There’s one thing that all humans excel in, it’s called procrastination. You gotta trust me alright? I used to be a master at procrastination, I practiced using it everyday. I lived my life around it.
But then, well I sorta found that I wasn’t getting anywhere in life. So I decided to abandon it; the outcome of this decision took a long, long time to come around. Besides, you can’t ‘eliminate’ procrastination. Sure, you can cut down on it, avoid it wherever possible – but it’s always there, You can take medication to harness an incurable disease but it doesn’t mean that disease goes away, it’s waiting patiently to pop back up.
1. You’re responsible for everything
Understand that the second definition of procrastination is excuse. Excuses are a way of bringing something that we didn’t cause into the scene to help us justify why we’re not taking action. Example: “I can’t start my assignment because the person in the room next to me is playing loud music”, or “It’s his fault that I’m so tired and can’t do anything, he’s the one who invited me to a party”. The second example is a bit extreme, but I can guarantee that people make that accusation regularly, the first example? A little different.
You might read the first example and think – Yeah, well fair enough, I’m not the one playing loud music. That’s true, it’s not your fault that there’s loud music playing, but it’s definitely your responsibility to take action against it and buy some earplugs or put on headphones. Once you take control of this powerful idea, your habit of procrastination will dissolve.
2. Have a positive desire to succeed
A positive idea is generally stronger than a negative one. Our brain is used to negative ideas, it’s handled them before and knows how to do it again. A negative way of thinking would be to say to yourself, “I hate procrastination, I want it to stop.” Keywords ‘hate’ and ‘stop’. The only desire behind this is negative, the only reason you want to stop procrastinating is because you ‘hate’ it. Well that’s pretty vague.
Make it positive. Do you have a goal you want to achieve? Use that as your positive desire – “I want to lose 5 kgs by April, I will achieve this and procrastination won’t get in my way.”
3. Admit to being guilty when you fail
This goes in line with tip #1. When you fail to achieve something, whether it be a goal or a task, it’s because you procrastinated. Acknowledge this and you’ll find that procrastination plays a much bigger part in your life that you think it does. Make sure that you aren’t too hard on yourself, you never want to turn it into a negative situation. You failed, but you also learnt, right? Do you want to procrastinate like that again? No you don’t, you’ve realized how you procrastinated and this will help you in the future when you’re faced with a similar problem. Continue from the point where you failed.
4. Write down the goals you failed to achieve
So didn’t meet a few goals. Work out how you procrastinated, was it spending time on Facebook? Watching T.V? Whatever it is, write them down.
When you measure the consequences of a missed opportunity because you procrastinated, ask if the consequence was worth the delay.
5. Discover the ways in which you procrastinate
This one’s really important. Sometimes we’re not even aware we’re procrastinating, we’ll be gladly doing our thing, checking our emails, only to realize that we’re in the middle of reading a spam email which has no value to us whatsoever. What happened? Procrastination gave us a visit. Write down a list of the ways that you procrastinate, these could include: postponing appointments, paying bills, not getting your car registered.
Once you’ve listed down as many ways as you can, print out the list and stick it on your wall in front of your desk (or close enough) as a constant reminder to not procrastinate.
6. Put a price on it
Work out how much money you lose from procrastination. That promotion you missed out on because you didn’t get to the conference on time? That article that you never got around to submitting? It helps a lot to put a price tag on your wasted time.
7. Prioritize and Filter
The art of prioritizing. Build the habit of working out which tasks need immediate attention and which tasks can be done later (but still in a time-frame). Assign a number to the tasks, ’1′ being the most important and ’5′ being the least.
8. The weakest ink is better than the strongest memory
A Chinese proverb. The problem with keeping goals and tasks in our mind is that we A) forget about them, or B) never act on them. Be sure to write down your tasks and goals if you want to achieve them. If you write down what needs to be done, you’re the only one who knows what’s urgent and important.
This is where a to-do list comes from as well. When you physically place a tick next to an item that you’ve completed, you get a sense of accomplishment and start the next task with some new found energy.
9. Discard old habits
Take a small moment and think of some of your habits, you’ll either think of some, or not think of any, but you probably have a lot. I’ve written about the reward cycle before, why habits occur and why they’re important. But what are we to do when it comes to breaking old habits?
First off, if you can find an alternative route then go for it. You might be getting your car fixed at a place that charges you more than the average market price, go to a cheaper place. Getting rid of old and bad habits can help us fight procrastination as we usually associate procrastination with a lot of old habits.
10. Recite a mantra
One of the most powerful tools is stepping outside of your mind and talking towards yourself. If you want to have a productive day with little procrastination, wake-up and say something along these lines: “Today is going to be incredibly productive. Why? Because I’m not going to procrastinate. I have tasks to do, goals to achieve. I’m going to get 2 things done before 12pm, my goal is to finish 4 tasks today.”
You’ll be amazed at how powerful that is. Oh, and if you wanna take it to the next level (it might be a little weird, but I encourage you to do it), stand in front of the mirror and say it out loud to yourself.
11. Celebrate your achievement
When you finished something, reward yourself! If you get that promotion you’ve always wanted because you turned up on time to that meeting, be happy! Be excited. Think about the monetary reward from the promotion and how that will benefit you. Do this with every success, big or small. The more you do it, the more you’ll realize how inhibiting procrastination really is.
