Work satisfaction and material success in life come largely from completing important tasks.
As humans, however, we have this built-in tendency to procrastinate on the road to our dreams. The bad news is that the struggle never really goes away. But the good news is that you can push forward with greater ease if you master the ideas presented below. I used to watch hours of YouTube videos before getting anything productive done. But after a few years (yes, it’s a process) I managed to re-wire my brain and now I’m crushing my tasks at a high pace.
There are dozens of books written about procrastination, but the ones that helped me the most are:
- Eat That Frog: 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time by Brian Tracy
- Solving the Procrastination Puzzle: A Concise Guide to Strategies for Change by Timothy A. Pychyl
I took some of the best ideas from these books and sprinkled them with my observations. In the list below I share quick tips for stopping procrastination and achieving high productivity. Enjoy and then get back to work.
9 Tips On How To Stop Procrastination:
1. Putting off work is self-deception
When you want to put off the necessary task, just recognize it as a way to make yourself feel good in the present (but realize that it will make you feel awful in the future). That’s why you need to stay put! Repeat the mantra – “I can do it now, do it now and get it over with.” Repeat “Do it now” and “Back to work” over and over till it’s engraved in your cerebral cortex. Try out the following exercise: Imagine yourself at 80 years old. Think about all the things you didn’t accomplish because of procrastination. Feel the pain of disappointment. The fear of loss is a powerful driver of human behavior. Use it to your advantage.
2. You won’t feel more like doing it tomorrow
You can’t predict your mood tomorrow. You have to deal with your tasks today. Realize that your level of motivation will be probably the same tomorrow. So why just don’t do it right now? Self-discipline is dealing with your tasks even if you don’t feel like it. One thing that helped me greatly was writing down my goals and looking at them every day. This gives me more willpower to go for it. It’s a habit of some of the most successful people in the world.
3. Just get started – trick yourself into doing “just a little”
You have to “just get started” and realize that it’s your brain that wants you to delay. Red flag your procrastination response. What do you say to yourself when rationalizing? If you say something like “Oh, I will just start on this tomorrow” then recognize it and start working right away. If you just get started, you will see that it’s not so bad at all. Recognize your procrastination responses and just get on with it. Do as little as 5 minutes and you’ll soon find out you can do more. Also, avoid perfectionism by recognizing that nothing is ideal when you do it the first time. But every iteration brings you closer to the final product. Pro tip: Make a deal with yourself – instead of writing the whole chapter, write just 100 words. Soon you’ll realize that the hardest thing is to start (especially in the scribbling business). Once you’re in “work mode” it’s much easier to keep going.
4. Make a to-do list the night before and break down your tasks as much as possible
All high-achievers use lists to motivate themselves to take action. Make your list in the evening so that your mind can work on ways to accomplish your goals even while you’re asleep. Your list will usually include one big task that’s going to move you forward the most. You’re most likely to procrastinate on this one so break it down into SUPER SMALL chunks. Decide that you’ll do just a few of them. Eat the elephant one bite at a time. Pro tip: Always break down your tasks into manageable parts. It’s much easier to get started on a task that’ll take 30 minutes, than a humongous behemoth of a task that makes Sisyphus look like a slacker.
5. Minimize distractions in your workspace
From Daily Rituals: How Artists Work, I’ve learned that many famous writers and artists lock themselves up before starting work. They don’t allow anyone to knock on the door until they’re done with their daily creative routine. Maybe you don’t want to be so extreme but a healthy dose of alienation certainly wouldn’t hurt. Ever wondered why the CEOs of big companies are at the office 2 hours before anyone else? It’s because avoiding distractions helps them to get the most important things done. The key to high productivity is to focus on your tasks until they’re 100% complete. When someone distracts you, it takes as much as 15 minutes to get back to the creative flow. Prevent that at all costs. Pro tip: You’re probably procrastinating by using your favorite websites and apps. You can intentionally put your phone in plane mode or use extensions like a site blocker to help you concentrate during work hours.
6. Recognize the limits of your willpower
Unfortunately, willpower is a limited resource. You can strengthen it quite a bit, but up to a point. People who want to start an exercise routine find themselves constantly putting it off if they want to work out in the evening. This happens because, after work, your willpower resources are already depleted. If you want to avoid procrastination on your major task, do it first thing in the morning when your willpower is at its best. Pro tip: If you’re hungry, you’re more likely to procrastinate. Eat slow-carb foods that’ll supply you with energy for many hours. Also, drink fresh matcha to get a steady flow of energy without the side effects of coffee.
7. Prepare mentally before plunging in
The human mind is quite trainable and easily susceptible to suggestion. For Pavlov’s dogs, it was the sound of the bell that made their mouths salivate automatically. You can use the same principle but in a subtler way. Before starting on your major task, prepare your workspace and get into the right mindset that’ll put you in “work mode”. Some people put on their “work clothes” or do a certain ritual before working. You can also prepare everything you need, get your caffeine going, and set up your favorite music. Once everything is ready, plunge in and start working. Do this a couple of times and you will re-wire your brain so that the prep tasks automatically put you in high-concentration mode. Pro tip: Use a timer when working to train your mind to work in rhythms.
8. Get addicted to completing your tasks
Your brain runs on hormones like serotonin and dopamine, which give you this pleasurable warm feeling in the belly. When you accomplish a task, a small amount of serotonin is secreted into your system. That’s why completing your tasks is so crucial! When you leave the task without getting it done you miss out on the neurotransmitter high. So stay with your task until it’s completed and then cross it off your list. Then say to yourself: “Yes, I freaking did it!” With time, you’ll get a positive addiction to that state so you will crave some tasks to complete to get the happy feeling. This is a procrastination eliminator par excellence.
9. Listen to positive, motivational audiobooks
Sometimes you wish to function in a more positive workplace, but it’s not always possible. But you become who you hang around with, right? If your immediate environment isn’t super positive, you can listen to motivational audiobooks where someone will whisper to your ear not only that you can do it, but that you have to do it. One of the most inspirational audiobooks I’ve listened to recently is Be Obsessed or Be Average by Grant Cardone. Just plug this thing in your ear and your motivation to accomplish tasks will go through the roof – guaranteed. Next up, you may want to explore a guide on how to deal with procrastination as a student.
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