Advertising

Procrastination, Shmastination. 3 Power Tools to Get Things Done

Advertising
Procrastination, Shmastination. 3 Power Tools to Get Things Done

My entire life can be divided into 3 phases.

Phase 1:  Blissful Avoidance

I am at school. I am good at maths. I just get maths. I avoid languages, I avoid arts, I focus on maths and physics and computers. I get by without doing any work. This phase lasted until age 21, the final year of university.

Phase 2:  Lucky, and Avoiding Responsibility

I am at university, I am in my early years of management consulting work. My university had just gotten all excited about 2 things: team work and oral presentations. I knew how to get the good students to work with me. The deal was that I would do the end of project presentation and some of the easy writing, they did the hard work.

I didn’t know I was procrastinating. I didn’t see myself as avoiding work. My own vision of myself was blind to the fact that I consistently let others step in to finish the work. I use the word blind deliberately. I must have been very frustrating to work with because I was beautifully deluded.

Phase 3:  Realisation

The third phase began when I started my first company as an entrepreneur. I thought I could sell but was the corporate logo that sold. I thought I was productive but it was the others who produced. I didn’t get things done.

I was good at making a good first impression. I was good at thinking fast and helping others get excited about possibilities.

Finally I realised: I was a walking bundle of excuses. My name was Procrastinator.

Advertising

The Procrastinator

The origin of the word is in two latin notions:

  1. Pro means forward
  2. Crastinus means of tomorrow

It is the art of moving anything really important off to tomorrow and replacing that activity with unimportant activity of all types.

What is unimportant?

Here’s the definition of procrastination activity. For a behaviour to be considered procrastination, I believe it should meet the following 3 criteria:

  1. counterproductive
  2. needless and
  3. delaying.

By the way…  Doctor Freud would suggest that blogging a definition of procrastination is clearly an act of procrastination.

Getting Serious about Personal Productivity

There is a fourth phase to my life.  It starts when I started writing. There is no more brutal indicator of procrastination than the total number of words written per day.

I blog, I write articles, I write chapters for a future book. I use Scrivener to do my writing.  It tracks words. It tracks how many words I need to do to finish, how many words I should write today.  Have a look at an overall project statistics from Scrivener.

Screen Shot 2014-10-20 at 23.45.30
    The Writer’s Scoreboard

    Stephen King says “A writer is a producer of words.”  It is simple:

    Advertising

    • If you produce words, you are a writer;
    • If you don’t produce words, you are not a writer.

    There is nowhere to hide. If I have watched 6 TED videos, my morning statistic says 0 words produced. If I go out for 4 coffees, my morning statistic says 0 words produced.

    I know what an unproductive day looks like. I can recognise the features of a zero day.

    What’s the opposite? What is a productive day? What’s in a ‘Get Things Done’ day?

    My 3 Power Tools of Get Things Done

    1. The Nike method (Pomodoro technique)
    2. Forgive yourself by re-labelling “Creative idleness”
    3. Do Absolutely Nothing for 10 full minutes

    The Nike method (Pomodoro technique)

    Nike’s slogan is “Just do it”. I often use a slightly more aggressive form of this slogan: Get started.

    Do the first minute. If I start writing, I will not stop until I have hit 500 on the word count. I won’t edit, I won’t stop. I will keep the keys moving. Sometimes I will write “I will keep writing, I will keep writing” because there is no intelligent idea ready. What always happens is that the resistance inside me (Steven Pressfield is the master on Resistance) fights the start, but once I show that I am going to stay at the keyboard, it relents and allows some ideas to form and to flow onto the page.

    The Pomodoro technique is the best how-to guide to how to implement “just do it” into your life.

    Forgive yourself by re-labelling “Creative idleness”

    Guilt about wasted mornings will kill afternoons. I fail often. My days are littered with grand plans that ended up as candy crush saga and clash of clans on my iphone.

    Advertising

    One powerful way to ruin the afternoon is to know that you should have done better in the morning. The powerful way to ruin the morning is to know that you should have done better yesterday. Guilt is a killer. It is an invisible shackle that holds us stuck fast.

    I forgive myself. I call my morning a “creative idleness” session. I call yesterday a “creative idleness” session. I may not have produced words, but I did give myself some experience that might serve.

    As I entrepreneur, I learnt to tell myself “4 years ago I took the best decision the ‘Me’ of 4 years ago could have taken”. I cannot change the past, I have learnt from it.

    Tom Peters says, “The only source of good knowledge is bad experience.”

    Do Absolutely Nothing for 10 full minutes

    This is brutal for me. This is the nuclear tool. If I have really not been able to get some discipline in my day with tools 1 & 2, I go for the nuclear option.

    Do absolutely nothing.

    Set a timer. 10 minutes. Do absolutely nothing. Watch your urges and impulses, accept them… but do not act upon them. Sit still. Watch the struggle in your mind. Your inner voice will get very angry and passionate that you must, must do something. Don’t. Wait. Hold.

    Advertising

    This energy of desire to do something… allow it to build and build. When the timer signals 10 minutes, then release this energy of desire to take action upon the important task, the phone call you have been avoiding, the conversation with your loved one that you meant to have yesterday.

    This are 3 Power tools. How are you going to use them?

    Procrastination is Perfectionism in other Clothes

    Procrastination is a cunning version of Perfectionism. Human beings are not perfect, yet our inner voice wants us to be. If we can’t be perfect, why start? Well, we are human beings – we are not here to be perfect, we are here for the journey. The journey begins with steps. Steps off the sofa, into the world. Into the world selling, writing, speaking.

    (and here are 1113 words for me!)

    Ha! (here are 1114!)

