13 Effective Solutions to Procrastination

I don’t like to admit this, but I have a tendency to procrastinate.

I avoid or put off doing some things that give me “pain”.  For example, writing blog posts and articles is new to me, and still awkward.

I find it a challenge, especially to start writing.

I don’t see the immediate reward of doing it.

I put a pressure on myself to write something great or otherwise not bother. Let’s break this down:

  1. I find it a challenge, especially to start writing:  pain
  2. I don’t see the immediate reward of doing it: lack of return on investment (i.e. lack of pleasure)
  3. Third, I put a pressure on myself to write something great or otherwise not bother: pain

I’m not talking about physical pain, but rather anxiety. That anxiety over a period of time, however, does manifest physically.

Similarly, in a session with one of my clients at one point, we had to fill out a mind map with 20 elements. As he looked at it, he resisted, saying he was tired and he wasn’t sure he could do it. It looked like a mountain to him. In other words, it was giving him pain.

Why Do We Procrastinate?

To me, its root causes have to do with “pain”, and more specifically obstacles and friction.

Examples of obstacles:

  • You don’t know how to do something;
  • You are feeling overwhelmed about something because it seems hard to do;
  • You are overloaded with information.

Examples of friction:

  • Physical: Do you lack sleep? Are you tired? Do you lack energy? Have you got a cold or are you coming down with one? Lack of sleep really gets to me. It affects my level of energy negatively, and I become a lot less productive;
  • Environment: Improper lighting, your office or desk are cluttered with paper, noise, distractions (facebook, email, phone, people, and other applications open);
  • Emotional: Is your willpower depleted? Are you emotionally distracted? Are your thoughts elsewhere? Are you thinking about the fun things you’d rather do right now? Are you not excited by what you’re doing?

What Is Procrastination?

It originates from the latin word procrastinatus, which is the past participle of procrastinare derived from pro- (forward) and crastinus (of tomorrow).

It simply means that you’re putting off doing something to tomorrow.

Procrastination does become a problem when you’re putting off doing things that are important for you to achieve your dreams and goals. You end up being last minute, and feeling bad about yourself.

Your results are not as good, and it creates a negative reinforcing loop.


13 Effective Solutions To Procrastination

The following solutions are all things I do, at one point or another, to be productive when I don’t feel like working.

1. I remind myself why I’m doing it. I don’t have to do anything. I choose to, and here’s why. Saying this to myself is very empowering.

2. I get held accountable by someone else. Mainly to my business coach, Danny Iny (Firepole Marketing).

3. I change my environment. I had a good portion of the skeleton for this article done, but I was struggling with starting to write it. I went to Starbucks and I started (and finished) writing this article within an hour of focused work.

4. I do the hardest tasks when my willpower and energy are at their highest. That is usually in the morning, and right after having a nap.

5. I plan daily. I plan what I want to accomplish today in a Mind Map. When I don’t plan, I feel my thoughts are wandering, and I’m less focused throughout the day.

6. I close everything that I don’t need open on my computer. Just seeing other applications and windows open, such as email, Skype and Facebook, distracts me.

7. I remove any paper or distraction on my desk. I now try to keep my desk paper-free. Otherwise, paper just keeps piling up, and it’s visually distracting.

8. I renew my energy. That includes catching up on sleep, eating healthy food, exercising and taking breaks. What I noticed is that in most cases where I’m procrastinating, taking a quick nap renews my energy and willpower enough to get that thing done.

9. I set a timer. When I know that there is a time limit to the work I’m about to do, I can more easily let go of the other things on my mind. I either do 50 minutes of work then 10 minutes of break, or 25 minutes of work and 5 minutes of break. It sums up to the same amount of work per hour, but setting my timer for only 25 minutes works better for hard tasks that I don’t feel motivated about. I time my breaks as well, otherwise they turn into 20 minutes, 30 minutes or more!

