Self Help

17 Anti-Procrastination Hacks How to Stop - Dominic Mann

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Matheus Puppe

· 9 min read

• Intelligent people tend to procrastinate more because they can foresee how difficult or boring a task may be, which demotivates them. Less intelligent people just plow through tasks without overthinking.

• We can learn from less intelligent people by avoiding overthinking and just focusing on the next action to take. Overthinking causes procrastination by discouraging and demotivating us.

• Our bodies have a visceral response to thoughts and images. Thinking about unpleasant tasks causes a negative reaction that paralyzes us. We get stuck in unproductive thinking rather than action.

• The solution is to develop the habit of figuring out the “next action” to take instead of worrying about the bigger picture. Focus on small, manageable tasks rather than the overwhelming whole. This “intelligently dumbs down your brain” so you can avoid the negative thoughts that lead to procrastination.

• The secret to progress is getting started by breaking down big tasks into small steps and tackling the first one. Thinking too much about the difficulty of the overall task causes procrastination. Focusing on the next small action propels you into progress.

• In summary, avoid overthinking about tasks and how unpleasant they may be. Develop the habit of determining the next concrete action to take instead. Break down big tasks into small, manageable steps and get started on the first one. This approach combats the tendency to become paralyzed by worrying and procrastinate. Focusing on next actions gets you into the productive mindset of progress.

To overcome procrastination:

  1. Shift your focus from the big, overwhelming goal to just the next small, concrete action. This makes the task feel more achievable and doable, rather than overwhelming. Focusing on one small step at a time builds momentum.

  2. Apply Newton’s first law of motion to productivity. Objects in motion tend to stay in motion. Productive people tend to remain productive by building momentum through continuous action. Unproductive people tend to remain unproductive. Take that first action to get started and build momentum.

  3. Make your to-do list appealing by breaking down big tasks into small, concrete actions. This makes the tasks seem more achievable and attractive rather than overwhelming. Focus on the next physical action needed to move forward.

  4. Use the two-minute rule. If something takes less than two minutes to do, do it now. This prevents little tasks from piling up and becoming overwhelming. It also applies to building habits - start with something that takes two minutes or less to do. The momentum will build from there.

  5. Set big goals (macro goals) and little quotas (micro quotas) to achieve them. Break down big, long-term goals into small, concrete actions and quotas to achieve each day. This approach was used by the productive 19th century writer Anthony Trollope who wrote 250 words every 15 minutes to achieve his goal of multiple books per year. Focusing on achievable micro quotas prevents feeling overwhelmed by the bigger goal.

The key strategies are: break it down into small steps, build momentum through continuous action, make tasks appealing and achievable, use the two-minute rule, and set macro goals with micro quotas. Apply these strategies to overcome procrastination and achieve your goals.

The key problems with procrastination are:

  1. The immense volume of work required for a task makes us feel overwhelmed and discouraged. We lose the sense of accomplishment and satisfaction.

  2. The solution is to break down the big tasks into small, manageable steps. This gives us regular doses of motivation and feelings of progress. For example, Anthony Trollope wrote novels by setting a schedule to write for 15 minutes at a time. This allowed him to finish immense tasks.

  3. We should commit to doing tasks by specifying when, where and how we will do them. Studies show people who schedule their tasks are more likely to do them. We should eliminate distractions during these time blocks.

  4. The “butt-in-chair” method involves sitting down for a period of time each day to focus on a task with no distractions. This forces you to start working and you end up being productive. You could apply this method even if you can’t literally sit the whole time.

  5. “Airplane days” mimic being on a flight with no connectivity. You block off a day and put all devices on airplane mode to eliminate distractions. This allows for highly productive work sessions.

  6. Create a “distraction to-do list” to write down stray thoughts and curiosities that pop into your head. Then return to your work. Check the list later when your work is done. This avoids wasting time following those thoughts when they arise.

In summary, breaking down big tasks, committing time, eliminating distractions, and managing stray thoughts are effective strategies to overcome procrastination. Building productive habits and motivation helps us accomplish more while avoiding the discouragement that leads to procrastination.

  • The “(10+2)x5” method involves working intensely for 10 minutes, taking a 2-minute break, and repeating this cycle 5 times for a total of 60 minutes of work. This method helps build momentum and overcome procrastination by making the work periods short and having frequent breaks.

  • Utilizing deadlines and consequences can help create the pressure needed to overcome procrastination. Services like stickK allow you to put money on the line if you miss a deadline to increase motivation.

