How to Pummel Procrastination

How to Pummel Procrastination
Thomas Thompson
April 12, 2022
min read

Sometimes does your To Do list feel like a Too Much list?

You want to push the pile out of sight.  Tempted to delete the inbox app rather than tackle the tower of notifications.

I’ll be the first to raise my hand and admit my guilt:

My name is Thomas, and I am a procrastinator.

I know all the tricks to put things off.  I’ll move this project deadline back a few days.  Problem solved.  I will welcome the interruption.  Anxiety lowered.    

Or–and this was my sneakiest trick–I would go to work on work I knew I could do well, but really didn’t advance my work. 

When I was a pastor, and I was facing a task I really needed to do but didn’t want to do, I would suddenly get a great idea about a sermon series 6 months away, and get lost in that work for a few hours.  Was it worthwhile work?  Yes.  Was it what was most crucial that day?  Not at all.  But I felt busy.

Why do I do this?

I procrastinate when I feel anxious.  When I am overwhelmed.  When I don’t know how to get started.  When I doubt myself or lack the confidence.  

What is the craziest part is: the very thing we do to lower our stress–procrastination–actually increases it.  It makes things worse.  

There are many reasons why we procrastinate, and many tricks.  As my grandpa used to say, “If you are looking for an excuse, any one will do.”

How do you get unstuck?  How do you pummel procrastination?

One simple trick I have learned.  

Eat Your Sprouts First.

When I was a kid, my mom would make Brussels Sprouts in the worst way imaginable:  SHE BOILED THEM.  These mushy balls of sludge would sit on my plate, while I would eat around them  I carefully cleared my plate while the sprouts silently cooled into a congealed mass.  

My strategy to avoid the hard backfired because of one fatal flaw:  Avoiding the sprouts didn't move them off my plate. 

I wouldn't be able to enjoy the rest of my meal, because I knew in the back of my mind that I still had to eat the sprouts.  Except now the boiled brussels had gotten worse.  I spent many hours of my childhood sitting at the kitchen table long after everyone else, playing who blinks first with those sprouts.

Until one day, my 8 year old brain realized:  Eating brussels sprouts was going to be gross either way.  I could choose to eat warm nasty sprouts first, or cold nasty sprouts last.  But if I ate the sprouts first, I had the “reward” of not having them loom over the meal.  I could enjoy the rest of my dinner in peace, knowing the hard work was behind me.

I was learning to Choose my Hard.

My wife always says, “Choose your hard.”  Her coaching reminds people that most of the time, The thing we think is hard is JUST as hard as NOT doing that thing.  The difficulty of doing it is often the same as the hard consequences of not doing it.

So you might as well do it.

How does eating the sprouts first help with procrastination?  

It creates INERTIA.  An object in motion tends to stay in motion.  A leader who chooses the hard first is a leader in motion.  And the rest of the day they tend to stay in motion.  

Instead of waiting until we are in the mood, until we feel like it, until we have the confidence to take action, we act, knowing that action leads to confidence.

Confidence does not lead to action.  Action Leads to confidence.

So the leader hack I use when I am procrastinating is to pause, identify the one thing I have been putting off or don’t want to do, and do it.  Eat the sprouts first.  It is amazing how that simple act shifts my gear from neutral into high.

What is the one thing YOU have been putting off? 

It has been sitting on your plate the whole meal, your ignoring it filling you with false hope.  

Rework your schedule and set aside 45 minutes to tackle this first.  You may not finish, but you will make progress.  Action begets action.  Choose your hard.

By the way, I have since learned to make brussels sprouts myself, and they are delicious.  The thing I procrastinated has become a passion meal for me.

Thomas helps leaders navigate what’s next.  If he can serve you in this, reach out to him HERE.

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

I founded Thompson Leadership to come alongside leaders like you. Together, we will unpack your unique leadership, unearth your biggest challenge, and create an action plan to close the gap between where you are and where you want to be.
Connect with Thomas
© 2022-2023 Thompson Leadership. All right reserved.
Privacy Policy