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Last Updated on January 11, 2021

How To Stop Procrastinating and Get Stuff Done

How To Stop Procrastinating and Get Stuff Done

OK, I’m done with procrastinating. I’m done with the guilt, anxiety, stress—and, of course, the not getting stuff done.

I’m tired of answering “what’d you do today” with “nothing”. Of course, it’s a lie—I did do something, just not anything important – not anything that made me feel happier, more complete, or more relaxed.

What I did today was spend 8 hours kicking myself, putting myself down, and telling myself “I’ve really got to do. . .”.

Why Procrastination Is Always Easy to Do Right Now

Psychologists tell me that the reason I procrastinate is because it feels so darn good. Can you believe that? All that guilt, stress, and bad self-image feel good?

It does though, doesn’t it? Not the self-recriminations, but the excuse-making and the excuse-fulfilling.

Here’s why:

  1. When we procrastinate, we tend to do stuff that we know how to do—there’s no risk. And avoiding risk feels good—our brain loves it when we don’t do stuff that puts us out in the open, stuff that makes us vulnerable.
  2. Most of the things we do while we procrastinate are fun, offering an immediate payoff—instead of the deferred payoff of the routine, boring, or lengthy projects we’re putting off. A little thrill now makes us feel better than a bigger thrill at some point in the distant future.
  3. Procrastination helps prevent success, and we fear success. Success at anything important means change, it means becoming someone different, it means growing as a person—and all that stuff is really, really hard. Futzing around, on the other hand, rarely accomplishes anything important, so I can stay comfortably me.

I can’t tell you how much I hate knowing all that about myself! I bet you’re not all that thrilled about it yourself.

And I didn’t even mention the part about how we hate our parents and would hate even more for them to see us succeed since that would validate their years of torturing us into passable adults.

So What’s a Poor, Lazy Sod to Do?

I can’t tell you how to deal with your obvious childhood resentments, but maybe there is a way to get around procrastination without expensive and time-consuming therapy? Therapy that you’ll probably just use as another excuse not to do whatever it is you’re procrastinating in the first place? (“I can’t write my novel until my analyst says I’m ready.”)

Sure there is. When it comes down to it, all we have to do is a) minimize the rewards of procrastination, and b) maximize the rewards of non-procrastination. How hard could that be?

OK, maybe a little bit hard. So how do we do it? What’s the program if you can’t stop procrastinating? Let’s see if we can figure this out.

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1. Make Lists

You knew I was going to say that, didn’t you? You know I love the lists. Lists are good—they’re fun to make, and even more fun to throw out when you’re done.

Lists are very useful if you can’t stop procrastinating because they help us deal with at least two of the three factors that cause procrastination risk-aversion and rewards.

Here’s how:

  1. Making a list feels like you’re doing something. Bing! You’ve got your reward.
  2. Crossing something done off your list feels good. Bing! Another reward.
  3. Making a list reduces the risk that you’ll forget to do something—and therefore that you’ll screw up and fail. Bing! Your brain likes that, a lot.

You can’t make just any list, though. As I never tire of saying, lists should be concrete, granular, doablethe first item on your list should be something you can glance at and immediately do.

Don’t know how? Then it shouldn’t be the first thing on your list; figuring out how to do it should be the first thing on your list. Or, rather, “Use Google to find out how to do x”, or “Go to the library to get books on x”, or “Take a class on x” should be first on your list.

Then, the next thing on your list should be something you can glance at and immediately do; and the third thing, and the fourth.

If you can’t start doing something within two minutes of reading it on your list, it’s not concrete enough. Call it “The Other Two Minutes Rule”.

2. Get Motivated

There’s lots of advice on how to get motivated; whatever it takes you to be motivated, do that thing.

Here’s one idea: play the best-case/worst-case game.

What’s the best possible outcome of whatever it is you’re (not) working on?

Visualize it. Daydream about it. Ok, put that aside for a minute.

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Now, what’s the worst possible outcome? Don’t be afraid—spill it. You finish your project and now what? Now ask yourself—how likely is that? Really? Be honest here—chances are you haven’t undertaken something that you’re wholly unsuited for. OK, that’s better.

Now, ask yourself if the best-case scenario makes the worst-case worth the risk? I’ll bet it does (note: if there’ a chance that successfully completing your project might well kill you, please, try un-motivating yourself. I kind of like having you around!).

Another way of getting motivated is to relive past successes.

How did you feel the last time you finished a project? What did you have to do to get that one done? How closely did the outcome match your fears? Yeah, not too closely, right?

Moving on.

3. Reward Yourself

Some people say that rewards aren’t good motivation. Don’t believe them. Those people are probably criminals.

OK, maybe not—but they’re only right about external rewards, a.k.a. “bribes”. As it happens, offering rewards to employees often doesn’t increase motivation.

But offering rewards to yourself—well, that’s just good common sense. You need that Bing! moment—you are, after all, simply a giant hairless ape with a yen for gourmet coffee and a laptop. This is a good hack if you just can’t stop procrastinating.

