What is it with humans and putting off the hard tasks?
I really need to get this done now. But wait, let me check my email for 5 minutes and see if Sally wrote back to me. I can come back to this later...
That's your typical mental chatter. Can you relate?
When you’re procrastinating, emptying the fridge, doing the laundry or running to the grocery shop for milk all can sound very tempting. Sadly, they have nothing to do with your real WIGs (Wildly Important Goals) as some call it.
But here’s the thing: Everyone procrastinates.
According to research by University of Calgary, 20% of people chronically avoid difficult tasks and will look for distractions on purpose. Lots of company there!
Most people procrastinate when they are unsure about the outcome. We’re often afraid of our own success – and it’s easy to slack off.
In other words, you may procrastinate for different reasons – the last-minute euphoric rush, avoiding risk because you don’t know how a task is going to pan out, or fear of making tough decisions.
But did you know that procrastination is a learned behaviour? In other words, procrastinators are not born, they are made.
This is actually good news, because something that can be learned can also be unlearned.
Bestselling author John Assaraf recently invited Sharon Pearson, Founder of The Coaching Institute, to his world-renowned event called Brian-A-Thon. In the video below, John talks about getting things done, procrastination and a simple technique to beat it.
“There’s no such thing as time-management!”
Watch John debunk the myth of time-management using a simple technique. (Pardon the iPhone-quality - but the content rocks!)
A Message From John Assaraf
Sharon Pearson has just returned from the states, and John Assaraf has sent us this!Sharon is spreading her message worldwide & the response is MIND-BLOWING! She is literally sending ripples all around the world...Ohh & John has given us a tip to help us in our roles at work & really, with any area in our lives. It's on 'time-management' - you have to check it out :)Posted by The Coaching Institute on Tuesday, 10 November 2015
In a pistachio shell, here’s John’s strategy to help you reach 80%-90% of productivity everyday:
Each evening, Fred Stutzman would go to his favourite coffee shop to work on his thesis. It was a great way to focus on his work and he had found his quiet sanctuary at this coffee shop.
Until one day, the coffee shop introduced Wireless Internet. Now Fred had options and decisions to make. He was constantly distracted by the social media pop-ups, emails and the online buzz. He noticed he wasn’t as productive anymore, and keeping away from these distractions was hard because it took willpower.
Most people want to have several options – we love the thought of possibility and the different directions we can choose.
But what we don’t realise is that decisions are draining. It is the classic paradox of choice. Constantly having to make decisions also takes a lot of willpower, and we don’t have an infinite source of that.
Here’s what to do instead: Limit your options by introducing constraints.
And that’s what Fred did. The evening, he went home and decided to create a software program called “Freedom”. Once you turn Freedom on, you are off the Internet – you have to completely reboot your computer if you want to connect again. The app went viral shortly thereafter with 500,000 downloads.
Getting started is often the hardest thing to do. And Physics concurs – objects at rest tend to stay at rest and objects in motion tend to stay in motion.
This is applicable for human beings too. The more you procrastinate, the more chances that you will continue procrastinating. Unless you break the cycle.
Here’s how you can do just that: For 5 minutes, sit down and start working on a task that you've been pushing aside.
Want to become fit? Exercise for 5 minutes.
Want to start meditating? Find a quiet space in a corner and sit down for 5 minutes.
Want to start yoga? Get dressed in your yoga pants (2 minutes) and place your mat on the floor. You’ll put your mind in the “zone” before you know.
Want to become a better writer? Write for 5 minutes everyday.
A lot of us make decisions based on “feelings”, which may not always be a great strategy. If you don’t want to work on this after five minutes, you can switch to a new task. But chances are that you’d like to keep going with the original one.
The Pomodoro Technique is based on the principle of “hyper-focused” short bursts of activity, especially for tasks that expend a lot of mental energy.
The idea is to take frequent breaks, even if you have a busy day with a long to-do list of tasks. Pomodoro is a cyclical system where you work in short sprints (25 minutes = one Pomodoro) and take regular breaks after each sprint to come up for air. After four Pomodoros, you take a 15 min break.
You may get an urge to keep going after each Pomodoro, but remember, regular 5-min breaks after each are equally important. This cyclical arrangement discourages multitasking, encourages deeper thinking and takes the pressure off you, because you get the critical tasks done.
That said, remember that the Pomodoro is just one technique and it may or may not work for you. The goal is to get you in the zone and do what needs to be done. If you’re in the zone and the timer goes off, you don’t have to be rigid and stop what you’re doing. You can always pause the timer and continue; take a break and come back to a new Pomodoro.
We’re a strange bunch of species. When it comes to meeting a friend, going to the doctor’s or keeping a date, most of us would never want to miss it. Yet, when you have a gym appointment or make those cold calls to prospective clients, you bail.
A great way to commit to your priorities is by scheduling them as non-negotiables. Think of them as your first date with someone you like. You’d be extra careful to be there on time, and pretty much re-arrange your day around that. Right? Start doing that with tasks that directly impact your WIG.
How do you stay on track and remain productive? Got more tips for overcoming procrastination? Tell us about them in the comments!