Has this happened to you: you’re trying to implement a plan but you end up procrastinating? It happens in business and it happens in your personal life. The weather is great, you don’t want to work. The weather is bad, no need to go to the gym. Let’s take a deep dive into this, why we procrastinate, and how we can stop procrastinating, not just temporarily, but permanently.
There is a cure which I’ll explain using a push-up analogy. In this analogy, your task is to do one push-up. Just one. If you can’t do a full push up, do one on your knees and do a half-push up. Simple. But some of us can’t do that push-up.
Why is it that we have inner conflicts that prevent us from completing a very simple task?
Something is providing us with excuses. The task itself doesn’t take a lot of time, but the procrastination takes a lot of time. Where does this delay, this postponement come from?
I believe it comes from a list of what I call inner demons that we all have. If we can identify and conquer these inner demons, we can increase our productivity and accomplishments.
Watch this video on how to stop procrastinating.
Procrastination Demon 1: Perfectionist
This inner demon tells you that before you do your push up, “make sure the space between your hands is perfect and your fingers are positioned correctly. And make sure you go down at the proper angle. Check your knees are good and everything. Don’t touch the floor too much because that’s cheating.”
“You’ve seen some people do a push-up like that, or maybe like this. You want to do it like they do. Also, you know what, maybe you shouldn’t wear this to do a push-up. You should wear your new Nike shirts and shorts to make sure you get the push-up right.”
It’s just a push-up. That’s a perfectionist speaking, fussing over details in the name of accuracy and quality, but actually making excuses not to get things done.
Who will accomplish more in the end? Someone who is obsessed with doing the perfect push up, and hasn’t done a single one, or someone who does 10 imperfect push-ups every day? In 100 days, who’s further ahead, muscle-wise, growth-wise?
So conquer this inner demon by taking imperfect action. Don’t wait until things are perfect.
Procrastination Demon 2: Lazy Good-For-Nothing
The second inner demon just doesn’t like to get anything done. It’s the voice in your head saying, “Oh, man, push-ups. That’s hard. I’ve never done a push-up before. I don’t know if I can do this. Hmm…I think I want to do five but maybe I can only do two.”
“I don’t want to wake up in the morning with a back ache or arm ache. Maybe I’ll do it later. This is too hard.”
This demon can cripple you like the perfectionist demon. Don’t expect to accomplish much if you’re lazy and find excuses to do nothing.
Procrastination Demon 3: Measurer
This inner demon I call the measurer or comparer. It will say to you, “Well, you want to do the push-up, but you can only do 10, and your friend can do 20, and your sister can do 30. You’re not as good as them. Why bother trying?”
You compare because you feel insecure, and that stops you. If you focused on your own goals and didn’t care what other people were doing, you would accomplish more.
When I was getting back into training, I was trying to do the dips. I got a dip machine at home. I couldn’t do a single one. Then I remembered that when I was younger, I could do 20 and now I couldn’t do any. I felt defeated. My inner demons called me horrible names.
I was so disappointed that I made myself a plan. I got myself three of those elastic bands that can support some of your weight. Each was a different thickness. I started with the big thick one, so I could do three. Then I worked my way up to ten.
Then, I switched to the middle one, and then the thinner one, and now I can do 15 to 20. I didn’t care what other people were doing on YouTube, if they could do more than me. I just focused on my own thing by just doing one. Then I did more and more until I could do 20.
Just focus on yourself. That’s how you defeat this demon. What other people are capable of doing doesn’t matter.
Procrastination Demon 4: Futurist
I love this inner demon. You’re doing a push-up, and this inner demon says to you, “Do I really want a big tricep? Maybe I want to build up my chest muscles, but what if I do it wrong? What if it gets so big, I don’t look good in a shirt? And what if my future spouse doesn’t like a big, strong guy? I’ll be single all my life. I’ll be a miserable old person and die all alone. That’s so horrible. Maybe I shouldn’t do the push-up.”
That’s what this demon says to you. It can see your entire future and how it will turn out if you did just one push-up. But where does that thinking come from? It’s just a push-up, but there is so much garbage on your mind.
Just remember your inner demon doesn’t know the future. When the future comes, deal with the issue as it arises, but don’t anticipate what problems you could be facing before they happen.
Procrastination Demon 5: Idiot
“I don’t know how.” Those are the favorite words of the idiot. You tell yourself you want to do a push-up and that voice says, “I don’t know how.” So you break it down and say, you get on the floor, and just push.
