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Editor's Note

How to be productive | Tips on curbing procrastination & getting things accomplished

There’s no denying the fact that we live in a ‘pressure cooker’ world with a never-ending list of commitments, deadlines, occurrences and other events that demand our attention and time. 

More than ever, a lot of us are feeling the stress of not having enough time, or falling into the habit of procrastination. Like they say, “The cost of procrastination is the life you could have lived.” You might feel like you’re behind the 8-ball and playing catch-up, or just can’t seem to get anything accomplished. Most people want the best for their lives and to focus on what matters, so how do you be more productive?

CHECK OUT THIS EPISODE ON THE MERRYMEN PODCAST

The truth is no one can stop time and it will pass you by no matter what you do. But if you can learn to manage your life according to where you spend your attention, you should see an increase in productivity. Here’s a few tips in order to make your life more productive.

Shut out the noise & manage distractions

In order to find some resemblance of peace and order, you’ll need to eliminate the pointless distractions in your life. That may mean taking a break from social media or turning off the TV. By eliminating these energy-drainers, you’ll have more time for what matters. You’d be amazed at how many distractions can pop up to detract you. Social media notifications, email alerts, phone calls, other people, etc. can all get in the way of your priorities and disrupt your momentum.

This is why highly productive people tend to work either very early in the morning or late at night when most people are sleeping. More often, they opt for whatever they can to eliminate most of the distractions. You may wish to set your phone in silent mode or even place it in another room, if you can’t resist the temptation to look at it. If you think you’ve developed an addiction to social media, you may wish to use an app like LeechBlock to block the sites you normally visit (during the time you want to be productive). Removing social media apps from your phone is another way to eliminate distractions.

Prioritize

Always do what matters when it matters. For example, focusing on the tasks which have the highest return in your life. If you’re a writer, that will mean focusing on your writing first thing in the day. Too often, we keep what’s crucial for later – because the work is ‘unappetizing’ and the procrastination helps to delay the unpleasantness of the task. However, this just delays the inevitable and makes the process worse than it has to be. Instead, by getting the hardest tasks out of the way FIRST, you’ll not only feel more accomplished, but will have more time to breeze through the easier tasks because now you feel ‘lighter’ from having done what you were avoiding.

Inspired by author, David Allen, this rule states that you just need to do the activity you’re avoiding for 2 minutes. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a workout session or writing a report. If you’re avoiding it or thinking of procrastinating it, just give yourself that 2 minutes. This is a short enough duration for it not to be overwhelming and you’ll trick your mind so it doesn’t go into ‘self-preservation mode’ and cook up excuses. In most cases, you’ll notice that once you start, the entire mental hurdle disappears. You’ll often go well past that 2 minutes and take your task to completion. If after 2 minutes, you’re still not in the mood, you can take a break and come back to it later for another 2 minutes. 

Over time, your mind will get conditioned to accept a higher threshold of discomfort. It’s overcoming the inertia and getting started which is the hardest part of the process. Quite frankly, if you just applied this hack, you’d beat procrastination most of the time. 

Follow a daily routine or make a schedule

An object in motion stays in motion and an object at rest stays at rest. If you want to be more productive, it’s best to have a tight schedule where you maintain your momentum from start to finish without taking too many breaks. Many of the most successful people wake up early in the day and start working on their most important tasks first thing in the morning. Very often, by 1 pm, they’re done for the day and are more productive than most people who work till 5 or 6 pm.

By keeping their routine tight, they moved from one task to another in rapid fashion and didn’t give their minds much time to think of ways to procrastinate. So, you’d be wise to plan your days ahead of time and keep breaks to no longer than 10 or 15 minutes at a time. Once the biggest chunk of your important work is done, you can take a break for an hour or so.

While many people will frown at the idea of routine and structure in their life because ‘being controlled’ is anathema to them – the truth is that with structure comes freedom. After all, you’ll be deciding on your own daily routine. This is not a military regimen where you need to follow orders from a barking sergeant. No no… this is your routine. You can tailor it to suit your life. The key point to note is to do the needful in an efficient manner so that your commitments and work are met in an orderly manner.

Routine will eliminate a lot of decision fatigue in your life. You’ll know exactly what to do every single day and can coast through it in ‘flow state’ while you accomplish more with less effort. Doesn’t that sound fantastic? Of course, it does! 

Be more organized

If you want to get fit, you’ll need to exercise daily. That will mean sweat and exertion. Unless you love exercise, it’s not something you usually want to do and your mind will conjure up a thousand excuses as to why you should procrastinate the workout to the next day or skip it totally. The same applies to any type of productive work that will elevate you to a higher level. Your mind will try to protect you from this type of pain by cooking up multiple plausible excuses for you to avoid doing what you should be doing.

The simple hack of being organized and free from a cluttered, chaotic environment will save you hours of frustration and stress in the long run, not to mention the time savings too. Declutter your home or your workspace so that it’s neat and requires less cleaning. The more orderly and neat things are, the less time you’ll need to spend searching for the items you need – and you won’t end up wasting time and energy.

Set deadlines

Deadlines keep prodding you to stay focused and complete the tasks on time. Always have deadlines for any job you do, and give yourself slightly less time than you think you’ll need.

Parkinson’s law states that the amount of work expands to fill the time available for its completion. So, the less time you give yourself, the faster you’ll get the work done. Of course, be reasonable with your deadlines. They should motivate you to work faster, but not be so unreasonable that they leave you feeling more overwhelmed by the stress or pressure.

Applying these tips in your life are very assured ways to be much more productive, and you’ll not only free up your time, but your stress levels will drop considerably. Procrastination will stop you from achieving your full potential – but only if you let it. Always be aware of what’s going on in your own mind, and reflect on your daily activities to see if you’re procrastinating. From there, it’s just a matter of curbing the occasional instances when you neglect or avoid your commitments and staying on track with your daily plans. Always remember that immediate action will destroy procrastination. So, get started without hesitation.

Resources for this episode (for your reference or more info!)
Courses
➤Confessions of an ex procrastinator
➤Procrastination Breakthrough – How to stop procrastinating!
Books
➤Secrets of Productive People
➤Study With Me: Effective Bullet Journaling, Hacks To Be Successful & Productive

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© 2021 Merrymen.

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