“Just do it!” One of the greatest ad campaigns ever, and brilliant advice on how to stop putting things off. Or is it?

I don’t know many people who find this approach to getting things done particularly helpful, certainly not the hard-pressed third sector clients I coach. If they could “just do it”, they would.

Instead of drawing on massive amounts of willpower, I teach my clients how to stop procrastinating with three steps which are virtually foolproof.

These are the steps:

1. Make a decision about whether you’re going to do something or not
2. Book the action into your diary
3. Associate the action with pleasure.

Here are the reasons why each step is important, and how to do it.

1. Make a decision

When you don’t make a decision about whether you’re going to do something, the task weighs on your mind making you feel stressed even if you don’t realise it. You feel guilty for not doing it even though you haven’t decided whether you want to or not. What a waste of emotional energy!

So, make a decision. Ask yourself, “am I or am I not going to do this job?” If it’s no, forget about it. Tell whoever you have to tell. Delegate it. Do whatever you have to do to get it out of your mind and off your to-do list.

If it’s yes…

2. Book the action into your diary

When you schedule an action into your diary you are making a commitment to yourself to do it. You can begin to imagine yourself doing it. You’re not putting it off any longer, it’s in the diary.

So, decide when you’re going to do a task, and write it into your diary or Blackberry or whatever you use to schedule your week. Work out roughly how long it’s going to take – and then forget about it.

3. Associate the action with pleasure

The reason you’re putting the action off in the first place is because you’re associating it with some kind of pain. To stop procrastinating you have to control the feeling or emotion around the task. Associate the task with pleasure or something that you value and focus on that instead. So, for instance, you could associate getting your filing done with the pleasure of having a great space in which to be creative or the reward you plan to give yourself afterwards.

Then you can “just do it”!

So, these are three steps to follow if you want to stop procrastinating. Try it and let me know if it works for you.

If you work in the third sector and want help with making better use of your time contact me here.

Follow me on twitter @katieduckworth for more time management tips.