How to Stop Endlessly Procrastinating

People ask me a version of the same question over and over and over again:

“Ayo, how can I stop procrastinating? How can I bring myself to actually follow through? Every time I try, I get stuck.”

There’s no perfect answer to this question.

No matter what I say, no matter how many different angles I come from or prisms I use to give you a clear sign to act (which is all self-improvement advice does, btw), eventually you will have to be the one to bring yourself to ‘do the thing.’

I wish there was a better answer than that, like some little mental trick you could use where you uttered a phrase and it triggered some subconscious signal that forced you to take the required steps. I wish I could hypnotize you into a perfect state of productivity.

Hell, I wish I had the time and energy to individually hold your hand throughout each step of the process, talking to you on the phone daily and convincing you to take each required step. That…actually probably would work. But, again, don’t have time for that.

In general, I wish all of this was easier.

The truth is that the vast majority of people never come close to reaching their highest dreams or goals in life. They barely get out of the starting gate. If you want to make it happen, you have to be the exception to the rule.

I can tell you what the process looks like, but I can’t fill that space between thought and action.

There are formulas that work, though. There are strategies that work. And I pretty much teach the same strategy over and over until it sticks in your mind long enough to act on.

Let’s run through the strategy again. Maybe on this Monday I will drill it into your brain.

Step 1 — Decide to Change Your Life

You have to get to a point in your life where you say to yourself, “You know what? Screw it. I’m going to do it. I’m going for it.” I told you my story ten million times already, where I was standing in my room and yelled “F*** this! I’m not living my life like this anymore!”

And then with a seemingly infinite number of baby steps, I’ve made it to the point where I am today.

You see people in the gym every single year who make it past the New Year’s resolution threshold and create a life-long habit. Why? Because they said to themselves…”You know what? I’m doing it this time. I’m deciding to.”

The distinction between wanting to do something and deciding to do it is so subtle, but it makes a world of difference.

How can you bring yourself to decide? Some of my favorite techniques are:

  • Future extrapolation — I always think about what my life will be like years from now if I don’t decide to do that thing I know I need to do. When I was stuck in a dead-end job at 25, I pictured myself having a dead-end job at 40. When I was 50 pounds overweight, I pictured myself getting to 100 pounds overweight and being so stuck I’d stay obsessed forever. When I was broke, I visualized the accumulated stress that would come with being broke for my whole life and it terrified me. What will your future look like if you don’t decide to make that move you know, deep down, you need to make? Use that negativity to your advantage
  • Get pissed — This is kind of a corollary to the above, but I’m just a huge fan of using negative emotions as fuel. Inspiration is light and fluffy, but negativity cuts deep. So when I’m on the fence, feel scared, and find myself hesitating, I kind of…beat myself up until I do it. I have this conversation with myself, “Damnit Ayo, REALLY? You’re just going to sit here and not do [insert thing]? Why? Why are you allowing yourself to live below your potential for literally no good reason other than imaginary fear? Seriously, dude? Sometimes I have to repeat this process over and over and over again. Trust me. I don’t automatically make the tough decisions I need to make right away, just because I’m a self-help writer. Like I said, it’s hard to bring yourself to do the things you need to do. Sometimes, it takes a ton of repetition.
  • Positive Visualization — Positive visualization can and does work, but I put it last because you can easily fall into the trap of having a never-ending daydream about the person you can become. That daydream can be so good and vivid that it helps you cope with your real-life a little bit too well. Be careful with this one, but yes, do take time to actively and vividly picture what a better life would look like. This only works when combined with the work, though.

Step 2 — Do the Work

Wow, what an amazing pep talk here Ayo! Do the work! Such sage advice!

Look…

As cliche as it sounds…one step at a time my friend.

What are you trying to do with your life?

What do you want to change?

Ok, first you decide. Then, you do the teeniest tiniest steps consecutively until you get momentum. That’s it. This little mini-empire I have started with writing one blog post.

If you want to get in shape, you have to go to the gym for the first time.

If you want to be a writer, you have to write one thing — could be 10 minutes worth of writing, but you have to do it.

If you want to start a business, you have to do whatever the teeniest tiniest step is…maybe googling “How to Start an Online Business” is step one. Then maybe you find a list of businesses you could start. Then you find a guide on how to start that specific type of business. Maybe the guide has 17 steps to it. Do step 1 on day 1[….] step 17 on day 17. Break it down into the smallest chunks you need.

There’s a saying “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.”

Your timeline, definitively, is 3–5 years. In that period, you can dramatically change your fitness, relationships, income, life purpose, whatever it is. That’s about how long it takes.

Focus on a 90-day goal. Work on something for that long and you have a chance to make it stick. After 90 days comes 6–12 months. If you make it there, odds are, you’ll make it to five.

Then, once you make it to five years and beyond, it gets much easier, honestly. You don’t have to rely on motivation at all. You have so many built-in habits, routines, strategies, little wrinkles of knowledge, and subconscious tricks you use to stay focused.

You can get there.

Let’s say you’re at square one as of this moment.

Decide today. And then ‘do’ today.

This is the recipe.

Ayodeji is the author of Real Help: An Honest Guide to Self-Improvement. Want a free copy of my first book? Get it here.

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