You procrastinate don’t you?
Even though people have told you to “break things into small parts” and “just do it!”, you still procrastinate.
Because these two pieces of common advice don’t address the root cause of the problem.
And that root cause, which I’m going to show you how to eliminate, is that you’re using some of your precious time to let yourself react negatively and emotionally to tasks that must be done. In doing so, you create and fuel the monster who ends up beating you.
You already know that fear, discomfort or perceived pain are behind this. And you know that this has you seeking out other tasks that you’d prefer to do. But the bottom line is, if there are tasks that you’ve decided must be done by you, then you must find a way to get them done.
We’ll look at how in just a moment, but first let’s see why those two common pieces of procrastination advice don’t always cut it. It’s because, even if you break things down into small steps, you still have to get the wheels in motion, and it’s going from stationary to moving that is often so hard. Getting up out of your chair to walk is harder than just continuing to walk.
And even if you know to ‘just do it’, that doesn’t change how you feel about the task. You’re just telling yourself to get on with the hard task, and this still requires that you have an internal fight in your mind to overcome the discomfort or fear you’re feeling.
In short, your three main enemies here are:
- Allowing yourself to spend any time thinking about what it feels like to do the task (rather than just getting on with it)
- Inertia (the natural reluctance to get started)
- Perceiving something as too big or difficult to handle
So we need a solution then that:
- Eliminates time spent thinking negatively about tackling a task
- Has you moving already (bypassing the inertia) and creating energy and momentum
- Has you feeling like you’ll knock the task over like a champ because it’s so small
So how do you achieve that?
- Write out your important ‘must do’ tasks for the morning
- Confirm that they absolutely must be done by you, and so there’s no point in thinking about how enjoyable or painful each one is, since they must be done anyway.
- Get a timer with an alarm
- Allocate ‘time bursts’ to them by writing the number of minutes to the right of each task accordingly:
- painful tasks get 5 minute bursts
- enjoyable tasks that aren’t quite so important also get 5 minutes (because you don’t want to chew through all your precious time just doing those!)
- other tasks that you’re ok with, but aren’t that thrilling either, get either a 10 min or 15 min burst.
You can adjust these amounts as you learn what this system does so that they work optimally for you.
OK, all you do now is start with the first task on your list that you’re most naturally compelled to do. The one that requires no effort. Set the timer accordingly, and sprint through. No distractions. No answering the phone. If someone interrupts, your time is ticking like a bomb, so try to control the distraction.
When the alarm goes off, IF you’re in the zone and in flow and it absolutely must be done today, set the alarm again for 15 or 20 mins and do another ‘time burst’. Go with the flow for 10-15 mins more (but at that point you should move on to another task, since you don’t want to neglect other important tasks that must be done today).
If you’re not in that zone or in a state of flow when the alarm goes off, go to the next task immediately, set the timer accordingly for the duration you already noted, and repeat.
Work through your tasks like this. The key is to move fast. Each time burst is a sprint. You have to shut out any time for thinking or feeling about the tasks.
The system works for this reason. You literally have eliminated any time procrastinating. It works because each task is small enough for you to feel like you can defeat it (because you gave it a time that made you feel it’s do-able – as if you could gobble it up for breakfast.)
And it works because you don’t have to get started. You already have momentum from the start purely because you begin with a 5 minute burst that you really want to do. Pick one of the fun tasks that you’re naturally compelled to do, but when the 5 min alarm goes off, the game is on, and you have to switch and immediately begin on the next task.
Some of you may be asking now how you’d keep up the energy. Easy. The variety between tasks (build it in!) has you still being productive in your ‘rests’. Alternate between mental and physical tasks, or analytical vs creative. Build it tactically and then work the system. Obviously you can put in some 5 or 10 min breaks too if you need it, but you should find that in your breaks, moving fast, you can get some easy things done.
The system has you spending less time on the low value tasks (if you obey the 5 minute alarm), and more time on creating states of flow on the important tasks.
You’ll also find that you get in the state of flow more often, and that you find your work more rewarding as a result, and get home on time.
Don’t believe me? Try it.
Let me know how you go and if you have any questions, message me using the tab on the right.