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Beat Procrastination and Get Stuff Done in These 3 Steps

Beat Procrastination and Get Stuff Done in These 3 Steps

Procrastination is a vicious fiend that can destroy your productivity with murderous intent. If you want to get stuff done, you need to apply these three tips today.

1. Begin (even if you don’t want to right now).

If I told you I always feel inspired to write, that would be a lie. But funny thing about that: without fail, after I grunt through an hour or two of work despite not feeling like it, I find myself in a state of flow where I lose track of time and keep on going until I have no words left to express. I often end up wondering, “What was all that procrastination about? This is a much better way to spend my time than what I was doing before*!” Your mind will resist your efforts to take action with all of its might. Please understand that your thoughts are convincing liars that will try to prevent you from doing things that will prove to be fun and fulfilling (don’t listen to them!). Prove me wrong. I dare you.

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*This morning, said “thing” was wasting two hours on Twitter. And that’s a convenient way to lead into…

2. Concentrate (even if that means avoiding all temptations).

Below is a list of my biggest time-wasters:

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  1. Twitter (I am a news junkie and that is where I get my fix).
  2. Netflix (If I get sucked into a show, House of Cards for example, heaven help me).
  3. Reading (Not a bad thing in itself, but I’m a very curious person, and can consequentially end up with 10-20 browser windows open at a time, which is very bad for my productivity as a writer).

I deal with these temptations by banning the use of social media while I write; saving Netflix for lazy weekends when I have nothing to do (and can have a guilt-free marathon); and opening my publishing platform in full screen mode immediately after I find what I’m looking for.

I used to have more temptations than those, but have removed most of them without mercy. Below is a list of the ones you might know well and how I dealt with them:

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  • Answering texts as soon as you get them = Phone stays silent unless you’re expecting an important call or are flirting with a person you love (or just have a really big crush on).
  • Refreshing your inbox obsessively = Set three specific times to check email in morning, afternoon, and evening.
  • Distracted by social media = Disable all text and email notifications, or use a concentration app if you can’t control yourself.

3. Deliberate (even if that means taking a step back from the daily grind).

“Priorities” isn’t a sexy concept to consider, but it could be the key that will unlock your productive power. It’s amazing how taking a step back can improve your perspective and make you understand what is really important. Below are some questions you should consider:

  • What is the point of my work? Why does it matter?
  • Is there a way to combine related tasks in a more logical manner?
  • Am I putting the needs of others before what makes me feel happy and fulfilled?

If you don’t see any purpose behind your work, it’s no wonder you don’t feel like working. Imagine the impact you hope to make in the lives of your readers, customers, or clients. What pain do you hope to help them deal with? What problem do you hope to help them solve? What goal do you hope to help them achieve?

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If you are performing tasks in a haphazard fashion, it’s no wonder you can’t get anything done. It is more efficient to group similar tasks together than it is to multitask without thought process.  Could you do all of your dishes, run all of your errands, pay all of your bills, answer all of your emails, or return all of your calls at a specified time?

If you constantly concern yourself with what other people expect from you, it’s no wonder you aren’t fulfilled. Understand that your ability to take care of others will be severely diminished if you don’t take care of yourself first. If you open your email inbox as soon as you wake up, you’re setting yourself up for a day that is ruled by the demands of others.

What helps you get stuff done? Tell us in the comments.

Featured photo credit: lazy sunday/David Urbanke via flickr.com

More by this author

Daniel Wallen

Daniel is a writer who focuses on blogging about happiness and motivation at Lifehack.

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Last Updated on November 15, 2019

How Do You Change a Habit (According to Psychology)

How Do You Change a Habit (According to Psychology)

Habits are hard to kill, and rightly so. They are a part and parcel of your personality traits and mold your character.

However, habits are not always something over-the-top and quirky enough to get noticed. Think of subtle habits like tapping fingers when you are nervous and humming songs while you drive. These are nothing but ingrained habits that you may not realize easily.

Just take a few minutes and think of something specific that you do all the time. You will notice how it has become a habit for you without any explicit realization. Everything you do on a daily basis starting with your morning routine, lunch preferences to exercise routines are all habits.

Habits mostly form from life experiences and certain observed behaviors, not all of them are healthy. Habitual smoking can be dangerous to your health. Similarly, a habit could also make you lose out on enjoying something to its best – like how some people just cannot stop swaying their bodies when delivering a speech.

Thus, there could be a few habits that you would want to change about yourself. But changing habits is not as easy as it seems, why?

What Makes It Hard To Change A Habit?