Researchers placed monkeys in a cage, with a button that, when pressed, dispensed a piece of food. “Yum!” said the monkey when he pushed the button. So he pushed it again. And again. Monkeys are, of course, just small hairy people without coffee or laptops, so they learn pretty fast.

Then the researchers added a twist: every third time the monkey pushed the button, he’d get an electric shock! “Ouch!” said the monkey—then he ate his treat. “Ouch ouch!” he said, the next time—then he ate his treat.

The moral of this story is that we’ll put up with quite a bit of crap, as long as we get our treat. Your challenge, then, is to find a treat good enough to hit the button for, even though you know it’s going to hurt like heck.

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4. Be Accountable

Shame, guilt, humiliation—they can be effective motivational tools. The problem is, when they’re directed at ourselves, they’re corrosive, undoing motivation as fast as they create it.

It’s hard to convince yourself you’re not going to fail when you’ve also convinced yourself you’re a no-good lazy stupid son-of-a-…badger.

My advice: outsource your guilt and humiliation to someone you love and respect. The world is flat, after all. It’s what Tim Ferriss would do.

What do I mean, exactly?

Simple: tell someone—tell lots of people—what you’re doing, when you’re going to be done, how excited you are about it, how important it is to you, and so on.

Now you’ve got risk. You fail, and everyone is going to know. Put that fear of failure to good use! Now, what’s going to prevent the negative payoff of everyone knowing what you want to get done?

5. Do It for Three Minutes

Aside from, say, breathing poison gas or watching reality television, you can do anything for just three minutes, right?

Get a kitchen timer (I don’t actually advocate stealing from your grandmother, but you do what it takes), set it for three minutes, and work. Since you aren’t likely to be procrastinating something you could do in less than three minutes, you have no reason to fear the successful completion of your project.

And you can promise yourself whatever you want when the timer goes off—a cup of coffee, a game of Minesweeper, a half-hour of porn surfing, whatever. Bing! You get your reward—and guess what? Having gotten three minutes of work done will feel pretty good, too. Bing bing!

Next time, shoot for five. Then ten. Eventually, dare I say it, you might be able to put in as much as 25 minutes of solid work without dying—all in a row!

There’s something else, though. Sometimes, once we start working, it feels so good to be working towards our goal, we don’t stop when the timer goes off. We start making excuses—”just one more sentence, I promise, then I’ll play Minesweeper”—in effect, procrastinating our procrastination. Bing bing bing bing bing!

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6. Learn to Embrace Change

Last but not least, you need to get past the whole fear of success thing.

Jonathan Fields, a guest contributor here at Lifehack, offers some tips in his article How to Sell Yourself on Lifestyle Change, and he should know—he’s had quite a few successes in his life, and all of them have drastically changed his life for the better.

It can be hard to imagine coming to terms with what success will mean for you, but here’s my promise: you’ll know how to deal with success when you get there, even if you can’t imagine it now.

Final Words

It is traditional, of course, to end a post on procrastination with a sly joke about how you should start putting these tips into action, first thing tomorrow.

But you know what? Procrastination can be serious stuff and many people just can’t stop procrastinating, so I’m not going to do that.

Instead, I’m going to tell you to turn off your monitor for a minute, get out a piece of paper, and write a list of what you should be working on next. And then start doing it.

Because, believe me, you’ll be a better person afterwards. And that’ll feel great.

Bing!

More Tips If You Can’t Stop Procrastinating

Featured photo credit: Dai KE via unsplash.com

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Last Updated on January 15, 2021

How To Overcome Laziness in 7 Steps

How To Overcome Laziness in 7 Steps

Taking some time off from your busy routine is not only normal; it is essential. But if you find yourself taking too many days off, unable to achieve anything, chances are you are lazy.

But why do people succumb to laziness even when they know they have things to do and places to go?

It might be due to a fear of failure, an overwhelming list of tasks to achieve, or a lack of motivation for your job.

Whatever the reason may be, it is time to identify ways to overcome laziness. All you need is a little mental stimulation to recharge yourself and feel inspired to accomplish your tasks.

If you’re struggling with the daily grind, here are a few simple tips to overcome laziness and increase your productivity.

1. Make Realistic Goals

It’s true that one of the key reasons people get lazy because they don’t find anything challenging enough to stir them up from their slumber.

But on the other hand, setting impractical goals can overwhelm you and may even send you down in a spiral of demotivation, indolence and guilt. Your objectives, therefore, must be achievable and stimulating.

A long list of to-dos can be overwhelming, it can cause a sensory overload and we end up ignoring all items on the list altogether. But don’t let it overpower you. Instead, ask yourself the following:

  • What do I want to achieve at the end of the project?
  • Is this what I love doing?
  • Why is achieving this task necessary?

Break down your daily, weekly, monthly goals into achievable tasks so that you can accomplish them one step at a time.

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2. Create A Plan Of Action

Specificity and direction can help you realize your goals faster, even if there is a hurdle along the way.

James Clear emphasizes “Implementation Intention” in his book, Atomic Habits. He says that being specific about your tasks takes away foggy notions associated with them.

