Advertising
Advertising

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.

Advertising

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.

Advertising

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.

Advertising

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…

Advertising

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

More by this author

Dean Bokhari

Author, Entrepreneur, Podcast & TV Host

How to Use the Law of Attraction to Make Your Dreams Happen How to Actually Make Your Goals Happen 9 Things Successful People Do To Always Get What They Want How to Develop a Can Do Attitude and Succeed in Life 50 Self-Affirmations to Help You Stay Motivated Every Day

Trending in Smartcut

1 How to Prevent Decision Fatigue From Clouding Your Judgement 2 10 Smart Productivity Software to Boost Work Performance 3 How to Take Good Notes at Work: 6 Effective Ways 4 How to Prioritize Right in 10 Minutes and Work 10X Faster 5 What Is a Bullet Journal and What Are the Benefits?

Read Next

Advertising
Advertising
Advertising

Last Updated on July 8, 2020

How to Say No When You Say Yes Too Often

How to Say No When You Say Yes Too Often

Do you say yes so often that you realize you aren’t really happy about this, wondering how to say no to people?

For years, I was a serial people pleaser. Known as someone who would step up, I would gladly make time especially when it came to volunteering for certain causes. I proudly carried this role all through grade school, college, even through law school. For years, I thought saying “no” meant I would disappoint a good friend or someone I respected.

But somewhere along the way, I noticed I wasn’t quite living my life. Instead, I seem to have created a schedule that was a strange combination of meeting the expectations of others, what I thought I should be doing, and some of what I actually wanted to do. The result? I had a packed schedule that left me overwhelmed and unfulfilled.

It took a long while but I learned the art of saying no. Saying ‘no’ meant I no longer catered fully to everyone else’s needs and could make more room for what I really wanted to do. Instead of cramming too much in, I chose to pursue what really mattered. I started to manage my time more around my own needs and interests. When that happened, I became a lot happier. And guess what? I hardly disappointed anyone.

The Importance of Saying No

When you learn the art of saying ‘no,’ you begin to look at the world differently. Rather than seeing all of the things you could or should be doing (and aren’t doing), you start to look at how to say yes to what’s important.

In other words, you aren’t just reacting to what life throws at you. You seek the opportunities that move you to where you want to be.

Successful people aren’t afraid to say no. Oprah Winfrey considered one of the most successful women in the world confessed that it was much later in life when she learned how to say no. Even after she had become internationally famous, she felt she had to say yes to virtually everything. It was only when she realized that after years of struggling with saying no, I finally got to this question: “What do I want?”

Being able to say no also helps you manage your time better.

Advertising

Warren Buffett views no as essential to his success. He said,

“The difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say no to almost everything.”

When I made ‘no’ a part of my toolbox, I drove more of my own success focusing on fewer things and doing them well.

How We Are Pressured to Say Yes

It’s no wonder a lot of us find it hard to say ‘no.’

From an early age, we are conditioned to say ‘yes.’ We said yes probably hundreds of time in order to graduate from high school and then get into college. We said yes to find work. We said yes get a promotion. We said yes to find love and then yes again to stay in a relationship. We said yes to find and keep friends.

We say yes because it feels better to help someone. We say yes because it can seem like the right thing to do. We say yes because we think that is key to success. And we say yes because the request might come from someone who is hard to resist like the boss.

And that’s not all. The pressure to say yes doesn’t just come from others. We put a lot of pressure on ourselves. At work, we say yes because we compare ourselves to others who seem to be doing more than we are. Outside of work, we say yes because we feel guilty we aren’t doing enough to spend time with family or friends.

The message no matter where we turn is nearly always, “You really could be doing more.” The result? When people ask us for our time, we are heavily conditioned to say yes.

Advertising

How to Say No Without Feeling Guilty

Deciding to add the word ‘no’ to your toolbox is no small thing. Perhaps you already say ‘no’ but not as much as you would like. Maybe you have an instinct that if you were to learn the art of ‘no’ that you could finally create more time for things you care about. But let’s be honest, using the word ‘no’ doesn’t come easily for many people.

