40 Super-Effective Ways To Stop Procrastination
With some much going on it can be hard to remain focused and achieve what you want in life. Especially if procrastination and laziness are taking control. This is your chance to take a step in the right direction, towards a life where you get the things done that you want to do.
Regain control of your life and regain your motivation and zip. Discover 40 different super-effective ways to stop procrastinating, overcome laziness, and find your hidden focus and inner motivation. I know that you are not going to relate to each of these ways, so work with the ones that resonate with you.
I have identified 40 tips to help you overcome laziness and stop procrastination. Use these tips to regain control of your life and set yourself free!
- Learn to accept errors
- Quit perfectionism
- Have an (achievable) goal in mind
- Visualize yourself being active,motivated and focused
- Keep a motivation journal
- Think about what will happen if you don’t stop procrastinating
- Use positive affirmations
- Start small
- Take action daily
- Learn time-boxing
- Actually stick to your time-boxing
- Try time-boxing software or the Pomodoro Technique
- Make a checklist
- Use productivity apps
- Reward yourself for taking action
- Eliminate offline distractions
- Eliminate online/digital distractions
- Ditch email (as much as possible)
- Create a daily routine
- Learn your procrastination pitfalls
- Prioritize work
- Work to a system
- Supplement your mind
- Eat healthy
- Get more sleep
- Exercise regularly
- Cut down caffeine
- Give yourself relaxation time
- Surround yourself with motivated people
- Find ways to get “boring stuff” done faster
- Learn the art of micro-working
- Outsource doing stuff you hate
- Take the “lazy approach” (as long as you don’t sacrifice quality)
- Change your setting
- Work to your natural energy patterns
- Remember that failure is not an option
- Remember that you can always start again
- Study the motivation secrets of others
- Find your calling in life & never struggle with procrastination again
- Just get started
Wow, lets get started! Begin your journey to overcoming procrastination today!
1. Learn to accept errors
Lets face it sometimes you’re going to fail, that is how human beings actually learn. Nobody gets it right first time every time, in fact if you did get it right the first time you just got lucky; unless you had a great coach or mentor who enabled you to miss all the pitfalls. Nobody is perfect, and to delude yourself into thinking that you should never accept failure is unsustainable. and can only lead to disappointment.
It is how we look on the failings (lets call them learning experiences) that determines whether we learn the lesson or not. This is part of your personal development process so learn to LOVE failure as part of this process. When you are no longer scared of failing and instead embrace the learning experience it provides, you will find yourself much more inclined to take action. Many people focus on the failing (error) and start a little blame game, whilst this may soothe the ego, it removes your ability to improve and achieve more next time.
Errors tend to fall into 4 main areas:
- Proficiency errors – you didn’t know how to do it well enough
- Procedural errors – you didn’t follow the procedure accurately or didn’t know the procedure
- Communication errors – you didn’t communicate what was needed clearly
- Decision making errors – you made an error when deciding between options
Acknowledge that you made an error, and ask yourself why that happened? You may have to ask yourself why approximately 4 times to identify the root cause. Now we can start working on what we are going to do different next time (LEARNING).
This ability to take action will set you apart from everyone else. In effect you have just beaten procrastination if you are able to take action whenever you wanted or needed to. Don’t we wish that is all there is to overcoming procrastination
2. Quit perfectionism
Alongside being scared of failure, pervasive perfectionism is another common problem that can contribute to procrastination. After all, if you feel like you shouldn’t start a task unless you’re 100% sure you can do it perfectly, then you’ll always find it difficult to make a start.This behavior is going to lock you into a rut in that you will not try something as you are not going to be able to do it perfectly first time. The longer you stay in this rut the harder it is to get out.
Quit perfectionism and accept small mistakes (as long as they won’t cause any irreversible harm to you or anyone/anything else). You’ll soon find find yourself getting far more done. Be prepared to have a crack at it and accept that it will not be perfect, you can always come back and improve on it later,
3. Have an (achievable) goal in mind
Goal setting is crucial for discovering your inner focus. Goals are what motivate and drive the human psyche. Without an concrete goal towards which you can work, you will always be lagging behind. So make sure you always have at least one short-term and one longer-term goal to work towards. However, these goals need to be achievable – otherwise you are setting yourself up for failure. So challenge yourself, but be realistic at the same time about what you can expect to achieve.