This means making a specific plan for when, where, and how you will complete a particular task. Too many people try to achieve their goals without figuring out these essential details.

For example, you might think to yourself, “I want to start eating healthier” or “I am going to finish my book this month,” but hardly anyone ever talks about the exact steps they’ll take to achieve these goals.

For starters, specify what you are going to eat and at what time. Do you want to incorporate greens at lunch-time? Or do you want to cut carbs from your breakfast first?

Similarly, figure out how you’ll set apart time to complete that book, and know how many pages you’ll read in one go.

Once you have an implementation intention, you don’t have to wait for “the right time.” When the moment comes, you already have a pre-determined plan to follow.

3. Get An Accountability Partner

Productivity expert Laura Vanderkam recommends getting an accountability partner who can hold you responsible for the unaccomplished tasks.[1] Ensure your partner has a track record of accomplishing their goals and knows how to pull you out of the debilitating feelings left behind by demotivation and laziness.

When you have someone to answer to, you will work faster and more efficiently. You may also care about making a good impression on your accountability partner, thus also increasing the quality of your work.

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Learn How to Find an Accountability Partner to Help You Reach Your Goal.

4. Avoid Clutter and Distractions

One of the biggest hurdles to motivation is the environment you are in. This means that your surroundings must be free of diversions, noise and clutter.

You can make your space work-friendly by doing the following:

Personalizing Your Workspace

Imagine sitting down at a desk with a monthly calendar, a task list, and colorful pens all nicely kept in decorative holders and your pile of files and paper properly stacked in a corner.

Throw in additional photo frames, a motivational quote, or anything else that sparks your creativity for work.

Adopting A No-Storage Policy On Your Desk

Your desk shouldn’t be a dumping space for samples or litter. Make space for files and papers in your drawers or other storage boxes. With all the extra stuff on your desk all the time, you likely keep getting distracted.

Also check out these 15 Best Organizing Tips For Office Organization and Getting More Done.

5. Incorporate High-Impact Movement In Your Routine

There is growing evidence that shows exercise as a promising intervention to overcome laziness and increase motivation.[2]

Particularly cardiovascular exercises get the blood pumping in your body, which leaves you energetic and motivated to take on the day.

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However, going to the gym or picking up weights is not everybody’s cup of tea. But don’t worry because other high-impact to moderate movements like Yoga are sometimes all you need to feel like you can take on the day and power through your to-do list.

Other examples of high-impact fun activities can be:

  • Go for a hike with a friend
  • Dancing to your favorite tunes
  • Take part in a cycling marathon
  • Join a kickboxing club with your friend

At the end of the day, it is all about including some form of activity in your routine, so it is better to do something that you already love!

6. Recognize Your Efforts Along The Way

One of the main reasons people tend to get demotivated is because they’re too hard on themselves. Acknowledge that you are a human and that you cannot achieve everything at once.

Start with completing little tasks and praise yourself for every little effort that you make. Negative self-talk and underestimating your abilities can derail you from your path – you have to be in your corner even if no one else is there yet.

Instead of saying things like, “I know I won’t be able to do this,” tell yourself, “This will be an interesting challenge; I will give it my best.”

7. Make Tedious Tasks Fun

Sometimes small, menial tasks seem so big and burdensome because they are tiresome and monotonous. It can be hard to muster the motivation to start something, but it is even harder to keep going at it if it bores you.

Here’s how to deal with tedious tasks:

Reward Yourself

When you have something to look forward to, it becomes easier to overcome laziness and accomplishing tasks on your to-do list. Motivate yourself with external rewards like a spa-day after completing a relatively challenging task or treating yourself to an expensive dinner.

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Get a Partner

Get a friend, a colleague, or sibling to pump you up and give you company as you do that dull, boring thing that’s been on your list for ages.

Having a friend or a partner to assist you certainly makes it easier to get things done. Sometimes companionship is better than solitude, especially if you know that you’ll procrastinate if left alone.

For example, chores like cleaning your room or washing the dishes will never be fun, but if you have someone to accompany you, chances are you can get them done more efficiently and faster.

Divide It Up!

“In order to achieve your goal, divide it up into smaller tasks.” — James Clear, Atomic Habits

Breaking down your tasks into smaller ones can make you feel less overwhelmed. For example, if your goal is to read 50 pages every day, tell yourself you will read a few pages every time you have a cup of tea. This way, you get to read a few pages every-time and before you know it, you’ll have achieved your reading goal!

Bottom Line

Pressurizing yourself with negative thoughts and emotions is a surefire way to ensure that you’ll never stop procrastinating or overcome laziness.

Instead, be your own motivator. You don’t need a major life overhaul to wake up and fight the feelings of demotivation. Easy does it. All you need are small tweaks to your daily routine, a positive mindset and confidence to know that you have what it takes to achieve something!

Just remember to set manageable goals and play to your strengths. Also, know that it’s okay to call out for help if need be. Your coworkers, classmates, family and friends will not mind encouraging and motivating you.

More Motivational Tips

Featured photo credit: Adrian Swancar via unsplash.com

Reference

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