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Overcome Procrastination Once and For All

Overcome Procrastination Once and For All
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Why We Procrastinate

Before we can solve the problem of procrastination we must understand why we do it. There are a few basic reasons:

  1. Feeling overwhelmed with a situation.
  2. Given up hope that a situation can be changed or affected.
  3. Afraid of failing.
  4. Too “Busy” to get the really important things done.
  5. Can’t make a decision.
  6. Overworked, tired.
  7. Want to avoid work you don’t like.

Each of these can be reduced down to the pleasure/pain principle which says that we do things to gain pleasure and to avoid pain. What follows is a method to overcome procrastination on the things that matter and to jettison excess baggage in your to-do list that only serves to weigh you down.

Method to Overcome Procrastination

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1. Get clear about what you want in life. Procrastinators, you’ll love this! Take 20-30 minutes to do this quick goal planning exercise. Write down all your goals in some or all of these categories: career, education, relationships, financial, physical, mindset, creative, spiritual, public service, travel, leisure, and other. Once you have your list, then whittle it down to your top 10, then down to your top 5, and then your top 3. Do this by asking yourself, “Can I live without this?” Let your less important goals lie dormant on a “maybe” list that you can check on again in a few months.

2. Delete or delegate from your To-Do List those things that don’t relate to your top 3-5 goals. Just say bye bye. And don’t look back!

3. Link tasks you don’t like to your goals. It helps to mentally (and in writing) tie these tasks to one of your main goals or values. So for example, “Keeping a tidy and clean home and desk allows me to have clarity of mind which is something I highly value. By having clarity of mind I will be better able to work on my goals and have less anxiety.” By linking the task to the pleasure of being able to think clearly, I now have a reason that will motivate me to take action.

4. Plan your day each day. This is not a big task. It should only take about 10-15 minutes of quiet time. Do the most difficult and most important things first and work your way down to the easier stuff in the afternoon. You’ll feel really good if you do this. Focus on that to motivate you to wait to check email and such until after you’ve finished your first big task.

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5. Plan your week just enough to loosely schedule in some of the big things you know you want to get done. Sometimes procrastination happens simply because a task is not scheduled.

6. Allow for cheats and get rest when you’re tired or have low motivation. Don’t be so hard on yourself about the timing of a task and then you won’t try to escape through procrastination so hard in the future. Just reschedule and get back on track later or tomorrow. Also, remember to check if the task relates to one of your goals. See #1,2, and 3 again!

7. Just do it, but don’t over do it. We often put pressure on ourselves to do certain tasks more often than we really need to, such as cleaning/tidying/laundry etc. So give yourself a break and set a schedule for these things that is not overwhelming. Do thing on a “Need to do” basis and let go of the notion that you need to keep up with some perfect schedule. Ever hear of the business concept “just in time” inventory, well this is “just in time” task management.

8. Break down big tasks into smaller components. We procrastinate on tasks that are vague and nebulous because we don’t have clear instructions what to do next. Take a few moments to think about how to break down a larger task and schedule it into your calendar in pieces. This is good for when you are feeling overwhelmed.

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9. Get help making decisions. Decisions are tough for me. I like to use the pro/con method and assign points. I also recommend getting help from a friend that you know is good with making decisions. Once you’ve made your decision then break it down into tasks and schedule into your calendar.

10. Believe in yourself and in your ability to accomplish anything you want. If you’ve lost hope, know that you can turn things around. Release the fear of failure. Failure is just a learning experience. Slow and steady wins the race. A little bit done every day adds up to a lot over a year. If you have to, just fake your belief until it becomes real. Remember, you can do it!

11. Trick & Treat Yourself. Do you keep avoiding cleaning up your desk or some other big task, even though you know will make you feel good to get it done? If so, do this: invite a friend or family member over for a date to “tackle the dreaded task.” All your friend has to do is sit in the room with you and make sure that you do the task. If you want you can let them help you, but it’s not necessary. After the task is done, you can treat you and your friend to either coffee, dessert, meal, movie, whatever!

Recap:

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  • Know your most important goals and values.
  • Only do tasks that contribute to those goals and values.
  • Mentally link tasks to the pleasurable outcomes you seek.
  • Plan your day & week.
  • Do, but don’t overdo. Rest when needed.
  • Break down big tasks.
  • Get help making decisions.
  • Believe in yourself!
  • Trick & Treat!