When goal setting use the S.M.A.R.T. goal setting method
Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Time-Bound
To read more on setting SMART goals click here
4. Visualize yourself being active, motivated and focused
I’m a big believer in the power of visualization. By actively seeing yourself in your new role as action-taker extraordinaire, you will be able to overcome procrastination and find your focus more effectively. Bear in mind that learning authentic visualization is a real skill; it isn’t going to come overnight, and you’ll require lots of practice before you see the best possible results. One of my favorite tips for visualization is to focus on the smells and sounds you will experience when you are motivated and getting things done. Sure, it’s very easy to “picture” yourself taking action, but by forcing your brain to work harder with this more unusual method of visualization you will enjoy a much greater impact.
5. Keep a motivation journal
If you haven’t yet got a motivation journal, then start writing one (preferably now!). Don’t put this off as you just be procrastinating again. A motivation journal doesn’t need to be complex; all it requires is writing down on a daily basis, just before you go to bed, how motivated and focused you felt during that day. Note down any things that were different to usual … for example, if you went to the gym an hour earlier in the morning and felt more motivated all day for having done so, then you would write that down. The purpose of a motivation journal is to help you develop a picture of what causes you to feel great, and what causes you to “slack off” in life. It also makes it easier to chart your development over time, and will give you a great sense of satisfaction to see how much more motivated you have become since you started your journey.
6. Think about what will happen if you don’t stop procrastination
Sometimes the best motivational method can be to scare yourself into action. Take a while to think about where your life will go if you don’t start taking action ASAP. How many days, weeks, or months will you have wasted by this time next year? Imagine your life in 10 years time if you don’t overcome your procrastination, is that where you want to be. You cannot afford to waste any more time in your life, as you’ll never get it back.
Time is the only commodity that can’t get back and you can’t buy time off someone else. Therefore the more time you spend procrastinating you are only robbing yourself of what you could achieve. Quit procrastinating today and start using your time more efficiently.
7. Use positive affirmations
Using affirmations in your life is one of the most effective ways to get the things you want. Positive affirmations that focus on telling yourself you CAN be motivated, you CAN beat procrastination, and you CAN become successful in your life – these will all have a massive impact.
One of the best ways to use positive affirmations for overcoming procrastination and laziness is to use subliminal affirmations. With computer technology it is now incredibly easy to beam subliminal affirmations straight into your mind, every single day.
One of the better programs that allows you to do this is Mindzoom. To read my review of the Mindzoom subliminal affirmations software, click here.
8. Start small
Don’t risk biting off more than you can chew. One of the most effective ways to inject motivation into your life and beat procrastination is to start small with any task you want to complete.Break large tasks down into smaller pieces and allocate time to achieve these tasks. By reducing it to easily completed tasks you are able to get started more easily.
For example, let’s say you have a massive term paper due in a few days that you are really worried about completing on time. The normal approach here would be to stress out and think “OMG! I’ve got these 10,000 words to write in 72 hours and I haven’t even started”. Instead of this, think about starting small. Tell yourself “I’ve got an hour to brainstorm my topic.” From there, “I’ve got thirty minutes to write my introduction.” Start breaking tasks down into small chunks, and then focus on those smaller elements one at a time (I’ll talk more about this tactic later).
9. Take action daily
Avoid letting a single day pass without being able to say “I’ve done something purposeful” before you go to bed. You don’t need to run a marathon once every 24 hours, or complete an entire research paper in your lunch break. However, you do need to do something productive every single day. Why? Because being productive breeds further productivity. The more you do with your day, the more you’ll feel like getting stuff done tomorrow. Once again, do not let a single day pass without being able to say that you’ve done something really productive.
Reflect back on your day and be thankful for what you did achieve. We all have days where it seems as though it was all a waste of time, but if you look carefully, even on these days there are some diamonds mixed in with the rough.
10. Learn time-boxing
One of the most effective methods you will ever learn to beat procrastination and get your groove back is time-boxing. To avoid disappointment, you need to understand now that this has nothing to do with Mike Tyson style boxing, nor does it have anything to do with beat boxing! Instead, time-boxing is where you assign each task a specific period of time to complete, and then attempt to complete that task within said time period.
For example, you might give yourself 25 minutes to read through your emails in the morning (rather than spending 45 minutes or 1 hour). Time-boxing allows you to address tasks in a manageable time-frame, and is very popular with management experts. As a method it has proven its worth primarily in the software development industry, where sticking to allocated time frames is crucially important.
