How often do you wait until the last minute to jump on an important task? Are you stuck in a cycle of procrastination that you can’t escape? Unfortunately, it’s not just you. It’s happened to even the most productive people at one point or another. In this article, you’ll learn how to skip procrastination by training yourself with some strategy and motivation.
The first step? Acknowledging that procrastination has become a problem.
Procrastination isn’t always about vegging out on the couch on a rainy Saturday because you’re exhausted from a hectic week at work. Instead, it’s a chronic condition where you postpone essential decisions or actions. Why? It could be because you’re anxious, afraid of failure, or don’t know where to start.
We all experience this at some point in our lives. However, once you admit that you’re a procrastinator, you can start taking steps to improve. And one effective way to overcome procrastination is by working your trusty calendar.
Implement a daily routine.
“One reason it is so easy to slip back into procrastination time after time is that we don’t have a clear system for deciding what is important and what we should work on first,” explains the bestselling author of Atomic Habits James Clear.
“One of the best productivity systems I have found is also one of the most simple.” That system is called Ivy Lee Method, and it consists of six steps:
- Every night, write down the six most important things you need to get done the next day. Limit yourself to six tasks.
- Sort these six items by importance.
- Upon arriving tomorrow, pay attention only to the first task. Do not move on to the second task until the first task is completed.
- The rest of your list should be approached in the same way. If you have any unfinished items at the end of the day, move them to the list of six tasks for the next day.
- Every working day, repeat the process.
Now, I take this a step further. How? By adding my essential tasks to my calendar. This way, I know when to work on a specific task and how long — more on that in a minute.
Also, it prevents less important tasks from distracting me. For example, if a friend calls to ask if I can grab lunch, but it’s during the block of time I set aside for a priority, I reschedule.
James also adds that using something like the Ivy Lee Method requires working on a single task. As such, you aren’t depleting your energy by jumping between tasks.
And this removes the friction of starting. In other words, you know when it’s time to work and what exactly you’ll be focusing on.
“Timeboxing is a method of time blocking where you limit the amount of time you can work on any particular task,” notes Calendar’s Angela Ruth. “So instead of giving yourself infinite time to work on a single item throughout the day, you’ll limit yourself to 90-minute time blocks.”
“The psychology behind “timeboxing” has to do with time scarcity and deadlines, where your limited time forces you to do things more efficiently and get more done,” Angela adds. Have you ever procrastinated on a task until the last minute and finally got to it? While some feed off of this, it’s incredibly stressful. Thankfully, the use of timeboxing eliminates the need for delaying tasks until the deadline approaches.
“Timeboxing is a great way to ‘trick’ your brain into thinking you have less time than you actually have, getting you moving,” she says. But, again, one step at a time is how we should always approach your biggest goals in life.
“As an additional bonus, timeboxing lets you schedule breaks between focus blocks,” continues Angela. Why’s that important? It ensures that “you get adequate rest and feel refreshed going into the next ‘timebox.’”
Schedule the worst thing first.
When it comes to unpleasant but still significant — tasks, you have two options.
The first? Procrastinate.
The thing is, pushing this unpleasant task off won’t make it enjoyable. It also won’t lessen the importance of completing it. You will inevitably have to buckle down and get this done eventually. But, even worse, having this hang over your head leads to mental turmoil and zaps your energy.
While not as popular, the second option is to deal with these tasks first and foremost. Not only does this overcome procrastination, but it also removes its power to provoke negative emotions or resistance. Even more important, this builds momentum for you to tackle your other priorities throughout the day.
To make unpleasant tasks a little more enjoyable, listen to a playlist of your favorite songs. Or, use gamification by seeing how much you can get done in under 20-minutes.
Give (10+2)*5 a try.
Merlin Mann, the creator of 43Folders.com, created a classic but convenient hack called (10+2)*5. So relax. Fortunately, this isn’t a complex mathematical formula you’ll have to solve.
