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Determine Never to Be Idle: A Simple Productivity Strategy

Determine Never to Be Idle: A Simple Productivity Strategy
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Determine never to be idle. No person will have occasion to complain of the want of time who never loses any. It is wonderful how much can be done if we are always doing.
Thomas Jefferson

We lack time not because there is not enough time but because we lose too much of it. That’s why I believe this quote represents a simple but effective strategy to boost our productivity. If we determine never to be idle, we will minimize lost time and make every moment valuable.

Looking at myself, I often waste time by being idle without realizing it. So “determine never to be idle” is a good strategy for me. It helps me recognize idle time and bring me back to the state of doing. While I still have idle time here and there, I learn to minimize it. Someday I hope I can eliminate it.

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First of all, let’s define what is meant by “idle”. In my opinion, idle time is the time we spend on something other than what we are supposed to do. We know we should do something, but we procrastinate doing it or get distracted by something else. That is idle time.

There are three simple steps to minimize idle time:

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1. Plan what you want to do each day

The first step is to have a clear idea of what are considered “not idle”. Plan what you want to do each day. For this purpose, I have some routines that cover most of what I need to do daily. I also set a few most important tasks of the day, though in some cases they are already covered by my daily routines. All these give me a clear idea of what is “not idle”.

2. Watch for idleness

The next step is watching for the signs of idleness. Since you already have a plan, it should be easier to do that. Ask yourself every now and then: “Am I now idle?”

The simple clue of idleness is anything that is outside of your plan. The exceptions are unexpected things which have higher priority, such as family-related tasks.

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Here are some examples of idleness to help you recognize them:

  • Random browsing
  • Reading email when it’s time to do something else
  • Unnecessary conversations
  • Too much thinking before taking action
  • Watching TV more than you should
  • Lying on the bed, unless you decide that it’s time for rest

3. Get back to doing whenever you are idle

Whenever your answer to the question “am I now idle?” is yes, you should go back to the state of doing as soon as possible. Stop being idle and start doing what you are supposed to do. Your plan in #1 should help you decide the right thing to do without spending too much time for thinking.

***

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These three steps are simple, but they are not easy to apply. In my case, the problem is usually #2 and sometimes #3. I may not realize that I’m idle, or when I do, sometimes I’m too lazy to go back to doing. But making a conscious effort to never be idle improves my situation over time.

You can also see this strategy from a different point of view. Instead of seeing it as minimizing idle time, you can also see it as maximizing doing time. What you should do is maximize your share of doing time each day. Let’s say you are awake 17 hours a day. You should aim to have as much as possible of it in the state of doing. If the current rate is 50%, you should increase it to 60%, 70%, and so on.

What do you think? Do you have other tips to not be idle? Feel free to share them in the comments.

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Last Updated on March 31, 2020

How To Break the Procrastination Cycle

How To Break the Procrastination Cycle

How often do you find yourself procrastinating? Do you wish you could procrastinate less? We all know how debilitating procrastination can make us feel, and it seems to be a challenge we all share. Procrastination is one of the biggest hindrances to moving forward and doing the things that we want to in life.

There are many reasons why you might be procrastinating, and sometimes, it is really difficult to pinpoint why. You might be procrastinating because of something related to the past, present, or future (they are all intertwined), or it could be as simple as biological factors. Whatever the reason, most of us follow a cycle when we procrastinate, from the moment we decide to do something to actually getting it done, or in this case, not getting it done.

The Vicious Procrastination Cycle

For some reason, it helps to understand that we all go through the same thing, even though we often feel like the only person in the world who struggles with this. Do you resonate with the cycle below?

1. Feeling Eager and Energized

This is when you commit to taking a new action or getting something done. You are feeling confident and optimistic that, this time round, you will do it!

2. Apprehension Starts to Come Up

The beginning stages of optimism are starting to fade. There is still time, but you haven’t done anything yet, and you start to feel uneasy. You realize that you actually have to do something to get it done, and that good intentions are not enough.

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3. Still No Action

More time has passed. You still haven’t taken any action and probably have a lot of excuses why. You start to panic a little and wish you had started sooner. Your panic starts to turn into frustration and perhaps even irritability.

4. Flicker of Hope Left

You can still make it; there is a little time left and you ponder how you are going to get it done. The rush you get from leaving your task until the last minute gives you a flicker of hope. There is still time; you can do this!

5. Fading Quickly

Your hope starts to quickly fade as you try desperately to understand why you just can’t do this. You may feel desperate and have thoughts like, “What is wrong with me?” and “Why do I ALWAYS do this?” You feel discouraged, or perhaps angry and resentful at yourself.

6. Vow to Yourself

Once the feeling of anger or disappointment disappears, you most likely swear to yourself that this will never happen again; that this was the last time and next time will be different.

Does this sound like you? Is the next time different? I understand the devastating effect that procrastination has on many lives, and for some, it is a really serious problem. You also have, on the other hand, those who procrastinate but it doesn’t affect them in any way. You know whether it is affecting you or not and whether it undermines your results.

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How to Break the Procrastination Cycle

Unless you break the cycle, you will keep reinforcing it!

To break the cycle, you need to change the sequence of events. Here is my suggestion on how you can effectively break the vicious cycle you are in!

1. Feeling Eager and Energized

This is when you commit to taking a new action or getting something done. You are feeling confident and optimistic that, this time round, you will do it! The first stage is always the same.

2. Plan

Thinking alone will not help; you need to plan your actions. I always put my deadlines one or two days in advance because you know Murphy’s Law! Take into consideration everything that you need to do, how long it will take you, and what you will need to get it done, then plan the individual steps.

3. Resistance

Just because you planned doesn’t mean that this time is guaranteed to be different. You will most likely still feel the resistance so expect this. This stage is key to identifying why you are procrastinating, so when you feel the resistance, try to identify it immediately.

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What is causing you to hesitate in this moment? What do you feel?  Write them down if it helps.

4. Confront Those Feelings

Once you have identified what could possibly be holding you back, for example, fear of failure, lack of motivation, etc. You need to work on lessening the resistance.

Ask yourself, “What do I need to do to move forward? What would make it easier?” If you find that you fear something, overcoming that fear is not something that will happen overnight — keep this in mind.

5. Put Results Before Comfort

You need to keep moving forward and put results before comfort. Take action, even if it is only for 10 minutes. The key is to break the cycle and not reinforce it. You have more control that you think.

6. Repeat

Repeat steps 3-5 until you achieve what you first set out to do.

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Final Thoughts

Change doesn’t happen overnight, and if you have some deeper underlying reasons why you procrastinate, it may take longer to finally break the cycle.

If procrastination is holding you back in life, it is better to deal with it now than to deal with the negative consequences later on. It is not a question of comfort anymore; it is a question of results. What is more important to you?

Learn more about how to stop procrastinating here: What Is Procrastination and How to Stop It (The Complete Guide)

Featured photo credit: Luke Chesser via unsplash.com

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