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Ninety-five percent of us procrastinate. That’s what professor Piers Steel reported in his book “The Procrastination Equation: How to Stop Putting Things Off and Start Getting Stuff Done.” So, the question isn’t whether we procrastinate. The question is how negatively does it affect our lives?
Here are some ideas for reducing the impact of procrastination on your life, assuming you are among the 95 percent.
The Guardian reported some very interesting results of a study conducted by Jim McKenna at Leeds Metropolitan University. McKenna’s team studied 200 people who regularly engaged in 30 to 60 minutes of exercise during their lunch period. The study group demonstrated a 17 percent increase in their performance over those who did not exercise. That’s the equivalent of doing eight hours of work in seven.
Try one or more of these methods:
The limbic system is wired to reward short-term benefits over long-term ones. Using this natural predisposition to fight putting things off requires us to eliminate the unpleasantness associated with doing a task. Need to read a lot of paperwork? Do it in your favorite chair — at the office or at home. The point is to piggyback the pleasant with the less desirable to trick the limbic system into helping us get the work done.
Research has demonstrated that committing to just five minutes of effort is enough to get deeply involved in the task. Once we’ve “opened” that task, we’re more likely to finish it.
Rory Vaden, author of “Procrastinate on Purpose,” suggests that it’s important to understand the distinction between important, urgent and significant.
We often fall prey to the sense of urgency tied to everything we receive. Functionally, we respond to the latest and loudest, often leaving the most important and most significant behind. Stop, take a moment to run items through the focus funnel, and then get started on what now seems to be the best use of the available time.
Here are three questions that deal with motivation in different ways:
One way to trick ourselves into working more now is to make a deal with our procrastinating selves. Instead of saying “no” to doing something nonproductive, say “not right now.” Make an agreement with yourself to get a certain amount of work done, then go for a cup of coffee or make a meal. “No” is a much harder battle to fight than “later.”
Some days just get away from us. The emergencies pile up, and we spend our whole day reacting to what comes at us. One effective way to deal with a discouraging day is to make a small to-do list for the next day. This does two things:
So the next time the day turns disastrous, focus a little energy on the next day to help regain a productive momentum.
We live in a complex and fluid world. Finding ways to simplify things makes them more doable. That’s where a prioritization mechanism can help — for example, labeling things as “1st Order Priority,” “2nd Order Priority” and “3rd Order Priority.” Another example is to mark things with a red highlighter for “stopped,” a yellow highlighter for “percolating,” and a green highlighter for “needs doing.”
Work styles vary, but reducing tasks to three or four simple categories splits the entirety into more manageable segments.
Mike Vardy, CEO of Productivityist, has another take on this concept. He assigns “modes” to each task. That way, he can align his work efforts with whatever mode he is in. Modes can be very broad: Resource Mode (Outlook or Word), Family Mode (when he’s with the family), or Energy Mode(s) (high, quiet, early).
Here are three to choose from:
Procrastination is a part of life for most of us. Instead of worrying about whether we procrastinate, why not develop ways to minimize its effects? These 10 tips can help you get more done, make better use of your time, and enjoy greater personal and professional satisfaction.
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