How to Actually Stop Procrastinating in Five Simple Steps

Pretty much everything you’ve ever read about fixing procrastination will invariably make you miserable.
The people giving advice have good intentions, I’m sure.  But most procrastination tips are terribly flawed.
This is particularly true of habits and morning rituals.  And yet, these are two of the most popular anti-procrastination approaches.
In this article, I’ll show you why the typical approaches won’t work and will also make you unhappy.  Better yet, I’ll show you a more effective and blissful way to beat procrastination.

How Procrastination Ruined My Love Life

When I was 16, I had a huge crush on one of my best friends (not the best idea to begin with).
One day, she invited me to go see a movie with her and her girlfriend. Um…yes.  I began imagining all the amazing ways this could turn out, but that’s a different story.
She was going to call and let me know what time they were leaving…
So I told my mom, who said fine, BUT, that I still hadn’t cut the grass in our yard.  I’d been procrastinating for about a week.  I could go to the movie so long as I cut the grass first.
No problem.
I raced outside to cut our grass as fast as possible.  Forty-five minutes later, I ran back inside, sweaty and exhausted.
And then my mom told me that my friend had called…  
Cute little boy emotionally talking on the phoneI hit speed dial (this was way back in the day, and yes, I had her on speed dial).  Her mom answered and told me that they’d already left about 30 minutes ago.
The next few minutes involved a lot of falling on the floor and a lot of general anguish.  Laugh if you want, but nothing could have made me hate procrastination more than that.
Since then, I’ve been fighting procrastination every day of my life. I pulled all-nighters in school.  I’ve replied to emails 2 years late.  I’ve procrastinated at everything.
And every day, I’ve tried to be better.
It’s the same for you and everyone else.  You also want to be better in some way.  It’s the reason you try to stop procrastinating.
You want to earn more money.  You want to be a better parent or partner.  You want to be more successful.  You want to be happier.
But here’s the catch…

You Don’t Need to Be Better…

You don’t actually need to be better, as crazy as it might sound.  You don’t need to achieve more.  You don’t even need to grow or improve.
This goes against almost everything you read or hear these days.  Growth and improvement are proclaimed as the keys to happiness, success, and fulfillment.
Everybody is talking about “better” ways to do things…
How to build habits.  How to stay focused.  How to be a better person. How to set authentic goals.  How to be happier.  How to be a better friend, parent, or version of yourself.
It all sounds so noble and admirable.  After all, who wouldn’t want to be a better version of yourself?  And who wouldn’t want to be happier?
But there’s a dark side to always trying to be better.  And as Yoda has taught us, the dark side is quite tempting.
Take for instance…

The Plague of Habits and Morning Rituals

Over the past couple years, habits and morning rituals have become HUGELY popular.  They’re particularly popular as ways to beat procrastination.
I understand the excitement.  Back in 2008, I jumped on the bandwagon and started building habits.  I built a workout habit, a habit of writing, a habit of gratitude, and many others.
Then I created a morning ritual.  I woke up early every morning to journal, exercise, meditate, and to do the most important tasks of the day.  After all, it’s what successful people do, right?
Perhaps.  But there’s something you’re missing…
You only build habits and morning rituals for things you don’t really want to do.
When you were a kid, did you need to build a habit to play your favorite games?  Did you need a morning routine to get out of bed on your birthday, Christmas, or other holidays?
Businessman chained to a large ball
Of course not.  You didn’t procrastinate on those things because you wanted to do them.  It’s the same reason you don’t procrastinate on sex or dessert.

Why You Actually Procrastinate

There’s only one possible reason you procrastinate
You don’t want to do something.  Or, at least, you’d prefer to do something else.
You can try to complicate the issue, but that’s what procrastination boils down to.
So if you want to beat procrastination, you have 3 options:

  1. You can force yourself to do something you don’t want to do.
  2. You can make yourself like something you don’t like.
  3. You can stop doing things you don’t want to doand do something that you actually like.

The majority of people take approach #1.  You try to be stronger and have more willpower.  You don’t want to go to your job or work on your business, but no problem…you just power through it.
Some folks try approach #2.  You post goals on your wall or use NLP techniques to motivate yourself.  Maybe if you repeat enough affirmations, then you’ll enjoy working hard, right?
Hand with marker writing: What Do You Want More In Your Life?Pretty much nobody takes approach #3.  Doing what you like is (surprisingly) the hardest and scariest approach.  But I want to offer you this possibility…
Approach #3 is the most authentic and most effective approach.
And if you take this approach, you might also regain your happiness, passion, and sanity.  But it’s not easy…

How to Truly Stop Procrastinating

The Entire Answer: Stop doing things you don’t want to do. Start doing things you actually like.
Or think of it like this:
Do what gives you energy.
Stop doing what makes you tired.
Doing this is a lot more practical than you might believe.  But, like most people, you have objections to doing what you want.  Here are the most common objections (especially the last one):

  • “But I have bills to pay.”
  • “I don’t know what I really want to do.”
  • “If I do what I want, then I’ll watch TV, have sex, and eat junk food all day.”