Time-boxing can help you to overcome perfectionist tendencies – which cause procrastination – by providing a natural “brake” against committing too much time to a task. For example, if you have time-boxed an hour to write a report, you’re less likely to find yourself still working on it two or three hours down the track.
11. Actually stick to your time-boxing
So you’ve decided to try time-boxing … awesome! However, after a couple of days you feel yourself drifting back into your old habits of letting deadlines slip, and dawdling through daily chores and tasks. Make sure you snap out of this mindset and actually stick to your time-boxing plans; this insanely powerful time management technique DEMANDS persistence to see its real fruits.
12. Try time-boxing software or the Pomodoro Technique
The best way to “supercharge” time-boxing is to use a souped-up version of it, Pomodoro Technique Illustrated (Pragmatic Life). I’m also a big fan of time management software that takes the fundamental principles of time-boxing, but translates them into the 21st Century. In particular, I recommend you read my review of The Action Machine software, which has some great benefits that go above and beyond regular time-boxing when it comes to overcoming procrastination.
If you’re just starting on your journey with time management, then don’t fret about this more advanced stuff … but if you’ve already seen the amazing power of being able to manage your time effectively, then you will love the more advanced methods like Pomodoro and The Action Machine.
13. Make a checklist
Don’t go through any day without being armed with a checklist of tasks you need to complete. Whether you make this checklist before you go to bed, or in the morning when you first awake, just ensure that you do it.
I like adding everything on my checklist, down on to taking out the trash and making my bed.
However, when you start out it’s probably easiest just to checklist the “big” stuff. You can use a pen and paper to create your checklist, or if you prefer a more technologically-advanced option, try checklisting apps. Just remember that checklists are your friend, so get used to using them in daily life. By knowing exactly what you’re focusing on for the rest of the day (and having that slightly OCD incentive to leave no box unchecked) you’ll be well on your way to getting more done in less time!
Using checklists effectively gives you a real sense of achievement. There is also the reward you get when ticking completed items off your checklist.
14. Use productivity apps
Whether you use an iPhone, Android, or Windows phone, there is a plethora of productivity apps for your smartphone available. We would be here until the end of time if I were to rattle off the full list, so it suffices to say that you need to start using productivity apps now. I’m a big fan of Todoist and Clear – I suggest you take a look at both. Don’t go overboard and flood your smartphone with dozens of such apps; that will give you nothing but a one-way ticket to information overloadsville. However, a couple of choice productivity apps can really make a positive difference.
15. Reward yourself for taking action
Creating a positive association in your mind with the process of taking action is one of the best ways to overcome procrastination and laziness. Therefore, you should reward yourself for taking action. Now this reward doesn’t always have to come in the form of splurging on a new pair of shoes or whatever (in fact, you should avoid this type of reward altogether as it will quickly lead to bankruptcy!).
Instead, make your reward something like 5 minutes’ time on social media, or the right to watch a fail compilation video on YouTube. These things are free and will still create that positive association in your mind. By rewarding yourself with things that used to distract you from getting stuff done, you will also be filling the need for distractions … except now you are doing it in a controlled manner and only as a reward for being productive.
16. Eliminate offline distractions
Imagine you work in an office. Beyond “digital distractions”, such as the constant buzz of email notifications, Google calendar alerts, and social media updates on your (hidden from the boss) browser window, what other distractions would you encounter? I’m talking about offline distractions, such as people talking, phones ringing, and the general hustle and bustle of office life. The same goes in any environment where you find yourself working; no matter what you are doing, there will always be something to distract you from your work.
Therefore, you need to work to eliminate offline distractions. In my experience these come from two primary sources, which are a) background noise, and b) people coming up to your desk to talk to you. How can you solve this problem of offline distractions? The solution is remarkably simple! Use noise cancelling headphones, Bose QuietComfort Headphones that I use on a daily basis. Noise cancelling headphones help you to eliminate distracting background noise AND prevent people from coming up to distract you, by making it look like you are always hard at work. I’ve always noticed that whenever you have headphones on, people will never distract you at your desk unless it’s something truly urgent.
