Productivity and GTD
20 Strategies To Stop Procrastinating
“Putting off an easy thing makes it hard. Putting off a hard thing makes it impossible” ~ George Claude Lorimer
Although, as I explained last week, procrastination can be approached in a positive way, the fact is that, in general, procrastination is an enemy of your productivity that hinders you tapping your potential.
I have collected this list—randomly sorted—of multiple strategies, some simple and others less so, that independently or combined can help you greatly reduce your level of procrastination:
- Use the Two-Minute Rule. The Two-Minute Rule stems from GTD and says that if you are planning an action that can be done in less than two minutes, don’t continue planning; just do it. You can extend this time to 5 or 10 minutes. If you turn this rule into a habit, there will be a multitude of tasks that you will not have the opportunity to postpone.
- Take a small first step. If you fear a task for whatever reason, consider working only 5 minutes and stop. When you start working the fear fades and you grab momentum to continue and finish the job. Taking the first step helps you beat the resistance and you start to see things that before seemed impossible differently. So stop thinking and start doing anything.
- Routines help. If you turn the repetitive and boring tasks into routines, you will do them with little effort, since they are habits that we do almost unconsciously. Trust me, routines simplify your life.
- Make decisions. Sometimes you are unconsciously postponing a task, simply because you don’t think about it. Take a few minutes to clarify what that task really means and make a decision. You may decide to put it off in a rational manner, in which case you’re not procrastinating so do not feel bad about it.
- Track your time. Keep a journal about which tasks you perform each day and the time you spend on each. By recording how you spend your time, you create an internal commitment that makes you more responsible about how you use it.
- Learn to say no. I bet many of the tasks you are postponing are commitments you got because you did not know how to say no.
- Do not be afraid to leave. It may not be the right time to do something. Sometimes you believe you have to finish something just because you begun. If over time, that project no longer makes sense or it is not important enough, just leave it and do other things. Waiting is not procrastinating.
- Manage your energy, not your time. It is important to work at your best moments. If you are exhausted or cranky, your chances of procrastinating will increase considerably. To have a better attitude, take enough rest, control your nutrition and exercise.
- Use the Seinfeld strategy. Jerry Seinfeld, actor and comedian, uses this strategy to not stop writing jokes every day. If you have to do a task every day, get a calendar and mark with an X each day that you get it done. The goal is not to break the chain of X’s on the calendar.
- Break the work into small and specific tasks. A large and complex project can be overwhelming. Dividing it into small tasks allows you to see clearly the path and the resistance to confront it decreases.
- Set a reward for completing the task that resists getting done. Motivate yourself thinking about what you are going to do after completing the task—something that you really feel like doing, relaxing and not involving any effort. Define your own incentives.
- Make it fun. If it is a boring task, try to find ways to make it fun. Games, Seinfeld strategy, Pomodoro technique, rewards on every major advance, etc…
- Make it public. If it is a major challenge, make it public. Talk about it with your family and friends, post it on your social networks, blog about it… You will feel accountable and committed, and the job will be hard to postpone.
- Use the right words. State your actions in a clear, concise and motivating way. Words matter when you are facing a new task.
- Use a short to-do list. A long list can ruin your sense of control and become a source of stress and frustration. The shorter your Next Actions list, the easier it will be for you to focus on what you really need to do.
- Use the tools you like. Do not try to do everything with a sheet of paper and a pencil. Using attractive things can help you eagerly start a particular task.
- Review regularly your goals. If a task is complicated, uncertain or boring, but it is important in order to achieve a goal, keeping in mind that goal should help you not procrastinate.
- Work on your habits. If you know yourself and find out why you defer constantly certain jobs, you will be able to change your habits and lead them towards less procrastination and greater productivity.
- Avoid distractions. The more temptations you have to do something else instead of what you have to do, the easier it will be to procrastinate. Keep your smartphone, notifications and access to internet off when facing hard tasks.
- Do you have a system? If you have a personal productivity system like GTD, it will be easier to clarify what you have to do and why you should not put it off.
Do you have more ideas? If there is something else that helps you not to procrastinate, leave us a comment.