To want to change a particular habit means to change something very fundamental about your behavior.[1] Hence, it’s necessary to understand how habits actually form and why they are so difficult to actually get out of.

The Biology

Habits form in a place what we call the subconscious mind in our brain.[2]

Our brains have two modes of operation. The first one is an automatic pilot kind of system that is fast and works on reflexes often. It is what we call the subconscious part. This is the part that is associated with everything that comes naturally to you.

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The second mode is the conscious mode where every action and decision is well thought out and follows a controlled way of thinking.

A fine example to distinguish both would be to consider yourself learning to drive or play an instrument. For the first time you try learning, you think before every movement you make. But once you have got the hang of it, you might drive without applying much thought into it.

Both systems work together in our brains at all times. When a habit is formed, it moves from the conscious part to the subconscious making it difficult to control.

So, the key idea in deconstructing a habit is to go from the subconscious to the conscious.

Another thing you have to understand about habits is that they can be conscious or hidden.

Conscious habits are those that require active input from your side. For instance, if you stop setting your alarm in the morning, you will stop waking up at the same time.

Hidden habits, on the other hand, are habits that we do without realizing. These make up the majority of our habits and we wouldn’t even know them until someone pointed them out. So the first difficulty in breaking these habits is to actually identify them. As they are internalized, they need a lot of attention to detail for self-identification. That’s not all.

Habits can be physical, social, and mental, energy-based and even be particular to productivity. Understanding them is necessary to know why they are difficult to break and what can be done about them.

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The Psychology

Habits get engraved into our memories depending on the way we think, feel and act over a particular period of time. The procedural part of memory deals with habit formation and studies have observed that various types of conditioning of behavior could affect your habit formations.

Classical conditioning or pavlovian conditioning is when you start associating a memory with reality.[3] A dog that associates ringing bell to food will start salivating. The same external stimuli such as the sound of church bells can make a person want to pray.

Operant conditioning is when experience and the feelings associated with it form a habit.[4] By encouraging or discouraging an act, individuals could either make it a habit or stop doing it.

Observational learning is another way habits could take form. A child may start walking the same way their parent does.

What Can You Do To Change a Habit?

Sure, habits are hard to control but it is not impossible. With a few tips and hard-driven dedication, you can surely get over your nasty habits.

Here are some ways that make use of psychological findings to help you:

1. Identify Your Habits

As mentioned earlier, habits can be quite subtle and hidden from your view. You have to bring your subconscious habits to an aware state of mind. You could do it by self-observation or by asking your friends or family to point out the habit for your sake.

2. Find out the Impact of Your Habit

Every habit produces an effect – either physical or mental. Find out what exactly it is doing to you. Does it help you relieve stress or does it give you some pain relief?

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It could be anything simple. Sometimes biting your nails could be calming your nerves. Understanding the effect of a habit is necessary to control it.

3. Apply Logic

You don’t need to be force-fed with wisdom and advice to know what an unhealthy habit could do to you.

Late-night binge-watching just before an important presentation is not going to help you. Take a moment and apply your own wisdom and logic to control your seemingly nastily habits.

4. Choose an Alternative

As I said, every habit induces some feeling. So, it could be quite difficult to get over it unless you find something else that can replace it. It can be a simple non-harming new habit that you can cultivate to get over a bad habit.

Say you have the habit of banging your head hard when you are angry. That’s going to be bad for you. Instead, the next time you are angry, just take a deep breath and count to 10. Or maybe start imagining yourself on a luxury yacht. Just think of something that will work for you.

5. Remove Triggers

Get rid of items and situations that can trigger your bad habit.

Stay away from smoke breaks if you are trying to quit it. Remove all those candy bars from the fridge if you want to control your sweet cravings.

6. Visualize Change

Our brains can be trained to forget a habit if we start visualizing the change. Serious visualization is retained and helps as a motivator in breaking the habit loop.

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For instance, to replace your habit of waking up late, visualize yourself waking up early and enjoying the early morning jog every day. By continuing this, you would naturally feel better to wake up early and do your new hobby.

7. Avoid Negative Talks and Thinking

Just as how our brain is trained to accept a change in habit, continuous negative talk and thinking could hamper your efforts put into breaking a habit.

Believe you can get out of it and assert yourself the same.

Final Thoughts

Changing habits isn’t easy, so do not expect an overnight change!

Habits took a long time to form. It could take a while to completely break out of it. You will have to accept that sometimes you may falter in your efforts. Don’t let negativity seep in when it seems hard. Keep going at it slowly and steadily.

More About Changing Habits

Featured photo credit: Mel via unsplash.com

Reference

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