How I busted through my procrastination habit

I used to wonder — why is it easy for me to keep certain obligations but not others. Why is it that I have no problem sticking to deadlines if someone else has set them but not if I set them for myself?

Then I found Gretchen Rubin’s book Better Than Before in which she describes the four tendencies for habit formation: Upholder, Questioner, Rebel and Obliger and it suddenly hit me — I am an Obliger through and through, that’s why I procrastinate on the tasks and deadlines I set for myself. The book explains that Obligers readily meet external expectations but struggle to meet their internal expectations, so external accountability is key for someone with those tendencies.

This was a revelation for me, instantly I began devising ways to set external accountability for myself. This is crucial because as a solopreneur, I work from home, alone. There is no boss to be accountable to. Well, technically, there is a boss, I am both the boss and the “employee” and the boss has a hard time making the employee stick to a deadline, unless the employee is in the mood to do it, and the employee doesn’t feel like she has to work on it today, because there is always tomorrow, and after all, the boss is not going to do much about it.

Naturally this usually leads to nothing important getting accomplished. I was feeling really frustrated with myself because a week will go by without much to show for it. I knew something had to change but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. And then, bam, I read Gretchen Rubin’s description of an Obliger. I instantly realized why I did so well when I was an employee in corporate America — that’s because Obligers are really good at meeting external expectations, no question about it. If something needed to be done, and people or projects depended on me, I would do it without question or any need for prodding or nudging. But when I started working for myself, things became rather hazy. Without a deadline or external accountability, I was floundering. It became very easy to spend the day reading and educating myself, or listening to podcasts, browsing websites — there was always something new and exciting to learn. I felt paralyzed by the overwhelming amount of free information out there that claims to help me manage a successful business, monetize my magic, make six figures in less than six months, doing what I love and so on and so on. Constant stream of e-mails with offers for free training were flooding my inbox. Once I started on that path, it was hard to stop. “Edutraining” became a full-time gig. The more I heard, the more I needed to hear. But unless I started to apply what I was learning, nothing was going to happen.

So, I asked myself — what can I do to create external accountability? How can I bust through this procrastination phase and stop distracting myself from what needs to get done? I experimented with different ideas and here is what I found works well for me:

1. Every night write down the 6 most important things I want to accomplish the next day

2. Start work on the important items before getting distracted with e-mail and social media

3. Color-code calendar — the colors make it easy to see how the day and week are being spent

4. Block out times of the day to work on revenue-generating tasks

5. Eliminate busy work by using online tools that can automate tasks — this frees up time to work on more productive tasks

6. Set aside time to put on my CEO hat and plan out the most important business tasks for the month

7. Create a group of like-minded solorpreneurs where we can post our weekly goals and keep each other accountable

8. Find a business BFF and set monthly dates to talk about our businesses and encourage each other (mini-mastermind if you will)

9. Get a timer app, turn the timer on for 50 minutes and work on an important task uninterrupted until the timer goes off, then stand up and do something fun for the next 10 minutes.

10. Set aside time for the mind and body each day — meditation and daily physical activity are crucial to sustain my energy, ground me and help me focus

If you struggle with meeting your internal expectations and crave a system for external accountability — feel free to try these and adopt all or some of them in your daily routine. The biggest shift for me was in understanding the problem. Now, I no longer beat myself up for procrastinating because I know that it is my natural tendency and there is a fix for it. Finding a solution is easy once you identify the cause of the problem. You too can bust through your procrastination. Or if you need some help with that, you can find me here:


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