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10 Mini-Hacks to Overcome Procrastination

10 Mini-Hacks to Overcome Procrastination

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.

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

More by this author

Dr. Kerry Petsinger

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

Feeling Stuck in Life? How to Never Get Stuck Again How to Find the Purpose of Life and Start Living a Fulfilling Life Don’t like your job? Here are some solutions. How People Make Decisions That Are Bad For Them How to Have a Successful Career and a Fulfilling Personal Life

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Last Updated on March 21, 2019

11 Important Things to Remember When Changing Habits

11 Important Things to Remember When Changing Habits

Most gurus talk about habits in a way that doesn’t help you:

You need to push yourself more. You can’t be lazy. You need to wake up at 5 am. You need more motivation. You can never fail…blah blah “insert more gibberish here.”

But let me share with you the unconventional truths I found out:

To build and change habits, you don’t need motivation or wake up at 5 am. Heck, you can fail multiple times, be lazy, have no motivation and still pull it off with ease.

It’s quite simple and easy to do, especially with the following list I’m going to show to you. But remember, Jim Rohn used to say,

“What is simple and easy to do is also simple and easy not to do.”

The important things to remember when changing your habits are both simple and easy, just don’t think that they don’t make any difference because they do.

In fact, they are the only things that make a difference.

Let’s see what those small things are, shall we?

1. Start Small

The biggest mistake I see people doing with habits is by going big. You don’t go big…ever. You start small with your habits.

Want to grow a book reading habit? Don’t start reading a book a day. Start with 10 pages a day.

Want to become a writer? Don’t start writing 10,000 words a day. Start with 300 words.

Want to lose weight? Don’t stop eating ice cream. Eat one less ball of it.

Whatever it is, you need to start small. Starting big always leads to failure. It has to, because it’s not sustainable.

Start small. How small? The amount needs to be in your comfort zone. So if you think that reading 20 pages of a book is a bit too much, start with 10 or 5.

It needs to appear easy and be easy to do.

Do less today to do more in a year.

2. Stay Small

There is a notion of Kaizen which means continuous improvement. They use this notion in habits where they tell you to start with reading 1 page of a book a day and then gradually increase the amount you do over time.

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But the problem with this approach is the end line — where the “improvement” stops.

If I go from reading 1 page of a book a day and gradually reach 75 and 100, when do I stop? When I reach 1 book a day? That is just absurd.

When you start a habit, stay at it in the intensity you have decided. Don’t push yourself for more.

I started reading 20 pages of a book a day. It’s been more than 2 years now and I’ve read 101 books in that period. There is no way I will increase the number in the future.

Why?

Because reading 40 to 50 books a year is enough.

The same thing applies to every other habit out there.

Pick a (small) number and stay at it.

3. Bad Days Are 100 Percent Occurrence

No matter how great you are, you will have bad days where you won’t do your habit. Period.

There is no way of going around this. So it’s better to prepare yourself for when that happens instead of thinking that it won’t ever happen.

What I do when I miss a day of my habit(s) is that I try to bounce back the next day while trying to do habits for both of those days.

Example for that is if I read 20 pages of a book a day and I miss a day, the next day I will have to read 40 pages of a book. If I miss writing 500 words, the next day I need to write 1000.

This is a really important point we will discuss later on rewards and punishments.

This is how I prepare for the bad days when I skip my habit(s) and it’s a model you should take as well.

4. Those Who Track It, Hack It

When you track an activity, you can objectively tell what you did in the past days, weeks, months, and years. If you don’t track, you will for sure forget everything you did.

There are many different ways you can track your activities today, from Habitica to a simple Excel sheet that I use, to even a Whatsapp Tracker.

Peter Drucker said,

“What you track is what you do.”

So track it to do it — it really helps.

But tracking is accompanied by one more easy activity — measuring.

5. Measure Once, Do Twice

Peter Drucker also said,

“What you measure is what you improve.”

So alongside my tracker, I have numbers with which I measure doses of daily activities:

For reading, it’s 20 pages.
For writing, it’s 500 words.
For the gym, it’s 1 (I went) or 0 (didn’t go).
For budgeting, it’s writing down the incomes and expenses.

Tracking and measuring go hand in hand, they take less than 20 seconds a day but they create so much momentum that it’s unbelievable.

6. All Days Make a Difference

Will one day in the gym make you fit? It won’t.

Will two? They won’t.

Will three? They won’t.

Which means that a single gym session won’t make you fit. But after 100 gym sessions, you will look and feel fit.

What happened? Which one made you fit?

