Advertising
Advertising

5 Hacks for Overcoming Procrastination

5 Hacks for Overcoming Procrastination

Procrastination is something that affects all of us at some point or another. For some of us, procrastination hits us when we are trying to complete our biggest, most important projects. For others, it impacts all areas of our lives.

Whatever your relationship with procrastination, the good news is that there are steps you can take to overcome it.

Here are five hacks you can start using today to trade procrastination for productivity:

1. Figure out what’s behind the procrastination (and therefore, understand how to overcome it)

Although procrastination might seem like a mysterious phenomenon, usually there’s a good reason for it. Some of the most common causes of procrastination are fear, self-doubt and a perfectionist mindset.

Advertising

If we fear judgement from other people, or if we fear the changes that might come as a result of success, we’re likely to delay getting started. Equally, if we approach a task or project with the mindset that it either has to go exactly as planned or it’s a failure, that kind of pressure is likely to lead to procrastination and avoidance.

If you’re struggling to understand your procrastination, take some time to reflect and ask yourself, “What’s the payoff for staying stuck? How am I actually trying to help or protect myself?” With a better understanding of what’s behind your procrastination, you can take steps to build support structures and accountability that will help you take action— whatever your fears, doubts, or worries.

This hack is important, but make sure this kind of introspection doesn’t become a method of procrastination in itself!

Pairing this step with one of the following hacks will help you turn internal understanding into external action.

Advertising

2. Set a timer for 5 minutes and start

One of the hardest parts of any project or task is getting started. Most of us find that, once we’re past that first hurdle, the rest is smooth sailing. You can overcome this hurdle by giving yourself permission to work on the object of your procrastination for just five minutes.

Agree with yourself that you’ll focus on that particular task—and that task only—for the next five minutes. If you want to stop at the end of the five minutes, you’re allowed to. If you want to continue, that’s allowed too. Be careful not to “should” yourself into continuing after the timer goes off. Tomorrow, you can try another five minutes and see how you feel then.

This hack works because many people find they get into the groove and want to continue beyond the five minutes. Even if you don’t, however, that’s fine. Even five minutes each day will amount to significant progress in the long-term.

3. Focus on how good it will feel when you’re done

I ask a lot of my clients to do a specific visualisation exercise. The first part involves creating a detailed picture of how their lives will be if they take a specific course of action we’ve been discussing. The second part involves creating a detailed picture of how their lives will be if they don’t take that course of action. For each picture, I ask them to think about how they’ll feel, and how taking or not taking action will affect other areas of their lives too.

Advertising

If you’d like a dose of intrinsic motivation, you can do a similar exercise yourself. Imagine you’re looking at your life a year from now. Create the two pictures above, allowing yourself to feel the feelings associated with taking action (such as satisfaction, fulfillment, accomplishment, excitement, and confidence) and then the feelings associated with not taking action (such as disappointment, fatigue, dread, and negative self-judgement).

Now, you know the consequences of your action (or inaction) and you have a choice which reality you choose to create.

4. Find a way to make the task fun

With any big project, there will be tasks or actions that just aren’t fun or interesting. These can stall otherwise speedy progress and lead to a period of avoidance and procrastination.

If you’re in this situation now, you can help yourself by finding ways to make a particular task more interesting. Put on some good music, take your computer to a coffee shop and work there, or invite friends to take part with you. The fun-making method you choose will depend on the task at hand, but there will be a way to turn your procrastination into passion.

Advertising

5. Set up public accountability

Public accountability is one of the most effective ways of overcoming procrastination. It’s effective for a simple reason: we don’t like to look bad in front of other people. Public accountability doesn’t even have to be that public to be helpful. Just being accountable to one person is often enough to kick us into gear.

To make the most out of public accountability, enlist the help of a coach, a friend or a dedicated accountability buddy. Tell them exactly what action you’re going to take and when you’re going to do it.

Featured photo credit: Britt Selvitelle via flickr.com

More by this author

Hannah Braime

Hannah is a coach who believes the world is a richer place when we have the courage to be fully self-expressed.

The 5-minute Guide to Meditation: Anywhere, Anytime 5 Killer Online Journal Tools That Make Journaling Easier and More Fun You Can Easily Enjoy Life In A Way Most People Don’t 7 Practical Ways To Improve Your Emotional Intelligence Why You Should Always Embrace Negative Emotions

Trending in Productivity

1 11 Important Things to Remember When Changing Habits 2 How Your Attitude Determines Your Success 3 How to Ask for Help When You Need It Most 4 How Much Do You Need to Give Up to Start Over? 5 Is It Really Better to Step Out of Your Comfort Zone?

Read Next

Advertising
Advertising
Advertising

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.

Advertising

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.

Advertising

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.

Advertising

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.

Advertising

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

Read Next