You’ve convinced yourself that you must do certain things.  It’s almost never true.
If you do what you want, would you just waste time and sit on the couch?
Maybe.  You might waste time at first.  You might overindulge.
But the reason you would do those things is to escape.  You’re trying to escape from a life that you don’t want.
You’ve trapped yourself inside a battle going on in your head…

You’ve Got to Get Out of Your Head…

Procrastination starts in your head.  But you can’t think your way out of something you thought your way into.  So ending procrastination means getting out of your head.
To do that, you first need to understand how the battle in your head works.
There are 7 Phases of Procrastination:
Phase #1: You Feel Inadequate
These feelings are often hidden.  You may not be aware that you even feel this way.   But emotions drive almost everything you feel or do, and inadequacy is particularly strong.
You feel like you aren’t smart enough, successful enough, pretty enough, or popular enough.  In some way, you aren’t enough.  And you likely feel inadequate in many ways.  But one might be stronger than the others.
This is NOT a rational decision to feel not good enough.  It doesn’t matter if what you feel bad about is true or not.
Your inadequacy first started when you were a kid.  In some way, you felt unloved or insufficient.  Again, it’s not because it was true – we all feel this way at times.
Whatever it is, inadequacy is painful, so your brain tries to repress this feeling.  It’s pushed so far back in your brain that you don’t realize it’s there (unless you do a lot of digging).
Phase #2: You Try to Fix/Improve Yourself
This is the story of your entire life.  You try to be smarter.  You try to be more popular. You try to be richer or more successful.  You try to be funnier.  You try to be more caring and giving.  You try to be nicer.
The way you try to be better doesn’t matter.  The goal is the same.  You want to feel like you’re good enough.  You want to feel at peace.
When you do improve, you feel a little bit better.  You get praised or applauded, and you feel better for a time.  But it doesn’t last.
You believe that being better might fix the shame and inadequacy that you feel.  It never works.
Still,  you can’t stop trying to be better.  If you do, you’ll be forced to feel the initial shame and inadequacy.  That’s terrifying.  So…
Phase #3: You Forget What You Actually Want
You have no idea what you want.  Almost nobody does.  Stick with me here…
Your drive to be better is so strong that you act out of patterns and habits, not out of choice.
For example, you might actually want to raise a family in a small house in the country.  Or you might want to play music all day.
But you don’t feel smart enough or successful enough.  And along the way, you’ve been praised for your career or business success.  Each time you got a little bit smarter or more successful, you temporarily felt better.
So your brain responds by creating patterns to keep you moving in that direction.  And you start to believe that you want to be more successful at your job or business.
That’s just an example.  The point is this…
The majority of how you act and feel is not what you want.  It’s all just patterns to protect you.  (Below, I’ll show you how to rediscover what you want.)
Phase #4: You Do Things You Don’t Want To
Because you think being better will make you happy, you try to work harder.  You try to improve yourself.  You try to become the “best version of yourself.”  You build businesses and relationships with successful people.
But you don’t want these things – not deep down.  So…
Phase #5: You Procrastinate
You’re stuck in an endless cycle of trying to feel better by doing things you don’t want to do.
These activities don’t energize you.  After all, how could they?  The only reason you do them is because you don’t feel good enough to begin with.
So when you build a business or when you try to work harder, you’re reminded that you’re not yet good enough.  You try to become more likable and popular, but it’s just never enough.
The result is that you procrastinate.  You don’t get energy from doing these things, so you put off doing them.
You feel like you need to do these things, but you don’t want to. You beat yourself up for being lazy, and then finally…
Phase #6: You Try to Stop Procrastinating with Silly Tricks
You try to form habits.  You start a morning ritual.  You work with Pomodoros.  You make lists of your most important tasks for the day. You join an accountability group.
Any of that sound familiar?  I’ve done it all and more.
Sometimes these things work (see Phase #7 below).  Many times they don’t, though.  That’sNia mostrando sonrisa because your subconscious mind knows that these things won’t fulfill you.
Procrastination is hard to break because it’s an important sign for your life.  Your body and mind are screaming at you not to do something.  The question is whether you’ll listen.
Phase #7: Even if You Stop Procrastinating, You’re Miserable
Here’s the thing.  Phase #6 works.  You can force yourself to do things you don’t want to do.
Depending on your pain tolerance, you might be able to do that your entire life.  But there’s a price.
You’ll never be authentically happy or at peace.
You know this deep down, but you might not be willing to admit it.  If you’re always trying to be better, then it’s because you always feel not good enough. And if that’s how you feel, you can’t possibly feel true happiness or peace.
Understanding the battle in your head is just the first step.  You also need to take action…