Again, that voice says, “Well, but I don’t know how. I need to read 500 books and watch 300 or more videos to learn how to do the push-up.” And you tell that voice, it’s just a push up.
But the fear kicks in and this inner demon warns you if you don’t learn how to do a push-up properly, you’ll hurt your back.
But you shouldn’t listen to this inner demon. Tell yourself you can learn by doing. Imagine you can only do five and you’re gaining more strength, and now, you’re doing 10. From 10 you increase to 20 push-ups, maybe not in the perfect form. But as you get stronger, you can vary your form.
You position your arms wider and work on your chest. You can do a diamond push-up to work on your shoulders. Then you can try other variations, like the fist push-up or finger push-ups. But you won’t get there unless you do your first basic 10.
The idiot comes up with the excuse, “I don’t know how to.” Forget the how-to. Just do your first push-up and work your way up from there. As you improve, the how-to will come. Now, as you get better, you improve.
In business, it’s like making your first social media video. You’re trying to make that one perfect video so you make 100 videos, thinking the 100th will be better than the first one. But the problem is, you’re not getting feedback from the marketplace.
Do you know which videos they like? Which videos they don’t? Do you know which method or style of your videos interest them the most? Get feedback from the audience as you go along, not after you’ve made the perfect video.
Procrastination Demon 6: Dumb Listener
You’re doing push-ups and your friend says, “Why are you doing push-ups?” So you tell your friend that you want to get stronger.
Your friend says, “No no. Push-ups are no good. Scientists and doctors are saying it’s no good for you. You should do cardio. Just do cardio. Then you won’t get all bulky.”
So you stop doing push-ups and do cardio and cycling but after a month, you haven’t lost weight. So you return to doing push-ups.
Then, another friend says, “I just found out about this pill from an infomercial. You should just take the pill to lose weight.”
It’s the shiny object syndrome. The grass is always greener on the other side, and in the end, you’ve been jumping from idea to idea so much that you haven’t done one push-up.
Eliminate this inner demon by choosing one course of action and sticking to it until you see results.
Procrastination Demon 7: Hopper
The hopper is similar to the dumb listener. There is an analogy I heard from a motivational speaker. Imagine you are drilling oil, this massive amount of oil and wealth and success, whatever you want to call it. You drill and you drill in one spot but don’t find anything.
So you move to a new spot and start drilling but you don’t strike oil either. After many tries in many spots, you give up. The land has nothing of value.
Then some other guy who is less smart comes by and randomly picks a spot. He drills and drills and doesn’t stop, doesn’t change where he’s drilling, until he strikes oil. A lot of it.
Wealth is committing to one idea over time.
Let’s go back to the push-up. Every single day, I’m doing push-ups. But now that I can do 20 to 30, I ask myself if I am breathing properly. Is my form correct as I get stronger? I also want to pivot, and try some push-up variations to build more muscle.
So to return to the oil drilling analogy, you’re not finding a new spot to drill. You’re drilling smarter. Changing the type of drill bit or the speed of the drill.
In my business it has been the same. For me, my business is communication. That hasn’t changed over time. It doesn’t matter if it’s print, webinar, or Facebook posts. It’s all communication. Copywriting is all communication and communication is wealth.
I’ve been testing different types of communication over time, changing and improving it, but I start with my first push-up.
Procrastination Demon 8: Troublemaker
The last inner demon is the most common one. Most of us have one of these making up excuses to avoid doing a push-up.
“The floor is dirty. There are some germs, bacteria on it that I’m going to inhale and then I’m going to die. This is not good. And what if my bones are not strong enough? What if I break my hand? What if I hurt my wrist? I shouldn’t be doing this.”
This situation sounds so exaggerated. But in business, I hear about people giving excuses about why they shouldn’t make a video to promote their business. Their parents will see it and have the wrong idea about what their child is doing. Their high school sweetheart will see the video, and that won’t be good.
Your inner demon will come up with the most ridiculous stories about why you shouldn’t do something. We’re great at making stuff up. You should record these conversations you’re having with this inner demon and play it back.
Don’t feed these demons. Don’t give nutrition to them.
The Simple Solution
It’s so easy to have a conversation with these demons. You could start the day wanting to get a lot done and then at the end, you haven’t done a thing. You could even feel like you’re being productive by having a big to do list, but the whole day just goes by.
Whenever you catch yourself doing things like that, apply this simple solution.
Just get on the floor and do the push up. Don’t think, just do. Train your mind to get moving every time. The key is not to get things done. The key is getting things done without these inner conflicts and all this emotional nonsense. Just execute.
