The Procrastinator’s 8-Step Guide To Being Insanely Productive
If you’re a quintessential procrastinator, chances are you have a tidy house, and know how to juggle. Sure, you may have gotten something done, but those are just clever distractions to make you feel “productive.”
Procrastination is an act of self-sabotage, highjacking your desired goals. Psychologists explain that while you may not be conscious of it, there’s a level of pain that comes from taking action. And procrastination is a way of keeping you in your comfort zone, albeit a detrimental one.
If procrastination is your middle name, here are guaranteed ways to beat it and become more productive:
1. Do the most mentally challenging task first.
Your mental energy is limited, it wanes and depletes throughout the day. Studies on circadian rhythms show that you’re at your peak alertness and energy within the first few hours of waking up. That’s the prime time to take-on the work that you find most challenging and mentally strenuous.
You can also give yourself a second wind with a short power-nap in the afternoon, when your energy typically dips.
2. Impose shorter deadlines.
Ever heard of Parkinson ’s Law? It is the adage that: “a task is achieved within the amount of time available.” That means if you give yourself a month to do an assignment, you’ll take a month to get it done. However, if you find out a project is due in two days, you’ll get it done in two days.
You can leverage this law by scheduling work to be completed closer to deadlines, or making commitments with a shorter timeframe than you’d generally do.
3. Website blocking tools.
Making sure something is not only out of sight, but beyond access will keep you on track. You cannot fall into the abyss of YouTube if you cannot access it. Here are two free resources that will block access to designated sites for your chosen amount of time:
4. The 2-minute rule.
This is adapted from David Allen’s book, Getting Things Done. David explains that we spend more time deliberating on whether or not to do a task, than the time it’d take to actually complete it. If a task can be done in around two minutes, rather than put it off until later, simply get it done.
You can adjust the rule and break your large tasks into small 2-4 minute chunks and work on them consecutively. Taking these little steps helps to overcome a major cause of procrastination — not knowing what the next step should be, and not having momentum.
5. Work-rest cycles.
DeskTime, a productivity and time-tracking company, conducted a study on employees’ computer use and efficiency. They found the most productive 10 percent worked hard for 52 minutes, then took a break for 17 minutes.
Other advocates of the “Pomodoro” technique believe the perfect formula is to work for 25 minutes straight followed by a five minute rest.
Your sweet spot may fall anywhere in between those two times. Experiment and find out what’s your most productive work-rest ratio.
The cult of multitasking has been shown to be highly detrimental. Multitasking only works in rare occasions when one task is exceptionally mundane and done entirely on autopilot. Otherwise, it is better referred to as “task-switching.” Our minds only effectively focus on one task at a time, and multitasking is just jumping from one task to another.
Procrastination can happen when you have too much on your plate. Narrow down to three important tasks, and then take on one at a time.
7. Declutter your workspace.
Mess causes stress, and stress cripples your productivity levels. The role of “professional organizer” has grown drastically in recent years as people are more inundated with mess and clutter. Lynne Gilberg, a professional organizer in L.A. says that her clients often, “Express that they are overwhelmed. They become nonfunctional and nonproductive” due to too much clutter in their lives.
Making sure your workspace is decluttered gives you psychological and mental breathing space, and allows you to focus better on work.
8. Your productivity muscle.
Productivity is also a habit, it can be cultivated and strengthened over time. Choosing a small task and committing to it for at least 21 days will reinforce your productivity muscle and have a snowball effect into other areas of your life.
Start with simple tasks. This may be making your bed first thing when you wake up, doing some stretching, or reading for 20 minutes.