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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 September 17, 2018

    How to Stop Multitasking and Become Way More Productive

    How to Stop Multitasking and Become Way More Productive

    Today we are expected to work in highly disruptive environments. We sit down at our desks, turn on our computer and immediately we are hit with hundreds of emails all vying for our attention.

    Our phones are beeping and pinging with new alerts to messages, likes and comments and our colleagues are complaining about the latest company initiative is designed to get us to do more work and spend less time at home.

    All these distractions result in us multitasking where our attention is switching between one crisis and the next.

    Multitasking is a problem. But how to stop multitasking?

    How bad really is multitasking?

    It dilutes your focus and attention so even the easiest of tasks become much harder and take longer to complete.

    Studies have shown that while you think you are multitasking, you are in fact task switching, which means your attention is switching between two or more pieces of work and that depletes the energy resources you have to do your work.

    This is why, even though you may have done little to no physical activity, you arrive home at the end of the day feeling exhausted and not in the mood to do anything.

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    We know it is not a good way to get quality work done, but the demands for out attention persist and rather than reduce, are likely to increase as the years go by.

    So what to do about it?

    Ways to stop multitasking and increase productivity

    Now, forget about how to multitask!

    Here are a few strategies on how to stop multitasking so you can get better quality and more work done in the time you have each working day:

    1. Get enough rest

    When you are tired, your brain has less strength to resist even the tiniest attention seeker. This is why when you find your mind wandering, it is a sign your brain is tired and time to take a break.

    This does not just mean taking breaks throughout the day, it also means making sure you get enough sleep every day.

    When you are well rested and take short regular breaks throughout the day your brain is fully refuelled and ready to focus in on the work that is important.

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    2. Plan your day

    When you don’t have a plan for the day, the day will create a plan for you. When you allow outside influences to take control of your day, it is very hard not to be dragged off in all directions.

    When you have a plan for the day, when you arrive at work your brain knows exactly what it is you want to accomplish and will subconsciously have prepared itself for a sustained period of focused work.

    Your resistance to distractions and other work will be high and you will focus much better on the work that needs doing.

    3. Remove everything from your desk and screen except for the work you are doing

    I learned this one a long time ago. In my previous work, I worked in a law office and I had case files to deal with. If I had more than one case file on my desk at any one time, I would find my eyes wandering over the other case files on my desk when I had something difficult to do.

    I was looking for something easier. This meant often I was working on three or four cases at one time and that always led to mistakes and slower completion.

    Now when I am working on something, I am in full-screen mode where all I can see is the work I am working on right now.

    4. When at your desk, do work

    We are creatures of habit. If we do our online shopping and news reading at our desks as well as our work, we will always have the temptation to be doing stuff that we should not be doing at that moment.

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    Do your online shopping from another place—your home or from your phone when you are having a break—and only do your work when at your desk. This conditions your brain to focus in on your work and not other distractions.

    5. Learn to say no

    Whenever you hear the phrase “learn to say no,” it does not mean going about being rude to everyone. What it does mean is delay saying yes.

    Most problems occur when we say “yes” immediately. We then have to spend an inordinate amount of energy thinking of ways to get ourselves out of the commitment we made.

    By saying “let me think about it” or “can I let you know later” gives you time to evaluate the offer and allows you to get back to what you were doing quicker.

    6. Turn off notifications on your computer

    For most of us, we still use computers to do our work. When you have email alert pop-ups and other notifications turned on, they will distract you no matter how strong you feel.

    Turn them off and schedule email reviewing for times between doing your focused work. Doing this will give you a lot of time back because you will be able to remain focused on the work in front of you.

    7. Find a quiet place to do your most important work

    Most workplaces have meeting rooms that are vacant. If you do have important work to get done, ask if you can use one of those rooms and do your work there.

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    You can close the door, put on your headphones and just focus on what is important. This is a great way to remove all the other, non-important, tasks demanding your attention and just focus on one piece of work.

    The bottom line

    Focusing on one piece of work at a time can be hard but the benefits to the amount of work you get done are worth it. You will make fewer mistakes, you will get more done and will feel a lot less tired at the end of the day.

    Make a list of the four or five things you want to get done the next day before you finish your work for the day and when you start the day, begin at the top of the list with the first item.

    Don’t start anything else until you have finished the first one and then move on to the second one. This one trick will help you to become way more productive.

    Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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