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5 Simple Techniques You Need to Learn to Stop Procrastinating

5 Simple Techniques You Need to Learn to Stop Procrastinating
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Do you want to learn how to stop putting things aside and just get things done sooner rather than later?

Here are five simple techniques you can make use of right away to help you kick your procrastination habits to the wayside.

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5 Simple Techniques You Need to Learn to Stop Procrastinating

1. Explore and map out the task at hand.

Sometimes procrastination sneaks up on us because we haven’t properly addressed just what it is we should be doing in the first place. A task always seems larger or more complicated when you don’t know the specific details! Think about what you’re trying to accomplish. Do you know what your desired goal or end result is? Consider making a list or mind-mapping all of the pieces involved in this larger task. What small steps can you take now to get there? Does your task only involve yourself or does it involve others? If you’re working with other people, you may find you need to collect more information or conduct more research before you can begin your work in earnest.

2. Identify and take action for the first small step.

Instead of tackling the whole entirety of your task (which can be an exhausting an intimidating experience), simply start with the basics and take one single solitary step toward your goal. You’ll break through the ice of inaction and will have the momentum to continue on with the rest of your work.

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Remember, sometimes the only step you need to take is a small one in order to get the ball rolling. For example, if you are looking to book a special party for your family at a new restaurant, but are dragging your feet on the task, just pick up the phone to find out the restaurant’s hours or visit their website to see what their menu is like to get the momentum going. Problem solved and procrastination averted.

3. Schedule time for fun—and limit your work.

It might seem odd to schedule an enjoyable reward in advance of doing your work, but this can actually be quite useful in helping you to get things done. You’ll have an enjoyable activity waiting for you after a job well done. You could plan to grab a latte with your friend at the local coffee shop, or see that new action flick at the movies. Once you’ve scheduled your fun, the next step is to set a limit on your work time. Whether it’s a specific amount of time spent working or certain amount of work to be completed, you give yourself no other option but to get the work done instead of needlessly dragging it out over many days, weeks or even months. Sit down, get to work, and then enjoy your well-deserved reward!

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4. Go through the motions.

Okay, so you don’t feel like going to the gym or writing up that email report at work. Instead of getting mentally weighing yourself down with a mountain of excuses or reasons to not do something, switch your focus into the physical world. All you have to do is go through the motions to get you on your way to completing your task. Pack up your workout gear, grab your car keys and head out the door or open up your email program and report materials and start typing. You’ll be one step closer to doing what it is you have to do. It would be silly for you to stop now that things are in motion, so why not just keep on going?

5. Eliminate distractions.

Are you easily distracted while you work? If you know you are prone to distractions in your environment, be it a an impromptu conversation with a co-worker to constantly checking your cell phone or email, it’s time to eliminate those distractions. Turn off your cell phone, log off of Google+ or Pinterest, go to a quiet meeting room or area of your office, study in the library, sit in a coffee shop, use a pair of noise canceling headphones, or hire babysitter to watch your kids while you finish your freelancing job at home. Take care to remove any distractions in your environment. There’ll be nothing left to do but to sit down and get to work.

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What anti-procrastination tool will you choose to help you get your work done? Leave a comment below.

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Rashelle Isip

Blogger, Consultant, and Author

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Last Updated on July 21, 2021

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)
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No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to Make a Reminder Works for You

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

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Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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