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Published on December 17, 2019

How to Avoid Procrastination and Get Your Work Done

How to Avoid Procrastination and Get Your Work Done

Most of us procrastinate. Correction: ALL of us procrastinate. I even procrastinated writing this article.

We’ve all been there at some point. Here are 5 tips on how to avoid procrastination that can help you break out of paralysis and start producing at your peak.

1. Reduce the Number of Decisions You Need to Make Throughout the Day

Every decision we make has an energy consequence. If you wake up in the morning, and you need to ask yourself, “What do I need to do today?” — well, you’re about to procrastinate today.

If you approach each new day without having given thought to what you want it to look like ahead of time, then you’ll waste a large portion of your energy thinking about what to do and what not to do.

Should I hit the gym today, or go tomorrow?

Should I say Yes to lunch with Barry Boombatz from Accounting, or should I do a quick lunch solo so I can get back to the office and finish up this presentation?

Should I wear this or wear that?

Eat this or eat that?

Reply now or later?

We’re asking ourselves questions like this all day long.

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Problem is, questions compel us to respond with answers, which compel us to make decisions… This drains you of your self-control and makes you tired—which leads to you procrastinating on whatever matters most in your life.

Tip #1 for avoiding procrastination is to reduce the number of decisions you need to make during a given day by making those decisions ahead of time and/or creating habits around certain areas of your life to boost your effectiveness and prevent you from draining your energy by thinking about whether to do them or not.

Some examples:

  • Decide in advance exactly which days of the week you’ll exercise, instead of deciding the day-of;
  • Pick out your clothes the night before rather than the morning-of;
  • Choose the most important thing that needs to get done tomorrow, and schedule time to do it;

These are just a few simple examples, but it’s usually the simple things that matter most.

What are some examples you can think of to reduce the number of decisions you make in your own life? Doing this will free up the energy you’ll need in order to stay focused on doing the big and meaningful stuff, rather than procrastinating on it by doing the little and meaningless stuff.

2. Finish Your Day Before It Starts

This tip picks up where tip #1 leaves off. The best decision you can make towards avoiding procrastination is to plan your days in advance.

Rather than frantically figuring out what you’ll do on any given day, a better way to approach your day would be to take a few minutes at the end of each day to quickly map out the following day.

For example, every night, before bed, I write-down/review my plans for the next day, which includes:

  • My One BIG Thing (OBT)[1] that needs to get done that day. This could be a big task, a goal, or a project I need to make progress on.
  • My No Matter Whats (NMWs) — these are my non-negotiable daily habits: exercise, my nature walk/daily meditation, reading (30 minutes minimum), mastery-related work, and time spent with the people I love.

Whatever else needs to be done the following day. This way, my most important goals and projects are given ample time to be crushed—and to not be procrastinated on.

3. The Nothing Alternative

“The Nothing Alternative” is a tip for avoiding procrastination that was coined by an influential crime-fiction novelist named Raymond Chandler. He used it as a way to avoid procrastinating on his daily writing.

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Chandler had difficulty sitting down at the keyboard and cranking out a predetermined word-count every day like some successful writers. So, he developed another method for overcoming procrastination and getting himself to do the work—he would set aside 4 hours every morning and give himself an ultimatum:

“Write, or do nothing at all.”

And Chandler advises writers—and presumably people of all professions—who suffer from procrastination to do the same:

“He [the writer] doesn’t have to write, and if he doesn’t feel like it, he shouldn’t try. He can look out of the window or stand on his head or writhe on the floor, but he is not to do any other positive thing, not read, write letters, glance at a magazine, or write checks… Write or nothing.”

That was Chandler’s philosophy, and for him, it worked.

The rules are pretty straight-forward:

  • A) You don’t have to write, or work on whatever you need to work on.
  • B) But you can’t do anything else.

With these two options in mind, at some point, you’re going to start working—even if nothing else but to keep yourself from getting bored!

And although your own work might not be as simple and clearly defined as Chandler’s, you can certainly benefit from the clarity that comes from setting aside the time to either:

Do nothing, or focus on your ONE most important thing.

To try this out for yourself, figure out your most important goal for tomorrow morning and set aside 90 minutes of totally un-interrupted time to focus on that goal.

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No email. No smart phone. No facebook. No non-sense. Shut-down your wifi if you need to. This is your time to turn it up to high gear and focus.

4. The Next Action Habit—Focus on Something Do-Able

In his book, Getting Things Done, David Allen discusses the power of intelligently “dumbing down your brain” by figuring out your very NEXT ACTION for any given thing you’re working on. It’s one of the most powerful ideas in the book — just figure out the next specific action you need to take in order to move yourself closer to completion, then DO IT…

Now, it’s no secret that procrastination causes lots of stress and pressure… but the way in which we relieve this pressure is where the secret comes in.