17. Eliminate online/digital distractions
So you’ve done all you can to eliminate offline distractions? Awesome work – you’re now well on your way to becoming more efficient and focused in work and study. But what about the BIGGEST source of distractions? I’m talking, of course, about online/digital distractions. Things like Facebook notifications, emails, Tweets, and text messages get in the way of being productive like you wouldn’t believe.
Add the modern-day horror that is tabbed browsing into the mix (Buzzfeed or Mashable procrastination anyone?) and you’ve got a perfect recipe to be mega distracted and never get anything done. So, how can you eliminate those pesky online/digital distractions and start getting stuff done? Start by restricting yourself to one browser tab at any given time. This tip alone has probably saved me dozens of hours in lost productivity since I started using it. Multiple tab browsing is a true killer of focus.
I also suggest using the StayFocusd Chrome extension, which allows you to block all websites not on your “allowed” list (i.e. anything that isn’t 100% work or study related) for a set period of time. The “Nuclear” option on StayFocusd is particularly useful, as it lets you totally block sites that cause you distractions for a set period of time … and there is no way of getting around this block. The “Challenge” mode is also fantastic, requiring you to complete a moderately difficult mental challenge before you can access blocked sites. The only downside to StayFocusd is that you need to use the Chrome browser for it to work – if you can’t stand Chrome, then check out this list of other distraction blockers.
18. Ditch email (as much as possible)
Along with tabbed browsing, I consider email to be one of the worst culprits for sapping mental focus and leading to terrible procrastination. This is especially the case if you work in an office where emails are flying around left, right and center. And the worst part is that most work emails you wind up receiving are total nonsense!
I suggest trying to ditch email as much as possible, and encourage your colleagues to stay in touch via other methods like face-to-face conversation. This will force people to reassess whether the communication they want to have with you is essential; the average person is far less likely to get off their butt, walk across the office, and harass you in person than they are via email. If you’ve ever read the brilliant 4 Hour Work Week, then you’ll probably remember that email was identified as being one of the biggest culprits for lost productivity and mental focus. Beyond encouraging other methods of communication,
I also recommend the 4 Hour Work Week method of only checking your emails at a certain time of the day. Don’t flick open your email inbox every 10 minutes to check your messages … over time this will add up to heaps of lost productivity. Check your emails a maximum of twice daily (once in the morning and once before lunch) and if someone needs to get anything off you urgently, then they had better levitate from their chaise and come get it!
19. Create a daily routine
Having a daily routine is one of the most effective ways to ensure that you are able to stay focused, be motivated, and get more done in your life. Routine is important because it structures each day, and allows you to do more stuff without having to think much about it (meaning the task at hand gets done faster). Therefore, you should create a daily routine that you are able to stick to as closely as possible. Over time you will build a natural level of efficiency in your daily routine that allows you to free up precious minutes. Use these minutes to get more productive tasks completed – deploying the strategies and techniques you are learning in this blog post – and see the results for yourself.
20. Learn your “procrastination pitfalls”
Every single one of us has a “procrastination pitfall” – or multiples thereof. These are everyday occurrences that almost invariably lead to you becoming sidetracked, distracted, or otherwise occupied! My own procrastination pitfall is playing my guitar. I’m a huge guitar fan, and if I walk past my Fender Strat sitting there all shiny and enticing on its stand, then I’ll invariably find myself sitting down to strum out a few chords … five hours later and I’m rocking out the top 10 greatest guitar solos countdown (and whatever important work I had to complete remains unfinished).
My guitar is a personal procrastination pitfall; if I catch a glimpse of it when I’m supposed to be working, then I will almost always give into temptation. What’s the solution? I hide my guitar away in its case under the bed, and only bring it out in the time that I allot myself to play each night. End result? I still get to play my guitar, and I have no guilty feelings of not having done enough work. Do some soul-searching, find your procrastination pitfall(s) and then work on a simple, effective solution.
21. Prioritize work
Being able to prioritize your work is crucial for overcoming procrastination. Always do the “mission-critical” stuff first. Then work your way down in descending order of importance. There is absolutely no point in wasting hours of productive time on things that aren’t as important. Sure, this might create the “illusion” of being effective without your time, but the actual reality is far from it. Only you can know the true priority of your work; sit down and work out a list that ruthlessly apportions value to each task, and then work in descending order. Even if it is easier to start with a less important task, do not give into the temptation to do so.
