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Five Ways to Beat Your Procrastination Habit – Now!

Five Ways to Beat Your Procrastination Habit – Now!

Procrastination. We all do it, and know the feeling of remorse after we set out do something but end up completely off-task. You would think we’d learn after the first – or at least the 5th – time of procrastinating that it’s not in our best interest. It’s a classic example of our impulses beating out forethought, like when you eat that whole bag of potato chips or skip the gym even though you know you’ll regret it later. We don’t usually learn from past detrimental behaviors when the immediate gratification precedes the distant, more favorable payoff.

The two key features that determine payoffs are the actual reward and the temporal contiguity. The temporal contiguity is how soon the payoff comes after a certain behavior is exhibited. For example, you eat a potato chip and feel pretty satisfied the moment the salt and oil touches your taste buds. These immediate payoffs are incredibly hard to resist. This is similar to choosing to get on Facebook instead of write that essay: you pretty much feel satisfied immediately after logging on, where as the essay may take hours to finish. But hopping on Facebook before chipping away at the essay means it will be even longer before you feel the satisfaction of having your work done, and why would you want to delay that satisfaction? Here are five concepts to help you stay on track and earn the greater yet often delayed reward.

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1. Pomodoro Technique

The Pomodoro Technique is great for people who like to work in short productive bursts. Usually you work in 25 minutes intervals with about 5 minutes breaks between each work session. Then after four work sessions, you get a longer 20 or 30 minute break. It’s a good idea to set out the tasks you need to accomplish and set goals for each 25 minute chunk of time: The limited amount of time in each interval can make you more productive.

2. Parkinson’s Law

The idea behind Parkinson’s Law is that work fills the amount of time you allow it to. Now, this idea may actually fuel procrastination if you think you can leave something to the last minute and get it done, but the idea is to use it in the reverse way. For example, give yourself a start and end time to work in a focused, rather than an ambiguous, time frame to avoid distractions from seeping in.

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3. Pareto Principle

According to the Pareto principle, 20% of your time is used to fill the majority of your important goals. If you can get the majority of your work done with only 20% of your time, this is incentive to structure your time so you don’t waste it. If you feel you won’t be productive, don’t force yourself to slug through a task you could do more efficiently in a better state. Efficiency should always be put first. If you’re feeling sick or hungover, use the first part of time to do less mentally draining yet necessary tasks like e-mails, scheduling and reading the news. Then use your most alert time to get through the most challenging tasks.

4. Quadrant Method

This is also known as the Eisenhower method. With the Quadrant Method, you categorize tasks into one of four quadrants. The top two columns are labeled “Urgent” and “Not Urgent,” and the first two rows are labeled “Important and “Not Important.” Once you have tasks categorized, focus all your energy on the Urgent and Important tasks. Then once those are, done focus on the not Urgent but Important tasks. Not Urgent and Not Important should really be avoided while the Not Important but Urgent should not be allowed to take up more than a small portion of your time.

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5. Time chunking

Time chunking is a more general concept, but can be useful if you want more flexibility with your work time. The idea is to dedicate certain times of the day or certain days of the week to different task categories. You can even add in “Waste Time” as a category so you can plan on doing all that would normally serve as distractions during work time. At least with this method you actively decide how you spend your time rather than getting sucked into unintentional behaviors.

While we cannot focus all of our mental energy 100% of the time, we can actively decide how our time is spent and ultimately maximize this limited time.

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More by this author

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Published on April 25, 2019

How Creativity Can Help You Get Ahead in Life

How Creativity Can Help You Get Ahead in Life

Have you ever felt limited in your abilities to do something you really wanted to pursue? Maybe it was an ambition you had, or an idea to start something. Perhaps it was an opportunity that came your way, but you weren’t able to take it because something held you back.

Often, we’re unable to progress towards our goals because such obstacles stand in the way. We let our limitations stop or overshadow our abilities to see through to a goal.

Yet, there’s one thing that we rarely think of to use when trying to overcome limitations.

Creativity.

What is Creativity?

When I say creativity, I’m not talking about an innate talent. Creativity is a much needed, but often neglected, skill that everyone has! It’s a skill with huge leverage that allows you to generate enormous amounts of value from relatively little input.

Creativity at its heart, is being able to see things in a way that others cannot. It’s a skill that helps you find new perspectives to create new possibilities and solutions to different problems.

Everything, including brilliant inventions, cannot come from nothing; it all derives from some sort of inspiration. Creativity works by connecting things together in order to derive new meaning or value.

From this perspective, you can find creativity at play in many areas.

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For example, Mark Zuckerburg rapidly became successful by taking the previously existing concept of social media, and combining it with an incredibly simple interface that appealed to a much wider audience. Uber and Lyft combined the idea of a traditional taxi service with an incredibly efficient smartphone app.

Both of these examples connect different ideas, find common ground amongst the differences, and create a completely new idea out of them.

That’s creativity in a nutshell, and anyone can improve theirs.

Limitations are Actually Opportunities

The advantage of using creativity, is to help you see limitations as opportunities. Take any limitation that you may find yourself facing, is there a way to look at things differently?

Let me illustrate with an example.

On the day of my son’s 5th birthday, my wife and I arranged a party for him at a children’s adventure park. His friends and family were all invited, and the plan was to have a long, fun day out to celebrate.

However, the day didn’t go exactly as planned…

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At Lifehack, we pride ourselves on a healthy work-life balance, so I wasn’t concerned about taking the day off to celebrate. But, on the big day, a call came through to my phone.

It was a manager from Lifehack. He excitedly told me that a group of investors were quite interested in our business proposition, and were wanting to meet later that day.

This was great news! A potential investment could be coming our way. But, I was already miles away from home and the office. Plus, it was my son’s birthday…

I asked if I could call him back once we got settled into the park.

To be honest, I was pretty certain I was not going to be able to make it. Asking to reschedule would be a risky request, but there was no way that I was going to miss my son’s party.

My son could sense something was off, and he asked me what was wrong. So I let him know that I just received a call about a meeting today, but also told him not to worry as today was about celebrating his birthday.

But like all kids, he continued questioning me…

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“But daddy, is it important?”

“No, of course not,” I bluffed.

Then, with childlike intuition and creativity, he asked: “Can’t you just meet with them at the park?”

And, then it struck me! This was the idea that I was missing.

Even though my son didn’t quite understand that it would not be possible for the investors to meet me at the park, it made sense for me to simply do a video call!

I could miss 25 minutes of the party to do a quick call while the rest of the party walked through the aquarium. And, in the end, that was exactly what happened.

I called back my teammate and asked him to briefly explain to the investors why I couldn’t be there in person to meet, but would be happy to join via video. I took the call, and was able to spend the rest of the day at the park with my son.

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Not only did my son enjoy his birthday, his simple idea led to a successful investment meeting that allowed us to get funding for a new project.

This is where I was able to turn a limitation into an opportunity that enabled me to reach my success.

Creativity is One Key to Success

When you use your creative ability to turn your limitations and setbacks into opportunities, you’ll find doors opening for you in areas you may have never imagined.

Remember, your attitude is also important when it comes to achieving a goal, and tackling a setback or problem. That’s because a positive attitude transforms not just your mental state, but your physical and emotional well being. It is the key to lasting total transformation.

Check out this article to learn more about how you can tune your attitude towards positivity.

So, the next time you’re feeling limited by your abilities, setbacks or challenges, don’t give up. Really look at the situation, and see how you can leverage on your creativity to find an alternative solution.

Featured photo credit: Photo by William Iven on Unsplash via unsplash.com

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