Follow Your Bliss: Moving Backwards to Do What You Love

You need to do two things. You need to move backwards.  And you need to follow your bliss.
Most of the time, you’re looking for new ways to beat procrastination. For real results, you need to slow down and move the opposite direction.
If you take time to understand the battle in your head (above), then this is simple (but not easy):
Step #1: Cut out the silly new hacks and tricks (see Phase #6 above)
If you’re reading this article, then those hacks and tricks haven’t worked for you.  You’re still procrastinating.  And even if one does eventually work, you’ll be miserable doing things you hate.
Action: Stop looking for and trying anti-procrastination hacks.  You can do this bit-by-bit if you need.  Cut out one hack/trick at a time.
Step #2: Stop worrying that you procrastinate (see Phase #5 above)
Procrastination is not the problem.  It’s just a symptom of the problem.  More than that, it’s a sign that you’re headed the wrong direction.  It’s your intuition and soul yelling at you to stop.
Action: Don’t ask “how” to do this.  Just do it.  Asking “how” is a diversion tactic. That doesn’t mean it will happen immediately, but just commit to stop worrying.
Step #3: Stop doing things you don’t want to do (see Phase #4 above)
You can do this little-by-little.  Start paying close attention in your day-to-day life.  What makes you tired or drains your energy?  Follow your gut.  Start by cutting out small things.
Derek Sivers wrote a great article about this 8 years ago.
Then move on to bigger things, like your job, business, relationships, or where you live.
Step #3 is scary.  What happens if you stop trying so hard?  Will your life fall apart?  Will you lose your drive and ambition?
Maybe (to all those things).
I have this conversation with a lot of people.  For most people, losing their drive and ambition is terrifying.  So I ask them why they need drive and ambition.  The most common answer I get is…
You feel happiest when you’re growing and improving.
But why is your happiness dependent on growth and improvement?  (It’s because you don’t already feel good enough.)
You don’t worry if your hair is growing or improving (unless you’re bald or going bald).
Do you worry if your fingernails are growing and improving?  Of course not.  You believe that they’ve grown enough and are good enough already.
But not you.  You need to grow and improve.  You don’t have enough money.  You’re not happy enough.  You don’t have the perfect relationship.  You’re not nice enough to the people around you.
You’ve convinced yourself that being better is your path to happiness.  So it’s scary to stop doing these things that might make you better.
But nothing you’re chasing will ever make you good enough. As long as you’re chasing improvement and growth, you’re just distracting yourself.
Action: If something makes you tired or drains your energy, stop doing it.  Slow down and do less.  Stop draining activities one at a time.  Say no more often.
Step #4: Discover what you actually want (see Phase #3 above)
Important Note: You can’t skip Step #3.  You need to cut things out of your life before you add new things in.
Start by saying “no” to things that drain your energy or make you tired.  Then, start adding in activities that you think will give you energy.
You might be right or wrong about which activities you like.  You might try an activity and find that it also drains your energy.  It doesn’t matter.  You’re exploring.
Action: Do new activities.  Start with things you loved as a kid.  If it gives you energy, then do more of it.  Don’t look for a reason.  Just follow your bliss.
Step #5: Be Patient and Be Compassionate
If you follow Steps 1-4, procrastination will disappear almost entirely.  But it takes a while.
You won’t want to be patient – this is because you’ll still have the urge to be better.  But that impatience is a guide.  Whenever you feel the need to improve yourself or be better in some way, stop and notice it.
Most of all, begin to develop self-compassion.  By doing more of what you like and less of what you don’t, you’ll stop procrastinating.  But you’ll also be more aware of your perceived inadequacies.
When you notice that you feel not good enough in some way, just acknowledge it.  Sit with that feeling instead of trying to fix it.
Here’s what will happen if you do that…

Following Your Bliss Will Not Only Stop Procrastination.  It Will Also Open Up a Universe of Possibilities

Following your bliss is a phrase that I stole from the great Joseph Campbell.  It’s the single best approach for ending procrastination.  It takes guts and courage, but the results are more than you could hope for.
Here’s what Joseph Campbell has to say about it:
“…if you do follow your bliss you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while, waiting for you, and the life that you ought to be living is the one you are living. When you can see that, you begin to meet people who are in your field of bliss, and they open doors to you. I say, follow your bliss and don’t be afraid, and doors will open where you didn’t know they were going to be.”
You have two options:

  1.  You can keep trying to force yourself to do things that drain your energy; or
  2.  You can follow your bliss and do things you love doing.

The first option might eventually work, but at what price?
The second option is tougher, but it’s 100% certain to make your life a little bit more enjoyable.  Your choice.

Now…Let’s See Your Courage

If you want to make progress right now, then step up and answer this question:
What are you most afraid will happen if you don’t keep pushing yourself?
Be honest with yourself, at least.  In what way do you not feel good enough?
And if you’re feeling very brave, let us know in the comments below what you’re afraid of.  Also, let us know one thing that drains your energy that you’re going to stop doing.
jeremy-headshot2Jeremy Hendon has founded a few businesses, sold one of them, and calls himself an author and speaker. Mostly, he tries to help folks live a life they love. You can check him out at, on Snapchat (@JMHendon), or on Twitter/Periscope (@JMHendon).
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