    Featured photo credit: Deadoll via flickr.com

    More by this author

    Conor Neill

    Professor of Leadership, President Vistage Spain

    The Most Important Thing You Can Do in the Next 10 days to Improve Your Speaking The 5 Styles of Being a Leader How to Start a Speech using a Personal Story 11 Differences Between Busy People And Productive People 19 Ways To Move People To Action Like Gandhi Did

    Trending in Productivity

    1 How to Create Your Own Ritual to Conquer Time Wasters and Laziness 2 Are You Addicted to Productivity? 3 Is Avoiding Difficult Tasks And Doing Easy Tasks First Less Productive? 4 How Remote Work Affects Your Productivity And Wellbeing (Backed By Data) 5 10 Best Productivity Planners To Get More Done in 2021

    Read Next

    Advertising
    Advertising

    Last Updated on October 21, 2021

    How to Create Your Own Ritual to Conquer Time Wasters and Laziness

    Advertising
    How to Create Your Own Ritual to Conquer Time Wasters and Laziness

    Life is wasted in the in-between times. The time between when your alarm first rings and when you finally decide to get out of bed. The time between when you sit at your desk and when productive work begins. The time between making a decision and doing something about it.

    Slowly, your day is whittled away from all the unused in-between moments. Eventually, time wasters, laziness, and procrastination get the better of you.

    The solution to reclaim these lost middle moments is by creating rituals. Every culture on earth uses rituals to transfer information and encode behaviors that are deemed important. Personal rituals can help you build a better pattern for handling everything from how you wake up to how you work.

    Unfortunately, when most people see rituals, they see pointless superstitions. Indeed, many rituals are based on a primitive understanding of the world. But by building personal rituals, you get to encode the behaviors you feel are important and cut out the wasted middle moments.

    Advertising

    Program Your Own Algorithms

    Another way of viewing rituals is by seeing them as computer algorithms. An algorithm is a set of instructions that is repeated to get a result.

    Some algorithms are highly efficient, sorting or searching millions of pieces of data in a few seconds. Other algorithms are bulky and awkward, taking hours to do the same task.

    By forming rituals, you are building algorithms for your behavior. Take the delayed and painful pattern of waking up, debating whether to sleep in for another two minutes, hitting the snooze button, repeat until almost late for work. This could be reprogrammed to get out of bed immediately, without debating your decision.

    How to Form a Ritual

    I’ve set up personal rituals for myself for handling e-mail, waking up each morning, writing articles, and reading books. Far from making me inflexible, these rituals give me a useful default pattern that works best 99% of the time. Whenever my current ritual won’t work, I’m always free to stop using it.

    Advertising

    Forming a ritual isn’t too difficult, and the same principles for changing habits apply:

    1. Write out your sequence of behavior. I suggest starting with a simple ritual of only 3-4 steps maximum. Wait until you’ve established a ritual before you try to add new steps.
    2. Commit to following your ritual for thirty days. This step will take the idea and condition it into your nervous system as a habit.
    3. Define a clear trigger. When does your ritual start? A ritual to wake up is easy—the sound of your alarm clock will work. As for what triggers you to go to the gym, read a book or answer e-mail—you’ll have to decide.
    4. Tweak the Pattern. Your algorithm probably won’t be perfectly efficient the first time. Making a few tweaks after the first 30-day trial can make your ritual more useful.

    Ways to Use a Ritual

    Based on the above ideas, here are some ways you could implement your own rituals:

    1. Waking Up

    Set up a morning ritual for when you wake up and the next few things you do immediately afterward. To combat the grogginess after immediately waking up, my solution is to do a few pushups right after getting out of bed. After that, I sneak in ninety minutes of reading before getting ready for morning classes.

    2. Web Usage

    How often do you answer e-mail, look at Google Reader, or check Facebook each day? I found by taking all my daily internet needs and compressing them into one, highly-efficient ritual, I was able to cut off 75% of my web time without losing any communication.

    Advertising

    3. Reading

    How much time do you get to read books? If your library isn’t as large as you’d like, you might want to consider the rituals you use for reading. Programming a few steps to trigger yourself to read instead of watching television or during a break in your day can chew through dozens of books each year.

    4. Friendliness

    Rituals can also help with communication. Set up a ritual of starting a conversation when you have opportunities to meet people.

    5. Working

    One of the hardest barriers when overcoming procrastination is building up a concentrated flow. Building those steps into a ritual can allow you to quickly start working or continue working after an interruption.

    6. Going to the gym

    If exercising is a struggle, encoding a ritual can remove a lot of the difficulty. Set up a quick ritual for going to exercise right after work or when you wake up.

    Advertising

    7. Exercise

    Even within your workouts, you can have rituals. Spacing the time between runs or reps with a certain number of breaths can remove the guesswork. Forming a ritual of doing certain exercises in a particular order can save time.

    8. Sleeping

    Form a calming ritual in the last 30-60 minutes of your day before you go to bed. This will help slow yourself down and make falling asleep much easier. Especially if you plan to get up full of energy in the morning, it will help if you remove insomnia.

    8. Weekly Reviews

    The weekly review is a big part of the GTD system. By making a simple ritual checklist for my weekly review, I can get the most out of this exercise in less time. Originally, I did holistic reviews where I wrote my thoughts on the week and progress as a whole. Now, I narrow my focus toward specific plans, ideas, and measurements.

    Final Thoughts

    We all want to be productive. But time wasters, procrastination, and laziness sometimes get the better of us. If you’re facing such difficulties, don’t be afraid to make use of these rituals to help you conquer them.

    Advertising

    More Tips to Conquer Time Wasters and Procrastination

     

    Featured photo credit: RODOLFO BARRETO via unsplash.com

    Read Next