How often do you wait until the last minute to complete an important task? Are you stuck in a cycle of procrastination that you can’t escape? Unfortunately you are not alone. It’s happened to even the most productive people ever. In this article, you’ll learn how to skip procrastination by training yourself with some strategy and motivation.
The first step? Recognize that procrastination has become a problem.
Procrastination isn’t always about veggies on the couch on a rainy Saturday because you’re exhausted from a hectic work week. Instead, it’s a chronic condition where you put off essential decisions or actions. Why? You may be anxious, afraid of failing or not knowing where to start.
We all experience this at some point in our lives. However, once you admit that you are a procrastinator, you can take steps to improve. And an effective way to overcome procrastination is to work on your trusted agenda.
Implement a daily routine.
“One of the reasons it’s so easy to fall back into procrastination time and again is that we don’t have a clear system for deciding what’s important and what to work on first,” explains the bestselling author of Atomic Habits James Clear†
“One of the best productivity systems I’ve found is also one of the simplest.” That system is called Ivy Lee Method, and it consists of six steps:
- Every night, write down the six most important things you need to do the next day. Limit yourself to six tasks.
- Sort these six items by importance.
- When arriving tomorrow, pay attention only to the first task. Do not proceed with the second job until the first job is completed.
- The rest of your list should be approached in the same way. If you have any unfinished items at the end of the day, move them to the list of six tasks for the next day.
- Repeat the process every working day.
Now I go one step further. How? By adding my essential tasks to my calendar. This way I know when to work on a specific task and for how long – more on that in a minute.
It also prevents less important tasks from distracting me. For example, if a friend calls to ask if I can grab lunch, but it’s during the time block I set aside for a priority, I move again.
James also adds that using something like the Ivy Lee method requires working on a single task. As such, you don’t exhaust your energy jumping between tasks.
And this takes away the friction of starting. In other words, you know when it’s time to work and what exactly to focus on.
Use ‘time boxing’.
“Timeboxing is a method of time blocking where you limit the amount of time you can work on a particular task”, notes Angela Ruth from the calendar† “So instead of giving yourself infinite time to work on one item all day, limit yourself to 90-minute blocks.”
“The psychology behind “timeboxing” has to do with time constraints and deadlines, where your limited time forces you to do things more efficiently and get more done,” adds Angela. Have you ever put off a task until the last minute and finally got around to it? While some feed off of this, it’s incredibly stressful. Fortunately, using timeboxing eliminates the need to put off tasks until the deadline approaches.
“Timeboxing is a great way to trick your brain into thinking you have less time than you actually have, which gets you moving,” she says. But again, step by step is how we should always approach your biggest goals in life.
“As an added bonus, timeboxing allows you to schedule breaks between focus blocks,” Angela continues. Why is that important? It ensures that “you get plenty of rest and feel refreshed as you enter the next timebox.”
Plan the worst first.
When it comes to unpleasant yet important tasks, you have two options.
The first? Delay.
The point is that forcing this unpleasant task does not make it enjoyable. Nor will it diminish the importance of completing it. You will inevitably have to buckle your seat belt and eventually get it done. But worse, if this hangs over your head, it leads to mental turmoil and drains your energy.
While not as popular, the second option is to deal with these tasks first and foremost. This not only overcomes procrastination, but also takes away the power to evoke negative emotions or resistance. More importantly, this builds momentum for you to tackle your other priorities throughout the day.
To make unpleasant tasks a little more fun, listen to a playlist of your favorite songs. Or use gamification by seeing how much you can do in less than 20 minutes.
Merlin Mann, creator of 43Folders.com, created a classic but useful hack called (10+2)*5. So relax. Fortunately, this isn’t a complex math formula to solve.
The (10+2)*5 is simply 10 minutes of work + 2 minutes of break multiplied by 5, so one hour. Of course the time limits must be respected and breaks must not be skipped. This structure of (10+2)*5 gives you a consistent work schedule and frequent breaks throughout the day.
Make an agenda for breaks.
Speaking of breaks, maximize them by listing everything you would like to do during your breather. Whether you decide to check your email, post on social media, grab a bite to eat, or go for a walk, have a plan in place.
As with the (10+2)*5 hack, schedule these activities only 20 minutes between work hours. Eventually you will take more productive breaks. Moreover, you do what you like and you still get things done.
Take care of yourself.
“As you know, neglecting your health and well-being is a big mistake,” writes Abby Miller in an earlier Calendar post† “If You’re Not” getting enough sleepeating healthy or exercising, you feel more like a sloth.”
As a result, weakness and fatigue keep you from getting through the day. In addition, your immune system is compromised. In addition, you may suffer from psychological disorders such as depression and stress.
“In other words, if you’re not taking care of yourself, it’s much easier to procrastinate because you just can’t handle it mentally or physically,” Abby adds.
How can you change that? First you have to eliminate those unhealthy habits and replace them with healthier options† And, to continue, add these healthy habits to your calendar as you would at an important meeting or appointment.
Also don’t forget to add a self-care routine to your calendar also. You may find it challenging to take a step back from your work priorities. But to stay happy and energized, you need a little break from doing the things you enjoy outside of work.
Spend more time with people who inspire you.
Determine which people, friends or colleagues trigger you. Ideally, these are the hard workers and the go-getters. Then surround yourself with them more often, such as a daily strength work session. It won’t be long before their hard work and attitude will be imprinted on you.
What if you work remotely or a freelancer who flies solo One idea would be to move to a coworking space or a coffee shop.
“Research shows that the incentives in these places make them an effective environment in which to work,” writes Bryan Lufkin the BBC† “The combination of noise, casual crowds and visual variety can give us just the right amount of distraction to help us be our sharpest and most creative.”
Assign a task buddy.
On the other hand, if you procrastinate, someone may scold you for it. It could be your supervisor, business partner, colleague or even your significant other. Of course you don’t want them to micromanage you. But maybe they can visit you during a scheduled break.
In addition, you may pay uncompleted tasks or visiting hours to watch a YouTube video. Let’s see how many times you put it off, every time it costs you five bucks.
Go on a winning streak.
How can you win a productivity streak? Creating streaks (or chains) of completed tasks that you don’t want to break can motivate you to complete tasks.
For example, you might decide that every time you avoid social media or complete a page of your ebook, you add something to your series.
It’s up to you how you keep track of your streaks. But the more meaningful you make your streak, the more motivated you’ll be to stick with it and avoid procrastination.
You can keep track of your streaks by using the Seinfeld strategy. The Seinfeld strategy simply involves marking a big red X on your calendar every day you reach your daily goal. You may also be able to track your streaks in your time management app if it has a feature that allows you to do so.
Make tracking weekly goals a priority.
What’s the point of? follow your goals weekly?
You can make significant progress toward your goals in a week. Despite its short length, it’s flexible enough to allow you to change your actions if you stray off course. You can also split larger goals into smaller ones this way, making them more manageable and less daunting.
If you use the weekly goal tracking method, you may need to determine a weekly focus. You can choose what motivates you for this week – be it a quote, a phrase or a poem. Choose a goal that inspires you to strive for better results each week or for something special this week in your life. Put your weekly goal on a card and carry it with you for extra motivation.
Be sure to schedule time each week to decide where your focus will be. Do this before the week starts if possible. I update my calendar for the week on Sunday afternoon or evening by completing items to add and choosing special emphasis for the week.
Image credit: Brett Jordan; Pexels; Thank you!
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