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10 Mini-Hacks to Overcome Procrastination

10 Mini-Hacks to Overcome Procrastination
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I totally get it. You have big thoughts of what you want to get done for the day. Then your friend calls, so you talk for awhile. After that, you check Facebook for a few minutes. You get hungry, and decide to watch an episode of your favorite show while eating a snack. And pretty soon the day is gone with you wondering, “What did I even do today?”

We all have the same 24 hours in each day, yet some people seem to get a lot done and others seem to really struggle to get anything accomplished. When you really want to get things done, you’ll need to overcome procrastination.

Here are 10 mini-hacks to overcome procrastination.

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1. Set goals.

If you really want to accomplish big things, set goals. And don’t just think about the goals. Actually get your dreams out of your head and onto paper. Write down your goals. And make them as specific as possible.

There was an amazing study conducted on Harvard MBA graduates in the ’70s. Students were asked, “Have you set clear, written goals for your future and made plans to accomplish them?” Only 3% had written goals and plans. Ten years later, the group was interviewed again. The results? The 3% of the students who had clear, written goals were earning, on average, ten times as much as the other 97% of the class combined!

Whether or not your goal is to make a lot of money, writing down your goals has been shown to help people get things done. When you write down specific, measurable goals, you will have something objective to work toward. For example, instead of writing “I will write a book,” write “By December 31st, I will write a 20 page children’s book and submit it to 5 publishers.”

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2. Break your goals down into tiny, doable chunks.

When you have big goals, it’s easy to get overwhelmed and procrastinate moving toward the goal. For this problem, I recommend breaking each of your big goals down into miniature goals. You don’t have to accomplish everything today. You just need to take one small step toward your goal. Using the children’s book example, you could make a tiny goal of writing 2 sentences per day.

3. Each night, write out your schedule for the following day.

If you want to be more productive, you’ll need to tell your time where to go. Planning out your schedule is incredibly helpful. It helps you maximize every hour you are awake. It’s very easy to get distracted by the many time-suckers that bombard you daily. Writing your schedule down will help you get things done!

4. Set deadlines for yourself.

Have you ever wondered why you can make your house immaculately clean when someone calls and says they’ll stop by in 15 minutes, or how hard you can cram for an exam you have the next morning? The answer lies in Parkinson’s Law. Parkinson’s Law says work expands to fill the time available for its completion. Therefore, the less time you have to complete a task, the more you’ll increase your effort. When you’re writing out your daily schedule, take advantage of Parkinson’s Law. Give yourself deadlines to accomplish tasks. Knowing you have a deadline will light a fire in you and help you get things done. One experiment discovered external deadlines (deadlines imposed on you by others) are even more beneficial that deadlines you set for yourself. Either way, having deadlines will help you move toward your goals.

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5. Eat the frog.

One of my favorite quotes is by Mark Twain: “Eat a live frog first thing every morning, and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.” If there is a task you intentionally procrastinate because you loathe it or it’s overwhelming, this is your frog. Eat it right away in the morning and move on.

6. Minimize distractions.

We’ve all tried to get things done while our smartphones buzz frequently. It doesn’t work. Remember the friend who called you at the beginning of this article, and one distraction led to another, and pretty soon your day was gone? One study showed that it takes an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to get back to a task after an interruption. That’s a long time! When you really want to concentrate on something, unplug, focus, and get to work.

7. Combine a task you don’t like with something enjoyable.

Do you procrastinate exercising but love having lunch with friends? Instead of the lunch date, meet your friends for an early morning tennis match. Not only will you get your workout accomplished, you’ll also get the social time you enjoy.

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7. Learn to say “No.”

When your day is filled with things you dread doing, you’re likely to procrastinate. Say “no” when possible to obligations you dislike. Filling your schedule with your priorities and passions will energize you. Choose to live your life, not someone else’s, by saying “yes” only to activities that line up with your values.

8. Automate tasks whenever possible.

Relying on simply motivation to get you through your day isn’t a wise idea. Automating tasks is the key. The more you automate, the less opportunities you’ll have to procrastinate. This has really helped me. One trick I’ve tricked is going to bed in clean workout clothes with my shoes and music ready at the door. When I wake up, I’m already dressed to go running.

9. Tell a friend.

Tell an accountability partner what you’re procrastinating doing, and ask for encouragement. Better yet, tell them you’ll meet them for a fun night out but only after you get your task done.

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10. Treat yourself well.

Giving yourself the proper dose of exercise and fueling your body with healthy foods can help you feel your best. When you feel well, you have more energy to get things done. Also, treating your body well can boost your self-confidence, which is needed to tackle the projects you fear instead of procrastinating them.

Featured photo credit: Working on Website Layout/Viktor Hanacek via picjumbo.com

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Dr. Kerry Petsinger

Entrepreneur, Mindset & Performance Coach, & Doctor of Physical Therapy

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Last Updated on July 21, 2021

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)
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No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to Make a Reminder Works for You

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

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Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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