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Beat Procrastination and Get Stuff Done in These 3 Steps

Beat Procrastination and Get Stuff Done in These 3 Steps
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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.

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

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

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Daniel Wallen

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

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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.

More on Building Habits

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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