The (10+2)*5 is simply 10 minutes of work + 2 minutes of break multiplied by 5, making one hour. Of course, the time limits must be respected, and breaks must not be skipped. This structure of (10+2)*5 gives you a consistent work schedule and frequent breaks throughout the day.
Set up an agenda for breaks.
Speaking of breaks, maximize them by listing everything you would like to do during your breather. Have a plan, whether you decide to check your email, post to social media, grab a snack, or go for a stroll.
As with the (10+2)*5 hack, schedule these activities for only 20 minutes between work time. Eventually, you’ll take more productive breaks. Furthermore, you are doing what you enjoy while still getting things done.
Take care of yourself.
“As you know, neglecting your health and well-being is a huge mistake,” writes Abby Miller in a previous Calendar post. “When you aren’t getting enough sleep, eating a healthy diet, or exercising, you feel more like a sloth.”
As a result, weakness and fatigue keep you from getting through the day. In addition, your immune system is compromised. Moreover, you may suffer from mental health disorders such as depression and stress.
“In other words, when you don’t take care of yourself, it’s much easier to procrastinate because you’re just not up to it mentally or physically,” Abby adds.
How can you change that? First, you should eliminate those unhealthy habits and replace them with healthier options. And, to follow through, add these healthy habits to your calendar like you would with an important meeting or appointment.
Also, don’t forget to add a self-care routine to your calendar as well. You might find it challenging to take a step back from your work priorities. But, to remain happy and energized, you need a bit of a break to do the things you enjoy outside of work.
Spend more time with people who inspire you.
Determine which people, friends, or colleagues trigger you. Ideally, this would be the hard workers and the go-getters. Then surround yourself with them more frequently, like having a daily power work session. Before long, their hard work and attitude will be imprinted in you.
What if you work remotely or are a freelancer who flies solo? One idea would be to relocate to a coworking space or coffee shop.
“Research shows that the stimuli in these places make them effective environments to work,” Bryan Lufkin writes for the BBC. “The combination of noise, casual crowds, and visual variety can give us just the right amount of distraction to help us be our sharpest and most creative.”
Designate a task buddy.
On the flip side, if you procrastinate, someone could reprimand you for it. It could be your supervisor, business partner, colleague, or even your significant other. Of course, you don’t want them to micromanage you. But maybe they could check in on you during a scheduled break.
In addition, you might pay up non-completed tasks or times you visit to watch a YouTube video. Let’s see how often you’ll procrastinate every time it costs you five bucks.
Go on a winning streak.
How can you go on a productivity winning streak? Making streaks (or chains) of completed tasks that you don’t want to break can motivate you to accomplish tasks.
For example, you could decide that you will be adding to your streak every time you avoid social media or finish one page of your eBook.
It is up to you how you keep track of your streaks. But the more meaningful you make your streak, the more you will be motivated to keep it up and avoid procrastination.
You can keep track of your streaks by using the Seinfeld strategy. The Seinfeld strategy simply involves marking a big red X in your calendar every day you reach your daily goal. You might also be able to keep track of your streaks in your time-management app if it has a feature that allows you to do so.
Make weekly goal tracking a priority.
What’s the point of tracking your goals weekly?
You can make substantial progress towards your goals in a week. Despite its short length, it’s flexible enough to allow you to modify your actions if you stray off course. You can also break larger goals into smaller ones in this way, which makes them more manageable and less daunting.
Using the weekly goal tracking method may require you to establish a weekly focus. You can choose whatever motivates you for this week — whether it is a quote, a phrase, or a poem. Choose a goal that inspires you to strive for better results each week or for something special this week in your life. Place your weekly goal on a card and carry it with you for added motivation.
Make sure you schedule time every week to decide where your focus will be directed. If possible, do this before the week begins. I update my Calendar for the week on Sunday afternoon or evening by filling in any items that need to be added and choosing by particular emphasis for the week.
Image credit: Brett Jordan; Pexels; Thank you!