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Win the battle against procrastination

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Throughout my life, I've met many people struggling with procrastination and productivity. I've often been asked how I manage to keep my fuel up with being productive. Now the answer is simple; I enjoy it! I love what I do, which is the main ingredient of being productive. I am not a productivity guru, of course, but I do manage to stay at the productivity levels I want to be. There are obviously times when I find myself procrastinating, but some techniques I use help me get up to speed.

That's what I'll share in this blog post. Methods and principles will help you be more productive and win the battles against procrastination. When you have or want to do something, you will find yourself occasionally avoiding doing the thing. This is entirely normal, and there are many reasons why this happens. Let's get started by eliminating some myths.

Myths 📜

"I Don't Have Time" ⌛️

You have to realise and accept that this is a myth. Every human in this world has the same hours during the day, yet some people manage to do more things than others. It is not that you do not have time to do certain things; it is just that you value or prioritise other aspects of your life than doing the thing. We are not limited by the availability of time but by the limited number of choices of what we do with that time.

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Time is what we want most, but use the worst.

It's easy to exclude yourself from this, and I used to do it. I used to say that I have more responsibilities or fewer options but think about it; there are people with more responsibilities and fewer options than you do, yet they manage their time more wisely. Try to scrub the phrase "I don't have time" from your vocabulary.

"I Don't Have The Motivation" 😑

We think of doing something, and then we have the action of doing it. Productivity aims to reduce the time and effort it takes to go from one to the other. Motivation is the feeling of doing the action initiated by the thought. In an ideal world, we would directly jump from the thought of doing something to actually doing it. This might sound not easy, but there are many reasons this is not happening.

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Shorten the feedback-loop ♻️

Some tasks or goals have a long feedback loop, for example, exercising. The results of exercising will start to show after a long period after doing the thing, and that's why many people quit. It would be awesome if you could see your actions' outcome immediately, but this is not always the case. It would be best if you tried to shorten the feedback loop by making the outcome more salient or measurable to get that serotonin to your brain as fast as possible. One way to do that is to bring some reward while doing the thing that you are procrastinating. For example, "only listen to your favourite podcast while exercising."

Management 👨‍🏫

Another important way to tackle the motivation myth is through some management skills. You have to break down your tasks and always define "a next action" and a "success criteria" to determine its completion. Breaking down a problem into next actions will help you achieve more and increase the probability of starting working as it will remove the friction of getting started. Besides, it will give you momentum to continue working as you already have a plan for approaching a task. You also have to be realistic with the outcomes; otherwise, you will make it harder for yourself to keep up or, even worse, begin.

We do something and then we get a small success, and then that leads to the motivation to continue doing the thing.

1.Action → 2.Success → 3.Motivation → 1.Action

To sum up

  1. Only do the {the thing you love} while doing {the thing you procrastinate on}.
  2. Break down the task into smaller ones defining next actions
  3. Define realistic and achievable outcomes

Parkinson's Law

If you have to finish your essay in 3 months, guess how long it will take you to write it. Three months! If it were to be done tomorrow, then you would probably finish it by tomorrow. Do you see the point? Think of your long-term plans and analyse if you can do it in the next 6 months. You would probably come up with a solution or some sort of strategy on how to do it.

Work expands to fill the time that we allocate it

Simply put, give yourself artificial deadlines for things you have plenty of time to do. This forces you to prioritise the most important stuff and ignore the minutia. Your brain realises this is an artificial deadline, so some people might still avoid doing things and not discipline themselves. You could trick or force it to get the job done by putting a penalty on inaction.

About your 10-year plan, tink: why can't I just do this in the next six months? Or how would I do this in the next six months? ⎯ Blake Masters & Peter Thiel

Newton's First Law of Motion

An object at rest will stay at rest. An object travelling at constant velocity will continue to travel at that constant velocity unless acted on by an external, imbalanced force.

If we are still, an external force is needed to start moving. Still, once we start our motion, as per the Law, we no longer need to be driven by this external force to maintain our activity state. Once you get started, it is so much easier to keep going.

To induce this motion, there are certain techniques:

The 2-minute Rule - If something is going to take less than 2 minutes of your time, then you should do it now rather than delay it because the value of delaying is less than the cost of doing it right now.

The 5-minute Rule - If you are struggling to start or do a task, just convince yourself to do 5 minutes. You will find that after that 5 minutes, it's most likely to get the momentum to continue doing the task.

The Zone Rule - You can go through the motions of getting ready to do the task to get you in the zone of actually doing it. For example, wearing your gym clothes after work will increase the probability of going to the gym.

Fun Factor

Probably the most crucial factor in the productivity theory. If you are doing something that you do not like, then you are doing a disservice to yourself. You are making yourself miserable, hoping for a better, more fun future. And this may and most probably will not pan out that way. It is not that you have to stop doing this thing that makes you miserable, but you can try to make it more fun. Identify areas that you can change to make this task fun.

💡 The most important thing is to enjoy it. If you are not enjoying it, then there is no point.

Instead of thinking of "I have to", change it to "I get to". Instead of "I have to write this blog" change it to "I get to write this blog, I have the privilege to write this blog". An age-old assumption states that success, whether in school, work or in relationships, causes happiness. Studies have shown that happiness leads to greater success in life.

This may be because happy people frequently experience positive moods, and these positive moods prompt them to be more likely to work actively toward new goals and build new resources. When people feel happy, they tend to feel confident, optimistic, and energetic, and others find them likeable and sociable. ⎯ Lyubomirsky

Wrap up

There is a lot of content around productivity and procrastination. Sometimes, you will need to use some practices to trick your brain, but ultimately, if you are not enjoying it, it will mostly not happen. Still, I think the fun factor is the essential idea to get out of this blog. It's infinitely easier to be productive when you're having fun doing the things you're doing. At the end of the day, who cares if we're being effective if we're not enjoying the journey?

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