22. Work to a system
One of the reasons why Henry Ford so greatly revolutionized automobile production was due to his focus on the “assembly line” method of manufacturing. I won’t bore you with all the details, but suffice to say Mr Ford shrewdly reckoned that by having his staff work to a methodical system of production, productivity AND quality would increase. The rest, as they say, is history. Take a leaf out of Henry Ford’s book and develop a methodical and logical system for working, which also plays to your natural strengths.
For example, when I was at university I would work to a very methodical system for researching and writing essays. I would start by doing all my online research on one day, and then gather references from written texts the next day. From there I would write each main point as a series of bullet points (including my research) and then bulk out the content. Once that was finished I would go back and add an introduction, as well as a conclusion. Finally, it was time for proofing and editing.
I would always work to this methodical system without fail, and it yielded great dividends for me. Make sure you have a logical system to work with that minimizes wasted time, encourages you to take action, and reduces the need to double-check or double-up on work.
23. Supplement your mind
Becoming effective and efficient with your time requires a razor-sharp mind. This, in turn, requires a healthy diet that gives your brain the nutrients it needs to perform at its peak. With our busy 21st Century lifestyles (and the often less-than-ideal dietary options that accompany it) it can be very important to take the right supplements to improve mental performance – which is truly crucial for finding your inner focus. Although it is important to eat as healthily as possible – a point I shall outline shortly – it also pays to supplement your mind to extract full potential from your grey matter!
There are loads of different mental focus and brain supplements out there. In fact, I’ve outlined the best supplements for focus and concentration a number of times on this blog. My advice is to seek out a one-size-fits-all supplement that gives you all the brain boosting power you need without having to muck around with dozens of bottles and blister packs every morning. I’m a big fan of Excelerol, which you can purchase here on Amazon.
Excelerol has consistently been one of the highest rated mental focus supplements, and it contains a great formula to enhance mental clarity and power. The biggest downside to Excelerol is that it is very expensive compared to its competition. If you’re after a cheaper all-in-one brain power supplement, then I recommend you check out Elebra.
24. Eat healthy
Alongside proper supplementation to enhance your mental focus and put you “in the zone” to take action, you need to work on tweaking your diet to provide maximum impetus to take action. If your diet consists of mostly processed and junk foods, then your brain and body will struggle to function as nature intended. This, in turn, manifests in physical feelings of lethargy and sluggishness … hardly conditions that are conducive for taking action! Eating healthily is therefore one of the best steps you can take towards becoming more focused and motivated.
You don’t need to go overboard and throw out all traces of convenience food from your life. However, by eating for energy you can unlock a treasure trove of hidden performance in your life. When you feel like taking action because you have banished lethargy and sluggishness with a great diet, it becomes much easier to overcome procrastination and take action. If you’re only prepared to make small changes, then start by reducing the amount of simple carbohydrates in your diet (I’m talking about things that are based on sugar or refined carbs, such as candy and white bread).
25. Get more sleep
This is a biggie; if you don’t get enough sleep, then you will feel unfocused, lack energy, and tend towards procrastination and laziness. I know that feeling of a fuzzy, foggy mind myself from years of letting myself shortchange my sleep needs while working and at university. If you go through every day lacking energy and the ability to focus on tasks, then I’m almost willing to bet that a lack of sleep (or poor sleep quality) is to blame.
Many of the people I have coached out of laziness and procrastination have confided in me that the simple act of getting an extra hour or two’s worth of sleep every night resulted in an enormous improvement to their quality of life. Although it might seem impossible at first to cram in any extra sleep into your hectic schedule, think carefully about your daily routine and how much wasted time – especially in the evening – you could deploy towards the productive act of getting some refreshing sleep. For example, if you’re the kind of person who snuggles into bed with your laptop in tow, only to wind up watching TV series until 3am, then you’ll always struggle with tiredness.
Although sleep requirements and science is a massive topic (and there is loads of quality information all over the Internet about it) I would suggest a few key things to do. Firstly, aim for at least 8 hours’ sleep every night. You might actually need far less than this, but it’s always better to get too much than too little sleep, when it comes to beating procrastination and improving mental focus. Secondly, set yourself a routine time for going to bed – and do not take distracting electronic devices to bed with you. If you want to be asleep by 10:30pm, then aim to be in bed by 10:00pm to give yourself adequate time to fall asleep. Getting into bed at 10:00pm and then watching TV on demand until your eyelids can’t stay open any longer is not going to result in you being asleep any time soon!
