Advertising
Advertising

Procrastination, Shmastination. 3 Power Tools to Get Things Done

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 Prioritize Right in 10 Minutes and Work 10X Faster 2 11 Ways to Be Productive And Happy At Once 3 What Is a Routine? 9 Ways Routines Make Your Life Easier 4 What Is a Habit? Understand It to Control It 100% 5 11 Important Things to Remember When Changing Habits

    Read Next

    Advertising
    Advertising
    Advertising

    Last Updated on November 18, 2019

    How to Prioritize Right in 10 Minutes and Work 10X Faster

    How to Prioritize Right in 10 Minutes and Work 10X Faster

    Everyone of my team members has a bucketload of tasks that they need to deal with every working day. On top of that, most of their tasks are either creativity tasks or problem solving tasks.

    Despite having loads of tasks to handle, our team is able to stay creative and work towards our goals consistently.

    How do we manage that?

    I’m going to reveal to you how I helped my team get more things done in less time through the power of correct prioritization. A few minutes spent reading this article could literally save you thousands of hours over the long term. So, let’s get started with my method on how to prioritize:

    The Scales Method – a productivity method I created several years ago.

    How to Prioritize with the Scales Method

      One of our new editors came to me the other day and told me how she was struggling to keep up with the many tasks she needed to handle and the deadlines she constantly needed to stick to.

      At the end of each day, she felt like she had done a lot of things but often failed to come up with creative ideas and to get articles successfully published. From what she told me, it was obvious that she felt overwhelmed and was growing increasingly frustrated about failing to achieve her targets despite putting in extra hours most days.

      After she listened to my advice – and I introduced her to the Scales Method – she immediately experienced a dramatic rise in productivity, which looked like this:

      • She could produce three times more creative ideas for blog articles
      • She could publish all her articles on time
      • And she could finish all her work on time every day (no more overtime!)

      Curious to find out how she did it? Read on for the step-by-step guide:

      Advertising

      1. Set Aside 10 Minutes for Planning

      When it comes to tackling productivity issues, it makes sense to plan before taking action. However, don’t become so involved in planning that you become trapped in it and never move beyond first base.

      My recommendation is to give yourself a specific time period for planning – but keep it short. Ideally, 10 or 15 minutes. This should be adequate to think about your plan.

      Use this time to:

      • Look at the big picture.
      • Think about the current goal and target that you need/want to achieve.
      • Lay out all the tasks you need to do.

      2. Align Your Tasks with Your Goal

      This is the core component that makes the Scales Method effective.

      It works like this:

      Take a look at all the tasks you’re doing, and review the importance of each of them. Specifically, measure a task’s importance by its cost and benefit.

      By cost, I am referring to the effort needed per task (including time, money and other resources). The benefit is how closely the task can contribute to your goal.

        To make this easier for you, I’ve listed below four combinations that will enable you to quickly and easily determine the priority of each of your tasks:

        Low Cost + High Benefit

        Advertising

        Do these tasks first because they’re the simple ones to complete, yet help you get closer to your goal.

        Approving artwork created for a sales brochure would likely fit this category. You could easily decide on whether you liked the artwork/layout, but your decision to approve would trigger the production of the leaflet and the subsequent sales benefits of sending it out to potential customers.

        High Cost + High Benefit

        Break the high cost task down into smaller ones. In other words, break the big task into mini ones that take less than an hour to complete. And then re-evaluate these small tasks and set their correct priority level.

        Imagine if you were asked to write a product launch plan for a new diary-free protein powder supplement. Instead of trying to write the plan in one sitting – aim to write the different sections at different times (e.g., spend 30 minutes writing the introduction, one hour writing the body text, and 30 minutes writing the conclusion).

        Low Cost + Low Benefit

        This combination should be your lowest priority. Either give yourself 10-15 minutes to handle this task, or put these kind of tasks in between valuable tasks as a useful break.

        These are probably necessary tasks (e.g., routine tasks like checking emails) but they don’t contribute much towards reaching your desired goal. Keep them way down your priority list.

        High Cost + Low Benefit

        Review if these tasks are really necessary. Think of ways to reduce the cost if you decide that the completion of the task is required.

        Advertising

        For instance, can any tools or systems help to speed up doing the task? In this category, you’re likely to find things like checking and updating sales contacts spreadsheets. This can be a fiddly and time-consuming thing to do without making mistakes. However, there are plenty of apps out there they can make this process instant and seamless.

        Now, coming back to the editor who I referred to earlier, let’s take a look at her typical daily task list:

          After listening to my advice, she broke down the High cost+ High benefit task into smaller ones. Her tasks then looked like this (in order of priority):

            And for the task about promoting articles to different platforms, after reviewing its benefits, we decided to focus on the most effective platform only – thereby significantly lowering the associated time cost.

            Bonus Tip: Tackling Tasks with Deadlines

            Once you’ve evaluated your tasks, you’ll know the importance of each of them. This will immediately give you a crystal-clear picture on which tasks would help you to achieve more (in terms of achieving your goals). Sometimes, however, you won’t be able to decide every task’s priority because there’ll be deadlines set by external parties such as managers and agencies.

            What to do in these cases?

            Well, I suggest that after considering the importance and values of your current tasks, align the list with the deadlines and adjust the priorities accordingly.

            For example, let’s dip into the editor’s world again.

            Advertising

            Some of the articles she edited needed to be published by specific dates. The Scales Method allows for this, and in this case, her amended task list would look something like this:

              Hopefully, you can now see how easy it is to evaluate the importance of tasks and how to order them in lists of priority.

              The Scales Method Is Different from Anything Else You’ve Tried

              By adopting the Scales Method, you’ll begin to correctly prioritize your work, and most importantly – boost your productivity by up to 10 times!

              And unlike other methods that don’t really explain how to decide the importance of a task, my method will help you break down each of your tasks into two parts: cost and benefits. My method will also help you to take follow-up action based on different cost and benefits combinations.

              Start right now by spending 10 minutes to evaluate your common daily tasks and how they align with your goal(s). Once you have this information, it’ll be super-easy to put your tasks into a priority list. All that remains, is that you kick off your next working day by following your new list.

              Trust me, once you begin using the Scales Method – you’ll never want to go back to your old ways of working.

              More to Boost Productivity

              Featured photo credit: Vector Stock via vectorstock.com

              Read Next