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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.

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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:

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    • 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.

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    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.

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    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

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    Conor Neill

    Professor of Leadership, President Vistage Spain

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    Last Updated on September 16, 2019

    How to Stop Procrastinating: 11 Practical Ways for Procrastinators

    How to Stop Procrastinating: 11 Practical Ways for Procrastinators

    You have a deadline looming. However, instead of doing your work, you are fiddling with miscellaneous things like checking email, social media, watching videos, surfing blogs and forums. You know you should be working, but you just don’t feel like doing anything.

    We are all familiar with the procrastination phenomenon. When we procrastinate, we squander away our free time and put off important tasks we should be doing them till it’s too late. And when it is indeed too late, we panic and wish we got started earlier.

    The chronic procrastinators I know have spent years of their life looped in this cycle. Delaying, putting off things, slacking, hiding from work, facing work only when it’s unavoidable, then repeating this loop all over again. It’s a bad habit that eats us away and prevents us from achieving greater results in life.

    Don’t let procrastination take over your life. Here, I will share my personal steps on how to stop procrastinating. These 11 steps will definitely apply to you too:

    1. Break Your Work into Little Steps

    Part of the reason why we procrastinate is because subconsciously, we find the work too overwhelming for us. Break it down into little parts, then focus on one part at the time. If you still procrastinate on the task after breaking it down, then break it down even further. Soon, your task will be so simple that you will be thinking “gee, this is so simple that I might as well just do it now!”.

    For example, I’m currently writing a new book (on How to achieve anything in life). Book writing at its full scale is an enormous project and can be overwhelming. However, when I break it down into phases such as –

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    • (1) Research
    • (2) Deciding the topic
    • (3) Creating the outline
    • (4) Drafting the content
    • (5) Writing Chapters #1 to #10,
    • (6) Revision
    • (7) etc.

    Suddenly it seems very manageable. What I do then is to focus on the immediate phase and get it done to my best ability, without thinking about the other phases. When it’s done, I move on to the next.

    2. Change Your Environment

    Different environments have different impact on our productivity. Look at your work desk and your room. Do they make you want to work or do they make you want to snuggle and sleep? If it’s the latter, you should look into changing your workspace.

    One thing to note is that an environment that makes us feel inspired before may lose its effect after a period of time. If that’s the case, then it’s time to change things around. Refer to Steps #2 and #3 of 13 Strategies To Jumpstart Your Productivity, which talks about revamping your environment and workspace.

    3. Create a Detailed Timeline with Specific Deadlines

    Having just 1 deadline for your work is like an invitation to procrastinate. That’s because we get the impression that we have time and keep pushing everything back, until it’s too late.

    Break down your project (see tip #1), then create an overall timeline with specific deadlines for each small task. This way, you know you have to finish each task by a certain date. Your timelines must be robust, too – i.e. if you don’t finish this by today, it’s going to jeopardize everything else you have planned after that. This way it creates the urgency to act.

    My goals are broken down into monthly, weekly, right down to the daily task lists, and the list is a call to action that I must accomplish this by the specified date, else my goals will be put off.

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    Here’re more tips on setting deadlines: 22 Tips for Effective Deadlines

    4. Eliminate Your Procrastination Pit-Stops

    If you are procrastinating a little too much, maybe that’s because you make it easy to procrastinate.

    Identify your browser bookmarks that take up a lot of your time and shift them into a separate folder that is less accessible. Disable the automatic notification option in your email client. Get rid of the distractions around you.

    I know some people will out of the way and delete or deactivate their facebook accounts. I think it’s a little drastic and extreme as addressing procrastination is more about being conscious of our actions than counteracting via self-binding methods, but if you feel that’s what’s needed, go for it.

    5. Hang out with People Who Inspire You to Take Action

    I’m pretty sure if you spend just 10 minutes talking to Steve Jobs or Bill Gates, you’ll be more inspired to act than if you spent the 10 minutes doing nothing. The people we are with influence our behaviors. Of course spending time with Steve Jobs or Bill Gates every day is probably not a feasible method, but the principle applies — The Hidden Power of Every Single Person Around You

    Identify the people, friends or colleagues who trigger you – most likely the go-getters and hard workers – and hang out with them more often. Soon you will inculcate their drive and spirit too.

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    As a personal development blogger, I “hang out” with inspiring personal development experts by reading their blogs and corresponding with them regularly via email and social media. It’s communication via new media and it works all the same.

    6. Get a Buddy

    Having a companion makes the whole process much more fun. Ideally, your buddy should be someone who has his/her own set of goals. Both of you will hold each other accountable to your goals and plans. While it’s not necessary for both of you to have the same goals, it’ll be even better if that’s the case, so you can learn from each other.

    I have a good friend whom I talk to regularly, and we always ask each other about our goals and progress in achieving those goals. Needless to say, it spurs us to keep taking action.

    7. Tell Others About Your Goals

    This serves the same function as #6, on a larger scale. Tell all your friends, colleagues, acquaintances and family about your projects. Now whenever you see them, they are bound to ask you about your status on those projects.

    For example, sometimes I announce my projects on The Personal Excellence Blog, Twitter and Facebook, and my readers will ask me about them on an ongoing basis. It’s a great way to keep myself accountable to my plans.

    8. Seek out Someone Who Has Already Achieved the Outcome

    What is it you want to accomplish here, and who are the people who have accomplished this already? Go seek them out and connect with them. Seeing living proof that your goals are very well achievable if you take action is one of the best triggers for action.

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    9. Re-Clarify Your Goals

    If you have been procrastinating for an extended period of time, it might reflect a misalignment between what you want and what you are currently doing. Often times, we outgrow our goals as we discover more about ourselves, but we don’t change our goals to reflect that.

    Get away from your work (a short vacation will be good, else just a weekend break or staycation will do too) and take some time to regroup yourself. What exactly do you want to achieve? What should you do to get there? What are the steps to take? Does your current work align with that? If not, what can you do about it?

    10. Stop Over-Complicating Things

    Are you waiting for a perfect time to do this? That maybe now is not the best time because of X, Y, Z reasons? Ditch that thought because there’s never a perfect time. If you keep waiting for one, you are never going to accomplish anything.

    Perfectionism is one of the biggest reasons for procrastination. Read more about why perfectionist tendencies can be a bane than a boon: Why Being A Perfectionist May Not Be So Perfect.

    11. Get a Grip and Just Do It

    At the end, it boils down to taking action. You can do all the strategizing, planning and hypothesizing, but if you don’t take action, nothing’s going to happen. Occasionally, I get readers and clients who keep complaining about their situations but they still refuse to take action at the end of the day.

    Reality check:

    I have never heard anyone procrastinate their way to success before and I doubt it’s going to change in the near future.  Whatever it is you are procrastinating on, if you want to get it done, you need to get a grip on yourself and do it.

    More About Procrastination

    Featured photo credit: Malvestida Magazine via unsplash.com

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