  • Perfectionism is a major cause of procrastination and reduced productivity. Studies show perfectionist professors publish less and get cited less. Nothing is ever perfect, and done is better than perfect. Famous works like the Mona Lisa were left unfinished.

  • Xerox provides an example of how perfectionism can lead to failure. In 1973, Xerox invented the Alto, a revolutionary personal computer with a GUI and mouse. However, they didn’t release it for 8 years, waiting to combine it with other technologies to create the perfect modern office. By the time they released the Star in 1981 for $50K, IBM had released the affordable PC and Apple and Microsoft were poised to dominate the industry.

  • The solution is to overcome perfectionism and just get started. Many successful companies have adopted the approach of launching imperfect “beta” products and improving them over time based on user feedback. The brain adapts well when you dive into situations, even if you’re not fully prepared. The key is focusing on doing rather than doing perfectly.

•Overthinking and excessive visualization of unpleasant tasks can lead to procrastination. Take a “dummy” approach and just plow on without overanalyzing.

•Focus on the next small, concrete action instead of feeling overwhelmed by the bigger picture. Build momentum with small wins.

•Use deadlines and timers to create urgency and accountability. This helps combat the tendency to delay.

•Break down big, vague goals into clear, specific tasks and schedule them. This makes the work seem more achievable and less prone to procrastination.

•Start working, even if you don’t feel like it. Getting started is often the hardest part, so just dive in and you’ll usually gain momentum.

•Remove distractions and temptations that encourage procrastination like TV, phones and social media.

•Cultivate a growth mindset. Believe you can improve your ability to avoid procrastination, and every small win will strengthen that belief.

•Reframe “have to’s” as “choose to’s.” This makes you feel more in control and empowered, rather than resentful.

•Be flexible in your approach. If one strategy isn’t working, try another. Different strategies work for different people and in different situations.

•Outsource or delegate when possible. Not everything has to be done yourself, so avoid procrastinating on low-priority, low-value tasks.

•Use visualization of the process, not the outcome. This helps avoid the tendency to feel like the work is already done, leading to procrastination. Visualize the actual steps to achieve the goal.

•Swap “can’t” for “don’t.” Saying “I don’t procrastinate” is more empowering than “I can’t procrastinate.” It reinforces that procrastination is not who you are.

•Learn to procrastinate productively by doing small tasks you need to get done. This avoids completely giving in to the urge to avoid work.

•Consider the meaningful why behind what you need to do. Connecting your goals and tasks to a larger purpose can help strengthen your motivation and determination.

The key is to start taking action, build momentum with small wins, remove distractions and stay focused on the next step. Develop an empowered, growth-oriented mindset and hold yourself accountable to keep procrastination at bay. With practice, you can overcome the tendency to delay and cultivate better habits and systems to get work done. But ultimately, avoiding procrastination comes down to choosing to follow through rather than putting it off.

•It gets easier to stay productive once you get started. The most important thing is just to begin.

•Make your to-do list actionable by listing specific tasks, not just topics. This makes the list more appealing and less overwhelming.

•Use the two-minute rule. Do small tasks right away if they only take two minutes. This prevents them from building up into something overwhelming.

•Break big goals into small, manageable steps. This makes them less intimidating and easier to accomplish.

•Write down the specifics of when, where, and how you will do a task. This makes you much more likely to actually do it.

•Sit down and work for a set period of time without distractions. Even doing nothing, you’ll likely get started working. This is the “butt-in-chair” method.

•Pretend you’re catching a flight. Turn off all devices for a set time and work. This concentrated time can boost your productivity. Have “airplane days” regularly.

•Make a list of your distractions. Note down thoughts that pop into your head, then get back to your task. You can address the distractions once you’re done working.

•Try the “10+2”x5 method. Work for 10 minutes, break for 2, and repeat 5 times. This makes getting started easier and you’ll eventually want to keep working.

•Set a serious deadline and consequence for missing it, like donating to a charity you don’t like. Use a service to help hold yourself accountable.

•Adopt the motto “done is better than perfect.” Finish your work even if it’s not ideal. You can always improve it later but you can’t edit a blank page.

•Start productive procrastination when mentally fatigued. Do light but useful tasks like responding to emails instead of wasting time on social media.

•Visualize the process, not the outcome. Picture the steps to achieve your goal, not what it will be like after achieving it. This makes the work seem more concrete and achievable.

•Say you “don’t” do something rather than you “can’t.” This subtle mindset shift makes you feel more in control and empowered.

•Outsource or delegate boring and mundane tasks instead of procrastinating on them.

•Review these tips whenever you struggle to get started and build your motivation and productivity. You have the ability to overcome procrastination by taking action.

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