10. I put myself in a peak state. This is a technique I learned from going to Unleash the Power Within by Tony Robbins. It works every time to raise my energy and willpower. Ironically, when I’m in a low emotional state, it requires a lot of willpower to better my state. When I do push myself though, it’s worth it. A nap usually works better for me when I’m in a low physical state.

11. I build habits. Look up Eben Pagan and his Wake Up Productive program for more information on this. We have very little willpower and we burn it quickly. It is my positive habits that made the biggest difference in my life so far.

12. I reward myself. I tell (and promise) myself I’ll reward myself with X if I do Y. I try to choose a fun, positive and constructive reward.

13. Make it fun. When I have an article to write, or an idea to develop, I use a mind map. It makes it fun, and a lot more productive. I also listen to music I like – ideally instrumental so that it’s less distracting.

 

Now for the call to action! I would love for you to let me know what you tried and what worked for you or not. If you do something else not on this list, go ahead and post it below as well…

 

8 replies
  1. Nurbek Darvishev
    Nurbek Darvishev says:

    Dear Matt,

    I just found your website and I am very impressed! Your blog is what I have been looking for. At many points I see myself in your topics, discussions, thoughts and techniques.
    As to this blog, I found that I don’t apply the points 1, 2, 4 and 11.
    The point 1 is a very good one! I will apply it definitely!
    As to point 2 I really wish I had a coach. Since my first days at work I have been let go alone with no one to consult, learn. It’s been a big difficulty for me. At my current job, I’m left alone again. I have to learn from my own mistakes which usually costs me a lot and causes bad reputation.
    Point 4, I have always liked studying, working at late nights. I don’t know why but only at nights I’m more productive.
    As to 11, for some reason I am not very stable or constant at new things, I always keep searching for alternative ways, for example, I’ve tried Outlook, GTD and some other methids for time management and lately been stuck with Mindmanager. However, I still find it unsuitable and insufficient in terms of dynamically arranging thoughts. I mean I am afraid that I will reach Mindmanager’s limits very soon.
    What would you suggest me in terms of these points?
    Thanks.

    Reply
    • Matt
      Matt says:

      Hi Nurbek,
      Thank you very much for leaving a comment!

      As for #2, I think in the long-term you’re better off making a lot of mistakes. You will learn a lot more than if someone always tells you what to do. But a coach or mentor can definitely help you stay in the right direction.

      #4: Have you read the book “The Power of Full Engagement”? I’m reading it now, and I had already been exposed to the principles that the authors teach. Great stuff! In any case, I also find that I’m productive at night – mostly because of all the distractions during the day. However, if you can make it a habit of working early in the day, you will make less mistakes, be more focused, have more energy…

      #11: Energy management is the key to productivity, not time management. Those tools for time management definitely help though. What has been your experience with MindManager so far? Did you have a chance to try out my planning dashboard with GTD’s next actions? You can get it here for free: http://fluentbrain.com/blog/download-your-free-planning-dashboards/

      I hope this helps! Please let me know if you have any other questions : )

      Cheers,

      Matt

      Reply
      • Nurbek
        Nurbek says:

        Hi Matt,

        Thanks for your comments and suggestions.

        As for #2 I agree that I will be better off making less mistakes (I hope you meant that) in the long term, but I’m afraid that I will be better off making less mistakes will be in small details and that I will be having difficulties building right strategies for solving large complex tasks and right path to achieving success. I believe that I really do need someone to work with me and guide me sometimes to the right direction. The world is getting more and more complex and choices are growing larger and larger everyday. Without a mentor I think it is very easy to get lost along the way.
        #4: I have tried before but to no success. Maybe I wasn’t focused to make it a habit those times, just thought of how it might be to get up early and start working early in the morning. I need to try it again but this time with a goal to evaluate and make it a habit.
        #11: I got it now. You are right. It is more of an energy management. Well, if you really want to do something you definitely find energy and time. Maybe, it might be the question of desire then. I will reflect on it once again.
        I have checked your mindmap! Yeah, again it is really what I wanted. It does allow me concentrate on my future plans whereas keeping my attention on routine tasks. If done properly, I can evaluate some of the tasks and tweak them to free up some more energy and time for future strategic plans. By dynamic I meant that, for example, when I am finished with this month will I have to create this mindmap for the next month and link the tasks.
        I also liked the branch for books. Along with books to read I also added the books I am currently reading and I have read. Just to keep record.
        Thanks for your help again.