The key to this tip for avoiding procrastination is to figure out the very next physical action—no matter how small—you need to take to move something forward; be it a task, a project, a phone call, or whatever else.

Want to learn how to stop procrastinating? Learn how to shift your focus. Shifting your focus to something your mind perceives as do-able makes the difference that makes a difference. Let me explain:

Think about something you’ve been procrastinating on; like, finishing a presentation for work. Now FOCUS on how it makes you FEEL whenever you think about how you have to do that presentation. Think about all the work involved. Sucks right? How’s it make you feel? Overwhelmed?

Now shift your FOCUS to ONE SIMPLE THING you can do right now to move this presentation even the tiniest bit closer to ‘done.’ Maybe you need to google some images to include in the presentation. That’s do-able, right?

Make that you’re NEXT ACTION. Do it.

The rationale behind this Next Action method is simple: when you do something your mind perceives as do-able, your energy will go up, your sense of direction and drive will increase dramatically; and you’ll be able to motivate yourself to get whatever you need to get done—DONE!

Actionable insight: Anytime you feel the procrastination creeping back up again, you should take it as a trigger to CHUNK down whatever you feel like procrastinating on into something simple and do-able… Even if it’s something as small as opening KeyNote and naming your presentation…

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One small step leads to another… and another… and another… and before you know it, you’ve got momentum.

5. Adjust Your Environment

If you’re an alcoholic, you don’t keep booze in the house and you stay away from bars and people who can’t respect your decision to lay off the whiskey.

In similar vein, my final tip to avoid procrastinating all over yourself is to remove the cues that trigger your procrastination-habits in the first place.

If you can’t work in public places because of the constant movement and noise, then find a quiet place to sit down and focus.

For me to be able to avoid procrastinating and focus on what I’ve decided to focus on, I need to remove every possible distraction from my work environment—both physical and digital…

I used to switch my iPhone to ‘Do Not Disturb’ and put it on my desk while I worked, but the temptation to glance over and check it led me towards the path of procrastination more often than the path of productivity.

Now, I take my iPhone, put it on ‘Do Not Disturb’, and then put it in a drawer that requires me to physically get up in order to check it… This keeps me focused. My notifications and alerts are also disabled on all my computers, too. I’ve also stopped wearing my Apple Watch any time other than when I workout.

Basically, I need to un-plug before I can plug-in and focus.

If you want to avoid procrastination, pick what works best for you and make that your next action!

More About Overcoming Procrastination

Featured photo credit: Kelly Sikkema via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Dean Bokhari: The One Thing Book Summary

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Last Updated on November 4, 2020

15 Simple Ways To Make Self Improvement That Will Change Your Life

15 Simple Ways To Make Self Improvement That Will Change Your Life

Self-improvement doesn’t have to be big mind-blowing changes; it can actually be simple steps to improve upon what you already have to get you where you want to be.  However, what you will need is consistency, determination and wiliness to try some things that will stretch and challenge you.

Rather than setting your sights way off into the future, which leaves you feeling like you’ll never make it, you can start following these simple and effective self-improvement steps today.  So if you want to make an immediate impact on your life and are willing to take action, then keep reading— you’ll going to love these!

1. Be willing to work hard.

As with anything in life, if you want something, you’ve got to work hard to get it.  This doesn’t mean you burn the candle at both ends, leaving you exhausted and leaving your personal life in ruins.  It merely means that when you want something badly enough, you’ll put in the time to get there.  Action is what’s important here and the more ‘inspired’ the action is, the better the results in the end.

2. Make sure you have friends who you can talk to.

Sharing the load is important as with any self-improvement. If you can communicate with others and get feedback on how you are doing then that’s great.  We all need ‘cheerleaders’ in our corner to keep us going when times get hard, but you also need to have people who will tell you how it is even when you don’t want to hear it.  So make sure you have a good support network around you, especially those people whose opinions you respect.

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3. Adapt to your circumstances rather than over-thinking them.

Sometimes, we can hit a hard period. Perhaps you’ve lost your job or your partner has left you.  Instead of over analyzing the situation, learn to adapt to your circumstances and accept them as they are.  It’s not about making your circumstances into some kind of a drama; remember, what you focus on expands which means you’ll get more of it.  You then don’t become your problems and you’ll feel a lot less burdened by them.

4. Ensure that you use your time wisely.

Time is of the essence, some might say; whilst others will say that time is an illusion.  One thing we do know is that you have one life on this planet, so how you use that time is of the utmost importance.  So how can you use your time wisely? Only you know how to do that, but look at how you currently spend your days: do you sit working all day, get home, eat and then sit slumped in front of the TV for the rest of the evening?  Your time on this earth is precious, so isn’t it time to make use of the time you have left? Try something new, go for a walk, learn a new language or meditate but make sure it’s something you absolutely love.