The answer to this (Sorites paradox)[1] is that no single gym session made you fit, they all did.

No single day makes a difference, but when combined, they all do. So trust the process and keep on going (small).

7. They Are Never Fully Automated

Gurus tell you that habits become automatic. And yes, some of them do, like showering a certain way of brushing your teeth.

But some habits don’t become automatic, they become a lifestyle.

What I mean by that is that you won’t automatically “wake up” in the gym and wonder how you got there.

It will just become a part of your lifestyle.

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The difference is that you do the first one automatically, without conscious thought, while the other is a part of how you live your life.

It’s not automatic, but it’s a decision you don’t ponder on or think about — you simply do it.

It will become easy at a certain point, but they will never become fully automated.

8. What Got You Here Won’t Get You There

Marshall Goldsmith has a great book with the same title to it. The phrase means that sometimes, you will need to ditch certain habits to make room for other ones which will bring you to the next step.

Don’t be afraid to evolve your habits when you sense that they don’t bring you where you want to go.

When I started reading, it was about reading business and tactic books. But two years into it, I switched to philosophy books which don’t teach me anything “applicable,” but instead teach me how to think.

The most important ability of the 21st century is the ability to learn, unlearn, and relearn. The strongest tree is the willow tree – not because it has the strongest root or biggest trunk, but because it is flexible enough to endure and sustain anything.

Be like a willow, adapting to the new ways of doing things.

9. Set a Goal and Then Forget It

The most successful of us know what they want to achieve, but they don’t focus on it.

Sounds paradoxical? You’re right, it does. But here is the logic behind it.

You need to have a goal of doing something – “I want to become a healthy individual” – and then, you need to reverse engineer how to get there with your habits- “I will go to the gym four times a week.”

But once you have your goal, you need to “forget” about it and only focus on the process. Because you are working on the process of becoming healthy and it’s always in the making. You will only be as healthy as you take care of your body.

So you have a goal which isn’t static but keeps on moving.

If you went to the gym 150 times year and you hit your goal, what would you do then? You would stop going to the gym.

This is why goal-oriented people experience yo-yo effect[2] and why process-oriented people don’t.

The difference between process-oriented and goal-oriented people is that the first focus on daily actions while others only focus on the reward at the finish line.

Set a goal but then forget about it and reap massive awards.

10. Punish Yourself

Last two sections are pure Pavlovian – you need to punish bad behavior and reward good behavior. You are the only person who decides what is good and what is bad for you, but when you do, you need to rigorously follow that.

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I’ve told you in point #3 about bad days and how after one occurs, I do double the work on the next day. That is one of my forms of punishments.

It’s the need to tell your brain that certain behaviors are unacceptable and that they lead to bad outcomes. That’s what punishments are for.

You want to tell your brain that there are real consequences to missing your daily habits.[3]

No favorite food to eat or favorite show to watch or going to the cinema for a new Marvel movie- none, zero, zilch.

The brain will remember these bad feelings and will try to avoid the behaviors that led to them as much as possible.

But don’t forget the other side of the same coin.

11. Reward Yourself

When you follow and execute on your plan, reward yourself. It’s how the brain knows that you did something good.

Whenever I finish one of my habits for the day, I open my tracker (who am I kidding, I always keep it open on my desktop) and fill it with a number. As soon as I finish reading 20 pages of a book a day (or a bit more), I open the tracker and write the number down.

The cell becomes green and gives me an instant boost of endorphin – a great success for the day. Then, it becomes all about not breaking the chain and having as many green fields as possible.

After 100 days, I crunch some numbers and see how I did.

If I have less than 10 cheat days, I reward myself with a great meal in a restaurant. You can create your own rewards and they can be daily, weekly, monthly or any arbitrary time table that you create.

Primoz Bozic, a productivity coach, has gold, silver, and bronze medals as his reward system.[4]

If you’re having problems creating a system which works for you, contact me via email and we can discuss specifics.

In the End, It Matters

What you do matters not only to you but to the people around you.

When you increase the quality of your life, you indirectly increase the quality of life of people around you. And sometimes, that is all the “motivation” we need to start.

And that’s the best quote for the end of this article:

“Motivation gets you started, but habits keep you going.”

Keep going.

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More Resources to Help You Build Habits

Featured photo credit: Anete Lūsiņa via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Sorites paradox
[2] Muscle Zone: What causes yo-yo effect and how to avoid it?
[3] Growth Habits: 5 Missteps That Cause You To Quit Building A Habit
[4] Primoz Bozic: The Lean Review: How to Plan Your 2019 in 20 Minutes

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