We’re all guilty of procrastination, sometimes.
Occasionally, it’s just our minds telling us to take it easy.
But I suspect that a lot of the time, we’re not doing anything relaxing or pleasant with the time that we feel we should be using constructively.
We find ourselves spinning our wheels with pointless work, or “multi-task”, that great enemy of productivity.
For instance, when I should be researching or writing, I find myself checking emails – without batching them…
Or I find myself half-heartedly watching videos of sneezing kittens on Facebook…
Procrastination’s nothing new – One hundred years ago, Napoleon Hill wrote extensively on the subject in “Think & Grow Rich“.
But the modern age makes it far more easy to get distracted.
Here are some of the best tips to combat procrastination that I’ve found:
1. The Procrastination Advantage: How Procrastinating Can Help You Achieve Your Goals
(From Smashing the Brain Blocks)
Here, Theo Tsaousides makes the point that with many tasks, procrastination’s not a problem. Although we may leave a task to the last minute, it still gets done, usually on time.
The problem is when the task, the deadline for completion, and the punishment for failure are not clear.
An example of a task you could effectively procrastinate over he gives is filing your tax return.
Here, you understand:
- The task required
- When exactly it must be completed
- What form punishment for failure will take
The really harmful type of procrastination is when we don’t understand these three key pieces of information – because then we’re very unlikely ever to finish.
Unfortunately, your life goals, whatever they may be, fall into this category, and become easy targets for failure.
Life goals are not tasks. They are visions, desires, all-encompassing statements about a future state of being. A life goal is made up of hundreds, if not thousands, of tasks.
For example, eating healthy is a goal but not a task. A task related to the goal of eating healthy is buying more vegetables during your weekly grocery store run. Another task related to the same goal is finding a way to store the vegetables properly to keep them fresh.
What to do about it?
Identify the tasks.
Make a list of all the different tasks that you have to carry out on a daily basis in order to keep moving things forward with your goal.
Likewise, life goals don’t have deadlines, or if they do they are unrealistic because there are no set behaviors and actions to make them happen. And without deadlines there is no pressure. If IRS didn’t give a deadline for filing your tax return, how many people would get around to it?
And finally, there is no clear punishment.
There’s no penalty, no prison sentence, no real disapproval – which is why you need to consider the losses, to create your own punishment.
Consider how you will feel, what you will have lost out on, if you don’t achieve your goal.
Breaking your goals into the various tasks, creating deadlines, and understanding your punishment for failure to act will massively improve the odds of success – EVEN IF you continue to procrastinate. [Read the full article here]
2. Use Visualization
But use it properly…
The self-help industry has promoted visualization for years, suggesting that it can be used to lose weight, find the perfect partner, quit smoking and find untold riches beyond your wildest dreams.
Unfortunately, studies have shown that this is not quite the case. (Who’d a thought it?)
Richard Wiseman, author of 59 Seconds, says that the problem with visualization is that visualizing the end goal may make a pleasant daydream, but the results can actually be harmful to your success in achieving your goals.
This is because it doesn’t help you to create the strength you need to persevere when the going gets tough, and you face the inevitable set-backs.
By visualizing yourself doing the things that are required to reach you goals, you make it that much more likely you will stick with your plans.
As an example, rather than imagining yourself passing that exam with flying colors, try imagining yourself studying, visiting the library, and asking questions in class!
This way, you are giving yourself concrete actions that you can do in order to reach your end goal.
3. Be More Productive: The 15-Minute Routine Anthony Trollope Used to Write 40+ Books
(From James Clear)
Writers are an excellent source of ideas for motivation.
It’s often said that everyone has one novel inside them, but let’s face it, most of us don’t manage to write a prologue.
What seems to me most challenging about writing a novel is that the author must hammer away for months or more, trying to form a compelling plot and convincing characters… and yet will not even be in the position of getting another human’s opinion on their efforts until the first draft is complete.
Not to mention the fact that while businesses have a depressingly low chance of success if you think about it too much, the chances of a first-time author getting published (unless on Kindle) are so low as to make me wonder how anyone even gets started.
It’s HIGH risk.
Yet writers like Anthony Trollope were ridiculously prolific, and his routine was one that everyone can learn something from, whether they are a writer, an athlete, a business owner or any other field that doesn’t necessarily involve a boss standing over you, cracking a whip.
This was Trollope’s deceptively simple approach:
“It had at this time become my custom,—and is still my custom, though of late I have become a little lenient of myself—to write with my watch before me, and to require of myself 250 words every quarter of an hour…
This division of time allowed me to produce over ten pages of an ordinary novel volume a day, and if kept up through ten months, would have given as its results three novels of three volumes each in the year…”
After ranking your priorities for the day, if the number one task is a really big project then it can leave you feeling frustrated because it takes a long time to finish…
…it can still be disheartening to be stuck on Task #1 when you’ve been working all day. These feelings of frustration are a possible downside of the prioritized to-do list…
Tiny Milestones, More Momentum
Trollope was in the business of writing books and writing a book is a big project. It is not the type of task that you can complete in a day. In some cases, merely writing a chapter is too big a task for a single day.
However, instead of measuring his progress based on the completion of chapters or books, Trollope measured his progress in 15-minute increments. This approach allowed him to enjoy feelings of satisfaction and accomplishment very quickly while continuing to work on the large task of writing a book.
How You Can Benefit From This Approach
The key to this approach is that we crave a feeling of accomplishment, and a big project doesn’t always give us that.
By breaking tasks up into manageable chunks, a feeling of progress happens naturally, making it that much more likely that your goal will be reached.