5. Always be consistent.

A wonderful way to self-improvement is to make changes to how you do things.  For example, with your friends, are you always the unreliable one who bows out of an arrangement just before it happens? Or are you someone who starts a new exercise routine and then stops doing it 3 weeks into it?  Whatever it is and whatever you do, always be consistent. When you make a commitment, stick to it. It will improve your life immeasurably you’ll feel more confident and happier with yourself, especially because you’ll know that whatever you tackle, you’ll be able to consistently do it!

6. Go and find your happy place.

No, I’m not saying “place” as in popping to your local bar or restaurant and gorging yourself on your favorite drinks or food. What I’m saying is to find out what you love to do, what makes you happy and go there.  Your happy place is a place where you find peace, where you lose yourself and feel contented.  Meditation is a great way to find your happy place; it brings you back to you and ensures that you are always living in the present moment.

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7. Make sure you embrace all your emotions.

In life you are going to find that it throws you some difficult challenges, sometimes it will bring out your fears and lead you into uncertainty, and other times it will be joyful.  It’s important to embrace all emotions that come up in your life, embrace them wholeheartedly and understand why they are there and then let them go.  Try not to dismiss or resist them because remember “what you resist, persists,” so embrace them each and every time.

8. Always be prepared to step out of your comfort zone.

The idea of stepping out of your comfort zone for some people can leave you paralyzed with fear; however for any changing in your life, your comfort zone will always have to be stepped out of.  It doesn’t have to be something big, like doing a sky-dive or something just as crazy. However, it’s worthwhile to change something that you’d once have feared, like going to the cinema on your own or eating at a sushi restaurant when the thought of trying raw fish which would normally mean you running for the hills.

So try something new—it doesn’t have to be wacky, but it has to challenge you!

9. Be on hand to help others.

Whether it’s helping a stranger on the street or a family member or a friend helping someone else either in their time of need, lending a helping hand is a wonderful and simple self-improvement to make.  Giving to others is not only beneficial to those you are helping but also to yourself; it can give you a sense of purpose, of contribution and also takes your mind of your own troubles and worries.

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10. Live in the present moment.

A wonderful self-improvement tool is to live in the present moment, to live in the now.  It is within this moment that you’ll appreciate all that you have and see the beauty in the simplest of things.  Being mindful of your current circumstances and bringing your mind back to where it belongs will bring about a happier way of life instead of constant worry or stressing about the past or future—both of which do not exist. Only the present moment exists. When you get used to living that way, you’ll never want to go back!

11. Learn something new.

There is nothing so liberating as learning something new; it can lift both your confidence and self-esteem and give you a great reason to meet new people.  If you continually top up your brain activity by learning something new all the time, you’ll feel on top of your game and want to share the knowledge you have learned. There is nothing quite so empowering as learning a new tool in life that can either improve your circle of friends or raise confidence levels—or both!

Reading is also a great way to help you learn something new:

12. Exercise daily.

This seems an obvious one, but exercise is so important not only to your health but also to your spirit.  We all know that after exercise, the world can feel a brighter and more positive place, so why don’t we do it more often?  Exercise isn’t about getting the perfect body or losing weight; it’s more about feeling good inside and out!  With a healthy body comes a healthy mind—so start something today. Even if it’s just a daily walk, it’s better than staying on that couch, again.

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13. Go to new places, travel a bit.

I’m not saying go fly off to some far away distant forgotten land—although you can if you so wish. It’s more about going to new places and experiencing life outside of your own back yard.  Too many of us stay in one place too often. We only see the same people, the same streets and do the same things each and every day.  If you want to improve your life, get out there and see the world and what it can offer.  You can start by going to a town or city you’ve never been to in your own country and checking out the architecture, the landscapes and the people.  Anything new is good, so get out there!

14. Listen to uplifting music and dance.

If there’s one thing that can really improve your life and get you excited about it, it’s listening to great uplifting music and dancing.  When was the last time you really let go?  Let it all hang loose and got into a piece of music and let yourself go?  Dancing, like exercise, makes you feel great. It releases all kinds of emotions and can make you feel unbelievably good.  Self-improvement isn’t all about the serious stuff; it can be something as simple as finding new music, music that inspires you and makes you dance and have fun!

15. Get up earlier than normal.

This is the last one, and it’s last because it’s one of those self-improvement tips that we all know is a good thing, yet we seem to avoid it at all costs!  If you think about it, the earliest part of the day is when your brain is most active because it’s been turned off for the last 7 hours or so.  So don’t you think it’s best to get all those things above done in the morning?  Things like exercise, meditation and dancing, which can all be done in the first part of the day.  Take it from me: this early morning stuff can really get your day started with a bang!

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Featured photo credit: Laura Chouette via unsplash.com

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