If you do need to work on your computer before you go bed, then give F.Lux a try. This awesome piece of free software adjusts your computer’s display at night to produce a softer, warmer light that reduces the “stimulant” effect of artificial light at night. By using F.Lux when working on your computer in the dark, you will find it much easier to fall asleep afterwards.
26. Exercise regularly
It has been proven time after time after time (after time) that regular exercise helps to boost energy levels. The higher your energy levels are, the more likely you will be to get up and take action with your day.
There’s no need to become an Arnold Schwarzenegger gym-junkie, or run a marathon every day. However, by exercising regularly you will notice massively improved energy levels. Use this energy to propel yourself into taking action in other areas of your life, and you will reap some amazing rewards from it.
27. Cut down caffeine
Are you a caffeine junky? Do you find yourself incapable of getting through the morning without a cup of joe (or, even worse, an energy drink)? Just how much caffeine are you consuming daily? Caffeine has its advantages, but it can cause problems when you use it as a means to plaster over a lack of sleep or natural energy.
Treating yourself to a coffee from time to time isn’t going to do any damage, but when caffeine becomes the crutch with which you are able to get through the day, then you have a problem that needs to be solved. Some studies have demonstrated that excessive caffeine intake can lead to stress and poor concentration – hardly conducive to productivity and efficiency. If you can’t concentrate, you are also far more likely to procrastinate. Although the science isn’t nailed down regarding caffeine intake and procrastination/lack of mental focus and concentration, there is certainly plenty of anecdotal evidence to suggest that cutting out caffeine could actually result in you feeling more focused and attentive, having more energy in the long run, and ultimately chipping away at procrastination.
From my own experience cutting down on caffeine has been positive. I no longer get the mythical feeling of “brain fog” and persistent headaches that plagued my younger years of plastering over poor sleep with cans of energy drink and instant coffee. Because I felt much healthier after reducing my caffeine intake dramatically, I was able to be more productive and effective at work and in study. I now enjoy coffee a few times a week, but purely for the enjoyment factor. There’s no need to go cold turkey; however, you should endeavor to reach a situation where you no longer feel you need caffeine to get through the day.
28. Give yourself relaxation time
Another powerful method for learning how to overcome laziness and procrastination is to give yourself relaxation time. This needs to be apportioned into your routine each and every day. How much relaxation time you allocate yourself depends on how pressing your other needs are; if you are rushing from deadline to deadline without any ability to squeeze in free time, then you might need to accept less relaxation time than someone with a lighter schedule. However, it is crucial that you give yourself at least thirty minutes every day to totally chill out and do whatever you want.
This is your opportunity to clear your mind of work and indulge in some quality pleasure time. Relaxation time works as a pressure release mechanism that keeps your body and mind in top shape, meaning it is able to work harder when you push it for work.
29. Surround yourself with motivated people
It’s no great secret that success begets success. Surrounding yourself with motivated people will, at the very least, result in some of their motivation rubbing off on you. It’s no different to the popular concept of surrounding yourself with positive people in order to become more positive. If your entire day is spent in the company of people with zero motivation, then it stands to reason that you will adopt much of this undesirable behaviour as well. While you shouldn’t trample all over existing friendships in order to become more motivated and active in life, it is certainly worth seeking out peers who will motivate and inspire you to do great things in your life.
30. Find ways to get “boring stuff” done faster
There is almost always a way to do boring work faster. For example, if you find yourself getting stuck with lots of spreadsheet/Excel work (and you’re putting it off like crazy because … let’s face it … Excel is boring) then you should look into learning how to automate with Excel and macros. There are some massive benefits to using this lazy man’s approach.
Firstly, you will reduce procrastination by the fact that you know you can get your boring work done faster; one of the biggest factors behind procrastinating boring or undesirable tasks is the fact that they often take ages to complete (so why do your reporting when Facebook feed trawling is 100x more fun!?).
Secondly, you will often gain valuable skills that help your employment prospects or non-work aspects of life. Learning how to automate tasks with Excel macros has proven a valuable asset to employers for example.
Finally, if you are able to get more work done in less time, then you will free up time to spend on things you actually enjoy! Remember, automating boring tasks isn’t just limited to Excel. It doesn’t matter what you do, or whether you use computers at your work … there will probably be something you can do to automate boring work. This is the kind of procrastination-busting, productivity-building approach recommended in “classic” books like the 4 Hour Work Week.