12. Keep climbing the mountain
There’ll be days where you climb a lot, and there’ll be days where the weather is shocking and you won’t climb at all. The most important thing is to not go back down the mountain (well until you reach the top, this analogy is kinda flawed – ssshhh). If you missed doing some of your tasks yesterday, leave them on your to-do list for today. Don’t think about what you failed to do, instead focus your mind on what you’re going to do.
13. Keep it simple and eliminate clutter
Clutter leads to distraction, distraction prevents you from performing to the best of your ability, which causes you to procrastinate.
Go around your house and take note of everything you don’t need. Is it really essential to have 2 T.V’s in your house? What about that ugly painting sitting on the wall in your office. Dump or sell.
14. Identify time wasters at home
If you have a family then get them in on this as well. Come up with sources of time wasters. Here’s some examples:
15. Avoid having to pay major house repair builds
Procrastination can cost you a lot of money. Just like your body. If you don’t regularly check appliances, you may find yourself paying a massive repair bill due to something that compounded over time. Create a check list of appliances that need to be inspected and ensure everything is in order.
16. Eat healthy
I’m not telling you to eat healthy to avoid procrastination (although it would probably help a lot), I’m saying that procrastination causes people to eat unhealthy. I can guarantee there’s been a time where you didn’t ‘have time’ to cook and instead ordered pizza and soft drink. If you want to avoid this type of procrastination, then shop earlier in the week and plan out each meal. You’ll love yourself for it one day.
17. Take care of yourself first
Some people will take advantage of your willingness to listen. They’ll capitalize on that and tell you everything about their life and their struggles, it’s fine to listen to people and help them; doing it too often will cause you to procrastinate.
Ask yourself why you listen to their problems, is it so you can avoid work or your own issues? Don’t use friendship to justify procrastination.
18. Stay Balanced
I’m all for being diverse, believe me. I’m a music producer, blogger, writer, reader, tweeter, musician, the list goes on. Let me assure you that I don’t spend an equal amount of time and focus on each of these things. If I did I’d get nowhere plus I’d stretch myself thin. You can’t do everything, that’s something you will learn to accept if you want to succeed. Often we use other things in our life to procrastinate. For example, I wanted to start a blog, so I started trying to learn code and how it all works, so I could design it. In the end I just realized that I was procrastinating, avoiding the real objective which was to write a blog. For a small amount of money I got it set-up in less than two hours.
Sometimes it’s better to pay someone to do the job for you.
19. Make selective commitments
Sometimes we use commitments as a way to avoid the real problem, or the work we have to do. It could be joining a sports club, or some sort of group. Before you make any type of commitment, you have to ask yourself it it’s going to draw away from your main goals and tasks. If it is, then make the right choice by committing.
20. Learn to say no
Living a balanced life includes having a social side. Without meeting new people or hanging out with friends we’d either slowly fall into depression, or become a hermit. So go out, spend time with your friends, but keep it at a respectable level. It can be easy to justify your procrastination by assuring yourself that you need a social life, 3 parties a week is not a social life, that’s avoiding work.
Learn to say no to friends and colleagues.
21. Check your emails less
In The 4-Hour Workweek, Tim Ferris talks about how he checks email as little as possible. If he’s on holiday he doesn’t check it at all. He justifies this by saying that eventually everything sorts itself out. Keep in mind that he outsources virtual assistants. There’s something we can take from this though, e-mail is not urgent. When you send an e-mail to someone you don’t expect an instant reply, so why would you need to check your own emails so constantly?
If someone desperately wants to contact you, tell them to ring you, not send you a tweet or a message on Facebook. Ring, with a phone.
22. Avoid social media
This is probably the biggest source of procrastination, and I really don’t know why. I used to be addicted to Facebook, I’d waste so much time on it each day. I sort of realized that things were getting out of hand when I was on Facebook on my phone at the same time as I was on at the computer. The problem with social media is that it is an escape, it’s generally used to gossip, share pointless updates and cause people to become upset when they visit their ex-girlfriends page to find out she has a new boyfriend. It is useful in some cases, but that’s generally how it goes most of the time.
23. Important tasks first
There’s a bit of discussion around this idea that we should complete our hardest or most important tasks first. I personally always hit my biggest task for the day after breakfast, as it’s the most productive time of day for me. Even if morning isn’t your most productive day, I’d still encourage you to complete your difficult tasks first. Why? Because if you leave them till later, you’ll constantly be thinking about them, this can lead to an excuse, and we know what excuses mean, right?
On the flipside though, sometimes we wake up and feel like doing nothing. In this case it’s a bit different, you have to get the ball rolling. Do any task, it could be washing the dishes, cleaning your room, something small. This shall hopefully provide you with enough motivation to get going.
24. Stop the gossip
It’s easy to come into work or school and feel the need to talk to your workmates/friends about what happened over the weekend, or why so and so got divorced. Normally when people gossip it means they’re not concerned about the issue that they’re talking about, they just gossip to feel better about themselves. It’s counter-productive to gossip, have a real conversation if you’re going to talk to someone.
25. Quit your job
If you don’t like it, of course. If you rely on your job as the main source of support for you and your family, then have another job waiting. Don’t procrastinate about leaving your job if you’re not happy. There’s two reasons why you should quit your job if you don’t like it:
- You’re not advancing yourself
- You’re not being a productive employee