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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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Hannah Braime

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

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Last Updated on September 11, 2019

Why To-Do Lists Don’t Work (And How to Change That)

Why To-Do Lists Don’t Work (And How to Change That)

How often do you feel overwhelmed and disorganized in life, whether at work or home? We all seem to struggle with time management in some area of our life; one of the most common phrases besides “I love you” is “I don’t have time”. Everyone suggests working from a to-do list to start getting your life more organized, but why do these lists also have a negative connotation to them?

Let’s say you have a strong desire to turn this situation around with all your good intentions—you may then take out a piece of paper and pen to start tackling this intangible mess with a to-do list. What usually happens, is that you either get so overwhelmed seeing everything on your list, which leaves you feeling worse than you did before, or you make the list but are completely stuck on how to execute it effectively.

To-do lists can work for you, but if you are not using them effectively, they can actually leave you feeling more disillusioned and stressed than you did before. Think of a filing system: the concept is good, but if you merely file papers away with no structure or system, the filing system will have an adverse effect. It’s the same with to-do lists—you can put one together, but if you don’t do it right, it is a fruitless exercise.

Why Some People Find That General To-Do Lists Don’t Work?

Most people find that general to-do lists don’t work because:

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  • They get so overwhelmed just by looking at all the things they need to do.
  • They don’t know how to prioritize the items on list.
  • They feel that they are continuously adding to their list but not reducing it.
  • There’s a sense of confusion seeing home tasks mixed with work tasks.

Benefits of Using a To-Do List

However, there are many advantages working from a to-do list:

  • You have clarity on what you need to get done.
  • You will feel less stressed because all your ‘to do’s are on paper and out of your mind.
  • It helps you to prioritize your actions.
  • You don’t overlook so many tasks and forget anything.
  • You feel more organized.
  • It helps you with planning.

4 Golden Rules to Make a To-Do List Work

Here are my golden rules for making a “to-do” list work:

1. Categorize

Studies have shown that your brain gets overwhelmed when it sees a list of 7 or 8 options; it wants to shut down.[1] For this reason, you need to work from different lists. Separate them into different categories and don’t have more than 7 or 8 tasks on each one.

It might work well for you to have a “project” list, a “follow-up” list, and a “don’t forget” list; you will know what will work best for you, as these titles will be different for everybody.

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2. Add Estimations

You don’t merely need to know what has to be done, but how long it will take as well in order to plan effectively.

Imagine on your list you have one task that will take 30 minutes, another that could take 1 hour, and another that could take 4 hours. You need to know the moment you look at the task, otherwise you undermine your planning, so add an extra column to your list and include your estimation of how long you think the task will take, and be realistic!

Tip: If you find it a challenge to estimate accurately, then start by building this skill on a daily basis. Estimate how long it will take to get ready, cook dinner, go for a walk, etc., and then compare this to the actual time it took you. You will start to get more accurate in your estimations.

3. Prioritize

To effectively select what you should work on, you need to take into consideration: priority, sequence and estimated time. Add another column to your list for priority. Divide your tasks into four categories:

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  • Important and urgent
  • Not urgent but important
  • Not important but urgent
  • Not important or urgent

You want to work on tasks that are urgent and important of course, but also, select some tasks that are important and not urgent. Why? Because these tasks are normally related to long-term goals, and when you only work on tasks that are urgent and important, you’ll feel like your day is spent putting out fires. You’ll end up neglecting other important areas which most often end up having negative consequences.

Most of your time should be spent on the first two categories.

4.  Review

To make this list work effectively for you, it needs to become a daily tool that you use to manage your time and you review it regularly. There is no point in only having the list to record everything that you need to do, but you don’t utilize it as part of your bigger time management plan.

For example: At the end of every week, review the list and use it to plan the week ahead. Select what you want to work on taking into consideration priority, time and sequence and then schedule these items into your calendar. Golden rule in planning: don’t schedule more than 75% of your time.

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Bottom Line

So grab a pen and paper and give yourself the gift of a calm and clear mind by unloading everything in there and onto a list as now, you have all the tools you need for it to work. Knowledge is useless unless it is applied—how badly do you want more time?

To your success!

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Featured photo credit: Emma Matthews via unsplash.com

Reference

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