your PC and opening your word processor to write.
It could be a little larger.
You will have to play about with it to find out what works for you.
In my case, I find that I have to decide to write a certain number of words otherwise I can’t make myself feel satisfied.
On the other hand, when it comes to working on my boat, by the time I get to the boat I am already so committed to the process that I’m pretty much guaranteed to work on it for the rest of the day.
Or at least until it gets too cold.
When we decide to take the first step like this, what often happens is that we get over the initial hurdle and keep working until the task is done.
Use Frequent Tiny Rewards To Keep Yourself On Track
Keep yourself on track by building rewards into the process.
For each task, give yourself a tiny reward when you achieve each milestone.
As is the case with working out how little you have to do to feel satisfied, you will have to judge how much should lead to a reward.
If you find yourself starting to procrastinate, there’s a good chance that you’re not rewarding yourself often enough.
These rewards do not have to be huge.
One of the reasons that software developers and musicians tend to move into flow quite easily is that their tasks have a frequent tiny reward mechanism built-in.
When we write a piece of code that works, we get a momentary positive spike. The same thing happens when we play through a single tricky bar in just the right way.
If you’ve ever tried either of these, you’ll know that these positive spikes could be happening at a rate of anything from every few seconds to every few minutes.
Have Yourself Held Accountable
Arrange regular catch-ups with someone who can keep you on track towards your goals.
So far we’ve covered how to build intrinsic motivation.
Intrinsic motivation is great and when we have it we can become unstoppable.
And with any process there will be bumps along the way. When those bumps come along, we sometimes need something else to get us over them.
Luckily there’s a principle from sociology known as commitment and consistency that we can use to keep us on track.
People are much more likely to do something when they’ve told someone else that they will.
But there’s a slight problem: When we try to get our family and friends to help in that regard, the changes that we’re necessarily making to ourselves can feel like an attack to them.
They won’t be aware of this consciously and will believe they’re supporting you.
This happens because when we’re close to someone, the way we are becomes a part of their identity.
Most people are afraid of change and resist it.
And even if they’re a coach, chances are high that they will see the same things you do.
So I’d like to invite you to pop over to my experimental public Discord server for a chat. You can tell me all about what you’d like to achieve, and if it’s right for you we can talk about how I may be able to help keep you on track.