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How to Procrastinate Productively

How to Procrastinate Productively

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    There’s a popular quote floating around productivity circles that says, “eat a live toad in the morning, and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.” Many people apply this to getting things done, saying that if you tackle your most difficult and overbearing task first, nothing else will seem so difficult.

    I disagree. The way I see it, the thought of having to eat a live toad is going to make me do anything and everything to put off eating the toad. The simple fact of having this overbearing, weighty task on my list makes me get all the smaller, easier, necessary things done – all to avoid having to do the one feared task.

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    Understanding this about my work habits, I’ve been able to procrastinate effectively and usefully, using the worst to get the rest done. If you’re not the “wake and eat a toad” type either, here’s how to use your live toad to get things done.

    First, start by making a list of all the things you want to get done. Include things you need to get done, but go bigger: we’re shooting for some epic procrastinating, and that’s time-consuming. All the things you’ve been meaning to do, no matter how large or small, go on your list. As you’re making the list, put the most difficult tasks at the top, and the simplest at the bottom. Your workflow goes backwards, from the bottom of the list to the top (remember – we’re not working, we’re procrastinating).

    Now we’re ready: not to work, but to procrastinate. The best way to start, I’ve found, is to leave. Maybe you’ve got errands to run, or maybe you’re just hungry; either way, get out and go somewhere else. Being out will compel you to start crossing the errands off your list, all without doing what you don’t want to be doing.

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    Once you’re done with your errands, do all the mindless tasks you’ve been meaning to do. A quick procrastination tip: keep a “Mindless” list, full of things you want to do that don’t require any brainpower whatsoever. My list currently has things like “Upload YouTube videos,” “backup HD,” “delete empty folders,” and “clean room.” Anything you’d like to do that doesn’t require your brain goes on the list. Feel free to flip on the TV or listen to music while you’re doing these tasks. You’re getting stuff done, sure, but the TV’s on! That can’t be called work.

    Next comes the purging. Read things you’ve been meaning to, empty inboxes, throw stuff away, clean your room (cleaning is great for procrastinating usefully), and generally get all the junk out of your space. But that’s reading, watching, and cleaning, so you’re definitely not working yet.

    After you’re done with all that, you might get to some tasks that actually require a bit of your time. For me, that’s things like writing blog posts, paying bills, writing papers, or catching up on phone calls – but I don’t mind, because I’m still not writing that scary paper, or whatever scary task lies ahead.

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    Those done, you might realize your list only has one task left on it: that live toad, the one task you can’t wait to not do. Don’t worry, you’re still not going to do it. This is your break time – go do nothing. Sit, and maybe let your thoughts wander onto just exactly how you’re going to eat that live toad. Don’t dwell too much, just take a few minutes to make a plan in your head. Even though you’re thinking about it, you’re still not eating the live toad- this certainly can’t be called work.

    Break over, go take a look at the toad – the big, hairy task you don’t want to undertake. Maybe take a tiny bite. Get slightly into the task- maybe writing the first sentence or paragraph. Once you’ve started, odds are continuing on won’t seem so bad – if it does, though, step back out, take another break, and then wade back in. You’ll quickly get going, and eating the toad will be over before you know it.

    Procrastination is very much a comparative tool – your brain says that “instead of this, I’d rather do that.” Even if there’s much left to do, by pitting it against the worst task, everything else becomes somehow more appealing. Procrastination doesn’t have to be a bad thing; instead, it can actually be your ticket to even greater productivity.

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    Just make sure you do eat that toad eventually.

    Photo: Just Us 3

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    Last Updated on July 16, 2020

    How Does Setting Goals Lead to Success?

    How Does Setting Goals Lead to Success?

    As well as being the founder of Lifehack, I also help people on a one-to-one basis through life coaching.

    I’ve been doing this for more than 10 years now and have helped hundreds of clients reevaluate their lives and turn inertia into progress and failure into success.

    A common theme I’ve noticed with many of my clients is that they don’t have any definite goals to aim towards.

    This has always surprised me, as goal setting is frequently recommended by self-improvement gurus, performance coaches, and business leaders. It’s also something that I learned at university and have implemented successfully in my life ever since.

    If you’re similar to the majority of my life coaching clients and you don’t have any definite goals to aim for, then you’re missing out on what is probably the most powerful personal success technique on the planet.

    The good news is—you’ve come to the right place for help with this.

    In this article, I’ll explain exactly what goal-setting is and how you can put it into action in your life. As you’ll discover, it’s a key that can open many doors for you.

    An Introduction to Goal Setting

    Goals can be big, small, short-term, long-term, essential, or desirable. But they all share one thing: They will give you something to aim for.

    This is important. As just like a ship without a destination, if you have no goals, you’ll end drifting aimlessly.

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    Goals give you purpose. They also give you drive and enthusiasm. In other words—they make you feel alive!