If you look back on yourself in terms of progress, or productivity, I guarantee, if you procrastinate, you’ve got a lot of those things going on. Some inner demons are stronger than others, if you know what I mean.
If you look at any high performers, you’ll notice they have very few. They don’t give power to these inner demons.
Think Like A Squirrel
There’s a great book that I love called Overachievement, The Science Of Working Less To Accomplish More. In the first chapter, John Eliot talks about thinking like a squirrel. He said a lot of high performers –top Olympic athletes, executives, and politicians–think like a squirrel.
Great performers are well-trained, experienced, smart, and in some cases, divinely talented. But the way their brains work during a performance is a lot like a squirrel’s brain, instead of an Einstein’s brain.
Like squirrels, they have learned to do tasks without questioning their abilities. They trust their skills, using the trusting mindset. Routine access to their trusting mindset is what separates great performers from the rest of the pack.
Have you ever seen a squirrel run across a wire? If the squirrel were human, it would stop at the pole and think, “Oh, this pole is so tall. I don’t know if I can make it. Is my paw swelling up?
And then, they go up the pole and worry, “Oh, my god. This is tall. I’m going to die. Okay. Right paw. Left paw. Maybe I should go back. It’s just a couple of steps away. If I drop, I’m going to die, and no one would feed my squirrel kids. What should I do?”
What does a squirrel do?
They don’t hesitate the way we do. And they’re so fast. There’s no hesitation. They go up the pole and then come back. So, imagine if a squirrel operates this way, procrastinating at each step, they’re going to die. They’re going to lose balance. They’re going to get in all kinds of trouble.
Don’t Overcomplicate Things
If my task is to go grab a glass of water from the table, I’ll go grab the glass. But if I procrastinate, I start thinking about getting a measuring tape. Checking the distance from my hand to the glass. Checking my hand positioning.
If you’re getting from point A to point B for a task, getting the job done is hard. So repeat this simple formula to yourself and live by it: Actions drive out all thoughts.
When your inner demons are fighting with you, just take action. Imperfect action is better than perfect action. Be more aware of which inner demon is speaking to you and train yourself to stop listening to those voices. They won’t totally disappear, but they will affect you less.
For example, booking a workshop is actually not that difficult. You book a room, make some calls, and people show up. But everything that happens before is a chance for inner demons to take over. They’ll say to you, “What if nobody shows up? What if you don’t do a good job delivering the workshop? What if people don’t like your presentation?”
If you eliminate the procrastination that happens from these thoughts, you’ll make progress. Now I’ll give you a perfect example and perfect solution as well.
Integrating A Habit Into Your Life
Before, I used to train one day a week. Now, I’m training three days a week, later maybe four days a week. I don’t need to worry about my muscles. I just worry about my push-ups and getting stronger. As I’m training more, I can see my strength and endurance, everything, coming back.
The thing is, once the habit is integrated, it’s part of my life. I don’t think about it, and I don’t have to push myself to get it done. My teacher, my sifu, once said, “Everything is kung fu.” What did he mean by that?
I don’t need to block out a certain time to do things. Everything is kung fu practice. Even as I’m standing, I’m practicing my stance and my posture.
When I’m watching TV, every time the screen changes, I’m practicing my reflexes. When there is a change, I pretend I’m hitting somebody. I’m practicing my reflexes. While I watch a movie, I’m practicing by squeezing something in my hand. Everything is kung fu. It’s a lifestyle.
Once something is integrated, you’re no longer trying to do it. Everything is easy. You’re not forcing yourself to do something. Most entrepreneurs have not integrated greatness into their daily lives. In fact, most have integrated mediocrity and bad habits.
So think about what you can do to integrate those things. Don’t do something when you feel like it, because you never feel like it. Humans beings, we don’t like pain. But when you integrate, you don’t think about it.
Final Thoughts On How To Stop Procrastinating
Most of the time, the task at hand is not that hard to do. What slows us down are the inner demons in our head, making excuses so we don’t get things done.
There’s at least eight different inner demons that talk us out of getting things done, but the most common one is the demon that makes up reasons and ideas in our mind.
To avoid procrastinating, make it a habit to take action. It doesn’t have to be perfect, you just have to get going. Think like a squirrel, and just do what you need to do without thinking much about it.
If we start integrating certain habits into our daily or weekly routines, we are less likely to procrastinate or postpone what we need to do. So to achieve greatness, keep it simple and think like a squirrel.
Which inner demon will you defeat? Comment below.