31. Learn the art of micro-working
I’ve written before on this blog about micro-working, but I think it is something that needs mentioning again. This is one of my favorite techniques ever for stopping procrastination dead in its tracks, and getting you taking more action than you ever would have thought possible. Micro-working is where you use the “tiny downtime” moments that you experience every day, in order to get work done.
By “tiny downtime” I mean things like the 20 minutes you spend on the train on your morning commute, or the 5 minutes it takes for your lunch order to arrive at your table, or (grossly) the 10 minutes you spend on the toilet in the evening. While the exact nature of your daily tiny downtimes will vary from mine, or from any other person’s, I’m sure that by examining your routine you will be able to find at least an hour per day of “spare” time that is ripe for the picking. Use this time to do productive stuff and get more done in your day without needing to adjust your schedule!
I used to do 50% of my university study via the dark art of micro-working, and these days I use my tiny downtime’s to complete brain training exercises on my iPhone. Micro-working isn’t suitable for everyone or every type of task … it isn’t suited to instances where you need a longer period of unbroken concentration, such as when you are writing an essay. However, for study it works fantastically well as a method to revise material you have already covered; two or three micro-studying sessions a day will work wonders for your GPA.
For “day job” work you can also use micro-working to get a jump start on your emails, plan out the order in which you are going to work on your tasks, or to catch up on lost relaxation time on very hectic days.
32. Outsource doing stuff you hate
Outsourcing is trendy these days. Sites like Freelancer and Elance make it easier than ever before to hire competent, capable, and affordable freelancers to absorb menial or boring tasks that you find yourself putting off. Common examples might be paying someone to chase up new business leads via email, or getting an Excel whizz to do your oh-so-boring reports for you.
Outsourcing work might not always be feasible. For example, your employer might disagree with the concept of you effectively sub-contracting your work. In an academic environment, outsourcing work is often synonymous with cheating, and is viewed by many as a form of academic dishonesty.
However, if you are self-employed or into any form of online business, then outsourcing tasks that you frequently procrastinate or take ages to complete can be a great idea. I’ve got a friend who runs some very successful affiliate marketing websites, and he outsources 90%+ of the work … his role is basically to do preliminary market research, set his outsource workers on the way, and then collect the profits. Sure, he could probably make more money by doing all the work himself and saving on labor, but calculated on a per-hour basis he is so much better off this way.
Start exploring the benefits of outsourcing, and see if it’s right for you. If your work/study/lifestyle model can gel with outsourcing, then it’s a great way to get more done in less time and beat procrastination quickly.
33. Take the “lazy approach” (as long as you don’t sacrifice quality)
I’ve mentioned this briefly before, but I think it’s worth mentioning again: There is nothing inherently wrong in being lazy with the way you go about doing work. Laziness only becomes a problem if it results in a demonstrable reduction to quality or safety.
There’s a quote, wrongly attributed to Bill Gates, that goes something along the lines of “hire a lazy man to do a job because he will find a faster way of doing it.” I approve of this quote – it’s actually a great way to live your life, especially if you find it hard to take action and stop procrastinating.
One facet of office life that has always amazed me is the never ending litany of people who seem determined to be busy and take a painfully long time to complete any job, just in order to achieve a result no better than would could be achieved with half the work. A lazy-yet-effective approach is therefore desirable in many cases as it provides an avenue for you to get stuff done faster, thus resulting in an increased desire to take action.
Basically, if you can shortcut WITHOUT putting anyone at risk or resulting in a dud outcome, then you should seize such a golden opportunity!
34. Change your setting
Another one of the most effective strategies to become instantly more motivated and overcome laziness is to change up your setting. Being stuck in the same drab environment, day after day, is detrimental to your motivation, drive, and mental performance. Even something as simple as asking your boss whether you can shift to the other side of the office can have a big impact on breaking an entrenched monotony, and will get you ready to fire again.
35. Work to your natural energy patterns
It’s no great secret that human beings are remarkably unique. As cliched as it sounds, we are all special snowflakes! Because of this uniqueness, our behaviors, moods, and even natural energy levels vary. You, for example, might be a very energetic person in the morning (the classic “early bird”) whereas I am a total “night owl”. Therefore, it pays to work closely with your natural energy pattern, rather than against it. If you are productive in the morning but slouchy at night, then try to arrange your schedule to get as much important stuff done in the morning.
