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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 March 19, 2019

    How to Break a Habit and Hack the Habit Loop

    How to Break a Habit and Hack the Habit Loop

    Is there something that you just love or can’t stop doing on a daily basis? Maybe you absolutely have to start your day with a coffee or you won’t be able to function. Or, you need to go for a run every evening. Perhaps it is something more subtle, like twirling your hair whenever you’re in deep thought, or tapping your fingers whenever you’re feeling impatient.

    Take some time now to think about something specific that you find yourself doing all the time. How did that habit form? Is it something you want to continue doing, or is it something you’d rather do away with? And most importantly, how is it affecting your life?

    When it comes to habits and routines, most people want to learn how to be in control of them. Whether it’s trying to quit smoking, maintaining a healthy diet or going to bed early, habits can be hard to control. They are really quite sneaky since they are behaviors that develop and occur subconsciously; yet they also have the biggest impact in the outcome of our successes, whether you realize it or not.

    Habits Govern Your Life!

    Many people don’t consider habits as a key factor of their personal success because they simply see them as routines. Habits are either good or bad–and that’s as far as most people would go. They don’t necessarily make the connection to personal success.

    This is because most people put emphasis on external factors when looking at success. They may consider luck, educational or family background when determining success. While habits are largely internal, they are often overlooked.

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    The truth is, habits are a core factor that govern almost every aspect of our lives. They account for the vast majority of our actions on a daily basis from big to small: your morning routine, where you typically have lunch, or even the route you take to work and back home. These are all habits!

    If you’re someone who has strong willpower, or a high threshold of discipline, then great! You might find that breaking a bad habit or sticking to a new good habit is not too hard. But for the vast majority of us, that can be a real issue.

    Thankfully, habits don’t rely only on one’s willpower. Successful people are able to actively steer their habits, and use them as a tool to create consistent and systematic inputs or actions towards an output or outcome that they want to achieve.

    So how does one break a habit?

    Deconstructing a Habit

    Thankfully, habits can be tamed; and, once you gain full control over them, you’re going to realize their true potential in steering your life towards greater achievement and progress.

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    So, let me deconstruct a habit for you.

    The way in which a habit is formed can be described as a Habit Loop. This is a cycle that governs how every habit forms and functions.

    It’s made up of three key components:

    1. Cue
    2. Routine
    3. Reward

    A Cue

    A Cue is something that triggers your habit. It might be an event, an action, a feeling, people, or even an emotional state.

    A Routine

    A Routine is the behavior that follows after your habit has been triggered. Because habits are on ‘autopilot’, a routine is usually the same sequence of actions that is taken each and every time.

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    A Reward

    A Reward is the positive reinforcement your brain identifies with the Routine that you’ve just taken. It associates the Routine with the Cue; so, your brain remembers to repeat the behavior again in order to get the same Reward in the future.

    Looking at this simple loop, you can see that the culprit of any bad habit starts from the Cue. That is what triggers the start of the Habit Loop.

    Let’s use a popular example of a bad habit: Smoking.

    Perhaps you might be feeling stressed (Cue) after a long meeting; you decide to take a little break and light up a cigarette (Routine). While smoking, you start feeling calm and relaxed from the nicotine rush, giving you a physical sensation of satisfaction (Reward). As a result, you continue with this routine every time you feel stressed or want to unwind.

    Here, you can see that Cues are the starting point for each time you go through a Habit Loop. Theoretically, without the Cue to trigger your habit, your Routine or behavior won’t follow… and the Reward will not be attained. When any part of the Habit Loop is broken, that’s a potential weak point, which you can utilize to help you break your habit.

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    It’s Time to Take Control of Your Cues

    This means that the first step to controlling your habits is to take control of your Cues. Go back to the specific habit that I asked you to think of in the beginning. Can you identify the cue that kicks off your habit?

    Now, think of another habit that you have. Of the 2 habits that you’ve identified, which one is more prominent in your daily life? Now compare the 2 potential cues for each habit. Are they different in nature?

    Since Cues are the beginning spark for any habit to form, one of the main reasons habits are unequal is because they each have a different Quality of Cues. Some Cues are just more effective than others. The more Regular a cue is, the more likely the habit will form. The more Stable a cue is, in that it is seldom affected by external factors, it is also more likely the habit will form.

    And, while we’re talking about regularity and stability, time is of the essence. The shorter the time frame that a cue repeats, the more effective a Cue becomes. Anything more than a week means a Cue becomes a lot less effective.

    Ready to Break the Habit Loop?

    By now, I hope you can see that every element in the Habit Loop feeds and reinforces each other, creating a snowball effect. A habit becomes stronger as you repeat it more times. By understanding and tackling the first part of the Habit Loop – the Cue, you’re already one step closer to controlling your habits!

    If you want to control your habits, and learn more about mastering the Cornerstone Skill – Habit, start the life-changing journey with us here!

    Featured photo credit: Lukas Blazek via unsplash.com

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