        Reply
        • Matt
          Matt says:

          Hi Nurbek,

          Thank you for the long and detailed answer! I am very happy that you got value out of this post.

          #2: A great business coach/consultant is invaluable. At some point though, I was relying on him too much. He was smart enough to acknowledge that, and to think more, take more responsibility, and grow. That’s what a good business coach should do, in my opinion – not only give you the answers, but make you work for them so that you learn and become more capable over time.

          #4: Waking up early is a constant struggle for me. Obviously, the trick is go to bed earlier. What helps me is initiating my before-bedtime routine. I close the lights gradually, put on smooth jazz music, and sometimes read.

          #11: Habits are very powerful, and they pull you towards your goals instead of having to push continuously.

          As for the mindmap, are you refering to the Planning Dashboard? Could you expand on what you say about having to create the mindmap for the next month and linking the tasks? I personally just keep updating my projects’ to-dos. By the way, which version of the planning dashboard are you using (v1 or v2) ?

          Cheers,

          Matt

          Reply
          • Nurbek
            Nurbek says:

            Hi, Matt.

            Your post has made a significant impact on me.
            #2. True. Coming week, I will try to contact my previous boss and try to ask him to be my coach. i am having serious problems with making some decisions that will change my life. My mind is so clustered and messed up. I am kind of lost. At such moments, it is better to ask for some wiser man’s point of view or advice.
            #4. The same problem. And the worst is that I can’t go to bed earlier. Even if i do, I would still fall asleep late at midnight. I come home from work very late and there are so many things to do, and I spent 2-3 hours doing those things and I end up going to bed at 1.00 or 1.30 in the morning. And I wake up at 8.00 in the morning.
            #11. I will try to make it a habit.

            I downloaded the mindmap from the link you gave me. I think it is the second version. What I meant is that sometimes I like analyzing my past activities and my performance. What I meant by creating a mindmap for the next month is for archiving purposes. So I can look at them later and make some lessons. Therefore, I thought it might be a good idea to create new mindmap for each month or week, and I wanted to know how to link the recurring or roll over the tasks that I wasn’t able to finish within the projected month. I hope you understood. ))))

            Regards,

            Nurbek

          • Matt
            Matt says:

            Hey Nurbek,
            Good idea to ask your boss to coach you. Worst-case scenario, he might not have time, and refer you someone else, but that’s OK. He will certainly appreciate your initiative.

            As for #4, have you read “The Power of Full Engagement” by Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz ? If you haven’t, I highly recommend that you check it out and read it! It will help you better manage your energy, hence being more productive.

            OK, I understand better about the planning dashboard. The easiest way to roll over the tasks that you weren’t able to finish is simply to copy them to your new month if you want to have a trace of those tasks that you didn’t accomplish – or simply move them to the new branch if you only care to see what you have accomplished (and not discourage yourself with everything you haven’t ; )

            I hope this helps!

            Matt

  2. Joseph
    Joseph says:

    Hi Wonderful Matt, I have to call you wonderful matt because, It was really great when i go through your article. I came acros your article this morning when we were given an assignment in our office to talk about procastination. I love your contribution to the world in general. I love it. i will apreciate more of your article to my box please. Wishing your more knowledge. cheers.

    Reply
    • Matt
      Matt says:

      Hi Joseph,
      Thank you for your awesome comment! : ) Do you tend to procrastinate? What do you think will work best for you?

      Cheers,
      Matt

      Reply

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