36. Remember that failure is not an option
This is the stuff teen-angst-riddled sports films are made of. If you remind yourself that failure is not an option – and you are sincere in your belief – then you will struggle not to become more focused and motivated. The reason I called my first Kindle eBook Ticking Away was simple; every minute you spend procrastinating is a minute wasted. Every minute wasted is a minute you will never get back.
If you procrastinate, you are more likely to fail – and failure is not an option. If this all sounds a bit “wishy-washy” to you, then I’m sorry. However, once you start unlocking the amazing potential that lies within developing an authentic inner drive to succeed, you will start doing some amazing things.
37. Remember that you can always start again
One of the biggest factors that lies behind procrastination is a fear of failure. The very first point in this article was that you should actually learn to love failure, in order to start your journey to overcoming laziness and procrastination. The fear of failure paralyses us, and makes taking action so much more difficult as we fear the consequences (whereas if we do nothing, then it is impossible to fail in the strictest sense of the word). However, not completing your work or achieving your goals is failure in itself. You can almost always start again – there are very few things you will do in life where you don’t get a second chance if you cock up on the first go around.
38. Study the motivation secrets of others
A great way to deploy your mandatory daily relaxation time is to study the motivation secrets of others. What techniques and strategies do famous businesspeople, sportspeople, entrepreneurs and so on recommend? What do classic books, such as The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People or The Power of Positive Thinking have to offer us? (after all, there is a reason why these titles are so darn popular).
By studying the secrets of these paragons of motivation, productivity, and success, you will discover time-tested and proven strategies for getting more out of the life. Although you won’t agree with the advice given by every single motivational book you read, or every inspiring TED talker to whom you listen, you are going to pick up some great ideas along the way. Some of these ideas will stick with your for years to come, and could play a massive role in improving your quality of life through making you more motivated, driven, and able to take decisive action.
39, Find your calling in life & never struggle with procrastination again
This might not be possible for you, but finding your calling in life (especially in terms of a job/career) could well be the best panacea to procrastination. I know a guy who has a career that he simply loves, and he tells me without any word of a lie that he never has any trouble doing his work. Why? Because his work is his calling in life, and because he loves doing it so much he finds it easy to do.
Conversely, I know loads of people who HATE their jobs (but won’t do anything about it, most likely because they are so dependent on their income) and who always struggle with procrastination and despondency. It doesn’t matter how many self-help blog posts they read, or motivational drive-time shows they listen to, they just cannot find the motivation to do their work without forcing themselves to.
Do some soul searching and think of what would truly make you happiest in life. If you can make a living out of doing so, then go for it!
40. Just get started
What’s the best way to overcome procrastination and find your inner focus? Just get started – just start doing! While reading lists of motivational secrets like this, or studying books on taking action, will help equip you with the tools you need to succeed, it’s not until you actually start the doing that things will get done!
A useful analogy to think of is the man who wants to run his first marathon. He buys the best running gear, stocks up on expensive sports supplements to fuel a great performance, and dedicates hours every day to reading running advice and books. When competition time rolls around he blasts away from the start line, only to collapse in a heap 1/2 a mile down the road. His problem? He never did any training!
Our maligned runner learned the theory of taking action (i.e. the stuff you’ve learned today) but never put it into practice. Had he spent more time actually working out and training, and less time studying the art of training, he would have seen far better results. The moral of the story? Quit worrying about the theory of getting stuff done, and actually try to get stuff done.
The first baby steps to beating procrastination and becoming motivated are the hardest for sure … but once you cross that bridge you will open up a whole new world of possibilities. So finish reading this article, share it on Facebook or Twitter with your friends and family, and then go get something done. I don’t care what it is … just that you do something!
Thanks so much for reading my list of 40 epic ways to stop procrastinating. I really hope you’ve learned something useful.
The real secret to banishing procrastination from your life is to ACT on advice like this, and put it into practice.
And now for some shameless self-promotion: It took me well over 20 hours to research and write this, all with the intention of helping you get more out of life. If you could spare 10 seconds of your time and share this on your favorite social network (use one of the buttons below or copy and paste the URL in the address bar) it would be really appreciated.
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