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  • Writer's pictureJenny De Lacy

From Procrastinator To Action Taker: How To Get Stuff DONE

What is procrastination?

Typically we describe procrastination as 'putting off until tomorrow something you could do today,' but according to The Association for Psychological Science, 'experts define it as the voluntary delay of some important task that we intend to do, despite knowing that we’ll suffer as a result.' Ouch.

Suddenly cleaning the kitchen? Then there's definitely something getting 'put off until tomorrow' - guaranteed. Sitting mindlessly procrasti-scrolling on my phone? I'm avoiding something boring.

You get the drift. And that's being lighthearted about it.

In reality everything I put off doing becomes a 'future Jenny' problem in the hope that 'now-Jenny' feels good, instead of doing the thing. I've found five tactics that work brilliantly for me and I'm sharing them with you today.

Ready to get stuck in and don't want to read the whole blog? Go straight to the tactics here

Here's why we need to find a way to beat procrastination - it feels crap. We KNOW we want to, need to, HAVE to get stuff done, and yet here we are at the end of another day, week, month and we still haven't achieved what we wanted.

It holds us back from success we know we deserve, the potential we want to realise, the 'thing' we want to be known for. And that's SHIT.

What impact is not getting stuff done having?

The act of putting something off because I don't want the discomfort of doing it now, dumps all the burden in future Jenny's lap, AND we don't get the chance to learn from current behaviour for future gains if we constantly do that.

As a lifelong learner than just doesn't work for me

And if you have ADHD, the 'voluntary' word in the definition above is definitely not true. Renowned expert ADHD psychiatrist Dr Russell Barkley says 'ADHD is not a disorder of knowing what to do, it's a disorder of doing what you know — at the right times and places,' making procrastination more regular, having more impact, and harder for us to control.

But it's not about whether you've experienced it or not, whether you have ADHD or not, it's about the {IMPACT} it is or isn't having on you and your business.

That's really what procrastination is all about. Fuschia Sirois of Bishop’s University says 'procrastinators comfort themselves in the present with the false belief that they’ll be more emotionally equipped to handle a task in the future.'

And the problem with that it's never going to help us achieve business results, the feel good factor of achieving success, of taking action, or seeing potential become reality.

So why do we procrastinate?

According to loads of academic long complicated articles I *read only because I really wanted to write this blog, there are several types of procrastination. (*skimmed...)

In short they are:

  • Perfectionist ('ducks in row' over planner) (A)

  • Dreamer (enjoys the dreaming and not the doing) (A)

  • Worrier (the ruminator - not making a decision, imposter syndrome) (A)

  • Crisis maker (leaving it until it is a crisis to get the motivation) (S)

  • Defier (you say I have to so I won't - we even do this to ourselves, I swear that's why meal planning just does not work for me) (S)

  • Overdoer (you say yes to everything and then regret it) (S)

I have broken them down into two types that I see regularly in myself and my clients:

(S) Splurger - when the energy is right it's all systems GO. We need deadlines, interesting tasks, inspiration, momentum - if it doesn't feel good we won't do it (in my NOT expert ADHD opinion this is where loads of extrovert ADHD folk sit)

(A) Agoniser - overthinking and over-planning are the order of the day. You won't take action if it's not 'perfect' and may or may not be clear what 'perfect' actually is. Will act later or with someone else's support but is often looking for details and answers rather than taking any action.

You might have a mixture of the two.

Joseph Ferrari, a professor of psychology at DePaul University said to tell the chronic procrastinator to just do it would be like saying to a clinically depressed person, cheer up

So HOW can we beat it and get stuff done?

I listened to an awesome ADDitude webinar last year and learnt so much more about procrastination. I also worked with an ADHD and executive function* coach Rochelle Bright

According to the experts, procrastination is largely due to ambiguity (what am I supposed to be doing right now?) and 'what is difficult here?' (something is stopping me and I need to find out what so I can take action).

I love the simplicity of these two elements. Go ahead and use them both against the 6 kinds of procrastination and you'll see how they fit for you.

Here's an example for me around being a splurger who needs the right energy to get it done (in the six kinds it's the overdoer and crisis maker):

an example of how to get stuff done with Jenny De Lacy

This is an ongoing thing, but has made a HUGE difference to my business and how I feel about it and myself too.

Once I have decided I actually have to do the thing (don't assume you have to do everything on the list - maybe you can ditch it, or delegate it) here's the breakdown of the 5 tactics I use:

Five tactics for breaking the cycle and getting stuff done:

  1. Asking 'what is difficult here?' Becoming aware of your thoughts when you are avoiding getting stuff done so you can work out what's going on. Catch yourself early and it makes a big difference. This helps me break things into smaller micro steps so I can get started.

  2. Manage your energy not your time - break it down, choose something to do and as you gain momentum and energy from taking action, you'll find you achieve more. I also know my energy for focused work that I am prone to procrastinating on is better in the morning, and sometimes not even at my desk (hello cafe time)

  3. Play to your strengths - what does that look like? It might mean changing how you work or what you offer. It's energising and exciting to work the way it suits you.

  4. Boundaries - set them and get clear with yourself and clients, pause before you say yes - get it on a post it note and stick in on your computer screen! Working with boundaries is better for you and your clients. Can you come out and work onsite? No. Can you come to this night time event? Also no.

  5. Accountability - need deadlines? Create them with a business buddy, come to one of my free content coworking sessions (third Thursday each month), or set up your next appointment with your client so you know when you need to get something done. It works.

An extra one is asking 'what's the logical next step here?' when I feel like I am about to get up from my desk and have a break! I feel like I am finished but in actual fact I am running out of interest or energy. Rather than getting up from my desk I check if there is one more step or action that will finish this task - and usually there is.

Over to you

Procrastination can be so frustrating but if you are aware of it early you can work out how to tackle it.

I'd love to know which tactic is the one you'll try first.

PS If you have ADHD and you've done some reading you'll be seeing lots of references here that you might have specific labels for (such as 'executive function' and 'time blindness' and 'dopamine') but I choose NOT to use jargon that excludes many of my readers who don't have ADHD but still struggle with many of the things we do and would like some help too!

*in case you're wondering what 'executive function' means, there are nine functions that help us with complex behaviours. They are impulsivity, self-monitoring, planning and organization, activity shifting, task initiation, task monitoring, emotional control, working memory, and general orderliness. If these are lacking (and research tells us that chronic procrastinators have a deficit in most or all of them) then working on identifying ways to work around them with a coach like Rochelle is worth it's weight in gold

Still struggling with procrastination?

Did you know I offer a content coworking every month on the third Thursday of the month for free? Anyone from my community can join in and take action on their to do list.

You can register here:

+61 03 94170 613

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