    If you’ve never spent time setting goals before, then here’s what I recommend you to do:

    1. Take some time to evaluate all areas of your life (health, career, family, etc.).
    2. Determine which of these areas need a boost.
    3. Think of ways in which to achieve this (for example, if you want to boost your health, you could eat less and exercise more).
    4. Set some definite goals that you would like to achieve.
    5. Write down these goals, including the date you want to accomplish them by.

    Now, before you get started on the above, I want to make one thing clear: Goals are not wishful thinking!

    By this, I mean that while your goals should be ambitious, they shouldn’t be unrealistic or verging into fantasy land.

    For example, wanting to be promoted at work would be a realistic goal while wanting to be President of the United States might not be. (Of course, feel free to prove me wrong!)

    If you’re new to the world of goal setting, then I’d recommend you start with easy-to-achieve goals. These could be things such as eating a healthy breakfast, walking more, taking regular breaks from your screen, and sleeping early.

    These simple goals might take you a month or so to achieve, including making the daily practices a habit.

    Once you’ve successfully accomplished these goals, you’ll find your self-confidence grows, and you’ll be ready to set yourself some bigger goals.

    Here are a few examples that you might want to choose or adapt to your personal circumstances:

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    • Run a marathon
    • Buy a new car
    • Learn a new language
    • Travel around the world
    • Change career
    • Retire early
    • Write a book

    I’m sure you can think of many more things that you would like to achieve. As the famous Shakespeare line neatly states: “The world is your oyster!”

    Now, the trick with big goals (as I’ll show in an example shortly) is to break them down into small, bite-sized chunks. This means you’ll have a big end goal, with smaller goals (sometimes referred to as objectives) helping you to gradually achieve your main aim.

    When you do this, you’ll make big goals more achievable. Plus, you’ll have an easy way to track how far along the road to your goal you are at any given point in time.

    Let’s see this in action…

    Going from an Idea to a Global Success

    Everything starts with an idea.

    And there appears to be no shortage of good ideas in the world. But there is a shortage of people willing to put these ideas into action!

    This is the essential step that will move you from being a dreamer to an achiever.

    Back in 2005, when I first had the idea for Lifehack, I really only considered it to be a platform to record some of my productivity and self-improvement techniques. I’d developed these during my time at university and as a Software Engineer at Redhat.

    However, based on the number of views and positive feedback I received on the first few articles, I quickly realized that Lifehack had the potential to be a popular and successful website—a site that could help transform the lives of people from all across the world.

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    It was at that point that I decided to set some goals in place for Lifehack.

    The way I did this was to set specific targets for different areas of the business:

    1. Number of articles published
    2. Amount of time spent writing and promoting the articles
    3. Number of new readers
    4. Number of new email subscribers
    5. Revenue generated from ads

    For each of the above, I set weekly, monthly, and yearly targets. These targets were realistic but were also ambitious. In addition, I wrote down the necessary steps to take to achieve each target within the specified time frame.

    This goal setting had a powerful impact on my motivation and energy levels. Because I could clearly see what needed to be done to achieve each goal, I found a purpose to my tasks that made them exciting to complete. Each small target achieved took me closer to accomplishing the bigger goals.

    For example, my initial goals for writing articles were for just five a week, which equated to 20 per month and just over 100 per year. However, as I dedicated more and more time to Lifehack, I found I was able to exceed my initial goals.

    This led me to increase the numbers. Of course, there’s a limit to how many articles one person can write. So when the readership began to exponentially increase, I started to hire other writers to help me out with the site’s content.

    From my initial goal of just over 100 articles per year, I’ve used goal setting to help Lifehack publish more than 35,000 articles to date. This is now the largest collection of original self-development articles in the world.

    And in terms of readership—this has skyrocketed from a few dozen in 2005 to several million in 2020.

    And of course, I have many new goals for Lifehack, including expanding our range of online courses.

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    My original goal has always remained the same though: To change people’s lives for the better.

    Goal Setting Can Transform Your Life

    If you haven’t yet experienced the incredible power of goal setting, then now’s the time to get started.

    Build a definite picture of what you want to accomplish, break it down into small, achievable steps, and then start taking action!

    You’ll be able to change all areas of your life using this method, including boosting your health, improving your relationships, and transforming your career. You may also want to use goal setting to start a new hobby or plot a path to a prosperous and peaceful retirement.

    So please don’t wait for success to drop in your lap (which it is highly unlikely to do). Instead, decide on exactly what you want, then make a plan to get it. This is the secret to lifelong success.

    Legendary motivational speaker and author Paul J. Meyer said it well:

    “Goal setting is the most important aspect of all improvement and personal development plans. It is the key to all fulfillment and achievement.”

    Final Thoughts

    Now, let me leave you with five questions that will help you think about your future:

    1. What would you like to be doing in 3, 5, and 7 years?
    2. What things make you happiest?
    3. How can you share your knowledge and experience?
    4. Who can help you achieve your goals?
    5. What would you like to be your legacy?

    Take plenty of time to think about these questions. When the answers come, you’ll be able to start building a picture of how you’d like your life to be—and what goals you need to set to make this picture a reality.

    More Tips on Setting Goals

    Featured photo credit: Jealous Weekends via unsplash.com

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