The 3 Rules of Thumbs for Saying No

1. You Need to Get Out of Your Comfort Zone

Let’s face it. It is hard to say no. Setting boundaries around your time especially you haven’t done it much in the past will feel awkward.

2. You Are the Air Traffic Controller of Your Time

Remember that you are the only one who understands the demands for your time. Think about it, who else knows about all of the demands on your time? No one. Only you are at the center of all of these requests. are the only one that understands what time you really have.

3. Saying ‘No’ Means Saying ‘Yes’ to Something That Matters

When we decide not to do something, it means we can say yes to something else. You have a unique opportunity to decide how you spend your precious time.

6 Ways to Start Saying No

Incorporating that little word ‘no’ into your life can be transformational. Turning some things down will mean you can open doors to what really matters. Here are some essential tips to learn the art of no:

1. Check in With Your Obligation Meter

One of the biggest challenges to saying ‘no’ is a feeling of obligation. Do you feel you have a responsibility to say yes and worry that saying no reflect poorly on you?

Ask yourself whether you truly have the duty to say yes. Check your assumptions or beliefs about whether you carry the responsibility to say yes. Turn it around and instead ask what duty you owe to yourself.

2. Resist the Fear of Missing out (FOMO)

Do you have a fear of missing out (FOMO)? FOMO can follow us around in so many ways. At work, we volunteer our time because we fear we won’t move ahead. In our personal lives, we agree to join the crowd because FOMO even while we ourselves aren’t enjoying the fun.

Advertising

Check in with yourself. Are you saying yes because of FOMO or because you really want to say yes? More often than not, running after fear doesn’t make us feel better.

3. Check Your Assumptions About What It Means to Say ‘No’

Do you dread the reaction you will get if you say no? Often, we say ‘yes’ because we worry about how others will respond or the consequences of saying no or because of the consequences. We may be afraid to disappoint others or think we will lose respect from others. We often forget how much we are disappointing ourselves along the way.

Keep in mind that saying ‘no’ can be exactly what is needed to send the right message that you have limited time. In the tips below, you will see how to communicate your no in a gentle and loving way. You might disappoint someone initially but drawing a boundary can bring you the freedom you need so that you can give freely of yourself when you truly want to.

4. When the Request Comes In, Sit on It

Sometimes, when we are in the moment, we instinctively agree. The request might make sense at first. Or we typically have said yes to this request in the past.

Give yourself a little time to reflect on whether you really have the time, or can do the task properly. You may decide the best option is to say ‘no.’ There is no harm in giving yourself the time to decide.

5. Communicate Your ‘No’ with Transparency and Kindness

When you are ready to tell someone no, communicate your decision clearly. The message can be open and honest to ensure the recipient that your reasons have to do with your limited time.

Resist the temptation not to respond or communicate all. But do not feel obligated to provide a lengthy account about why you are saying no.

A clear communication with a short explanation is all that is needed. I have found it useful to tell people that I have many demands and need to be careful with how I allocate my time. I will sometimes say I really appreciate that they came to me and for them to check in again if the opportunity arises another time.

Advertising

6. Consider How to Use a Modified ‘No’

If you are under pressure to say yes but want to say no, you may want to consider downgrading a “yes” to a “yes but…” giving you an opportunity to condition your agreement to what works best for you.

Sometimes, the condition can be to do the task but not in the time frame that was originally requested. Or perhaps you can do part of what has been asked.

Final Thoughts

Beginning right now, you can change how you respond to requests for your time. When the request comes in, take yourself off autopilot where you might normally say yes.

Use the request as a fresh request to draw a healthy boundary around your time. Pay particular attention to when you place certain demands on yourself. If you are the one placing the demand on yourself, try to evaluate the demand as if it were coming from somewhere else.

Try it now. Say no to a friend who continues to take advantage of your goodwill. Or, draw the line with a workaholic colleague and tell them you will complete the project but not by working all weekend. Or, tell someone in your family you can’t loan them money again because they never paid you back the last time. You’ll find yourself much happier.

More Self-Care Tips

Featured photo credit: Chris Ainsworth via unsplash.com

Read Next