What’s your best trick for overcoming procrastination?

K. Stone is author of Life Learning Today, a blog about daily life improvements. A few of her most popular articles are Ultimate Goal Setting Guide, Wrestling with Your Goals?, How to Write a Book in 60 Days or Less, Decision Making Made Easy, and Cool GTD Applications – The Ultimate Resource List.

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The Gentle Art of Saying No

The Gentle Art of Saying No

No!

It’s a simple fact that you can never be productive if you take on too many commitments — you simply spread yourself too thin and will not be able to get anything done, at least not well or on time.

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But requests for your time are coming in all the time — through phone, email, IM or in person. To stay productive, and minimize stress, you have to learn the Gentle Art of Saying No — an art that many people have problems with.

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What’s so hard about saying no? Well, to start with, it can hurt, anger or disappoint the person you’re saying “no” to, and that’s not usually a fun task. Second, if you hope to work with that person in the future, you’ll want to continue to have a good relationship with that person, and saying “no” in the wrong way can jeopardize that.

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But it doesn’t have to be difficult or hard on your relationship. Here are the Top 10 tips for learning the Gentle Art of Saying No:

  1. Value your time. Know your commitments, and how valuable your precious time is. Then, when someone asks you to dedicate some of your time to a new commitment, you’ll know that you simply cannot do it. And tell them that: “I just can’t right now … my plate is overloaded as it is.”
  2. Know your priorities. Even if you do have some extra time (which for many of us is rare), is this new commitment really the way you want to spend that time? For myself, I know that more commitments means less time with my wife and kids, who are more important to me than anything.
  3. Practice saying no. Practice makes perfect. Saying “no” as often as you can is a great way to get better at it and more comfortable with saying the word. And sometimes, repeating the word is the only way to get a message through to extremely persistent people. When they keep insisting, just keep saying no. Eventually, they’ll get the message.
  4. Don’t apologize. A common way to start out is “I’m sorry but …” as people think that it sounds more polite. While politeness is important, apologizing just makes it sound weaker. You need to be firm, and unapologetic about guarding your time.
  5. Stop being nice. Again, it’s important to be polite, but being nice by saying yes all the time only hurts you. When you make it easy for people to grab your time (or money), they will continue to do it. But if you erect a wall, they will look for easier targets. Show them that your time is well guarded by being firm and turning down as many requests (that are not on your top priority list) as possible.
  6. Say no to your boss. Sometimes we feel that we have to say yes to our boss — they’re our boss, right? And if we say “no” then we look like we can’t handle the work — at least, that’s the common reasoning. But in fact, it’s the opposite — explain to your boss that by taking on too many commitments, you are weakening your productivity and jeopardizing your existing commitments. If your boss insists that you take on the project, go over your project or task list and ask him/her to re-prioritize, explaining that there’s only so much you can take on at one time.
  7. Pre-empting. It’s often much easier to pre-empt requests than to say “no” to them after the request has been made. If you know that requests are likely to be made, perhaps in a meeting, just say to everyone as soon as you come into the meeting, “Look guys, just to let you know, my week is booked full with some urgent projects and I won’t be able to take on any new requests.”
  8. Get back to you. Instead of providing an answer then and there, it’s often better to tell the person you’ll give their request some thought and get back to them. This will allow you to give it some consideration, and check your commitments and priorities. Then, if you can’t take on the request, simply tell them: “After giving this some thought, and checking my commitments, I won’t be able to accommodate the request at this time.” At least you gave it some consideration.
  9. Maybe later. If this is an option that you’d like to keep open, instead of just shutting the door on the person, it’s often better to just say, “This sounds like an interesting opportunity, but I just don’t have the time at the moment. Perhaps you could check back with me in [give a time frame].” Next time, when they check back with you, you might have some free time on your hands.
  10. It’s not you, it’s me. This classic dating rejection can work in other situations. Don’t be insincere about it, though. Often the person or project is a good one, but it’s just not right for you, at least not at this time. Simply say so — you can compliment the idea, the project, the person, the organization … but say that it’s not the right fit, or it’s not what you’re looking for at this time. Only say this if it’s true — people can sense insincerity.

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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