How is it that with all the time management tips and tricks, productivity hacks, calendar and time tracker apps available, we still always seem to manage to fall behind?
We are working longer hours yet we don’t seem to get ahead.
Why? We procrastinate.
Procrastination happens when we have something to do but we just don’t want to do it or can’t get ourselves motivated to do it.
We all have our different reasons why we procrastinate. Steven Scott of DevelopGoodHabits.com lists the possible causes as: perfectionism, fear of the unknown, ‘I’ll do it later’ attitude, small tasks are easier, lack of motivation, unclear about how to get started, distraction, and because it requires an amount of effort.
So, how do you conquer the ‘P’ word and have the super hero powers to do 8 hours of work in 30 minutes?
Here are 5 simple ways to get out of the procrastination loop and start getting stuff done.
1. Change your thinking
Putting things off is an emotional reaction to something we just don’t want to do. It could be that it’s boring, difficult, or frustrating.
It’s all about changing our mindset.
Think differently and make the idea more attractive. Do something – anything – to get started. For example, read for 30 minutes instead of an hour, write a sentence instead of a paragraph, or promise yourself an episode of Game of Thrones when you get home.
The moment you start telling yourself ‘Do it now!’ over and over again, your subconscious mind will start to accept it as the truth. You will naturally resolve to take action. Try it. Do it now.
2. Start with the most difficult task first
Quick and easy tasks tend to give us a quick sense of accomplishment and instant gratification.
You look and feel busy and your brain thinks you’re getting a lot of stuff done as you tick off items on your to-do list. This is because the neural systems associated with our emotion (your limbic system) is activated when we think about short-term rewards.
However, when we think about the longer-term rewards, the rational part of the brain (your prefrontal cortex) takes over. For example, when you choose Facebook over work, the logical part of your brain surrenders.
So, start with the most challenging tasks first, the ones that take the most effort and brainpower. In the words of Mark Twain, if the first thing you do each morning is to eat a live frog, you can go through the day with the satisfaction of knowing that that is probably the worst thing that is going to happen to you all day long.
When you complete your most important task first and “eat that frog”, then everything else that follows will naturally be easier.
3. Focus on the most impactful things
The first law of success is focus. Your ability to focus will deliberately slow you down to narrow in on the things that matter most.
It will force you to choose.
First, make a list of all the things you need to do, preferably the night before. Do not ever start work without a list.
Then place the most important task on the top of the list. This is the task for which there can be serious consequences if you do it or fail to do it.
What about the rest of your to-do list, you say? Well, they can fall into one of three buckets; delegated, deferred, or eliminated. Every minute wasted on these is time taken away from the task or activity that can make a real difference in your business and your life.
The key is to practice discipline and start immediately on that one task and stay with it until it’s finished completely.
This alone can double your productivity on day 1.
Don’t try to ‘manage’ time because you can’t. It goes on inevitably. But, what you can manage is your ability to choose what you do first.
4. Plan each day in advance
Ideally, you should plan each day the night before. Take the time write down your major goals and what you need to do that day to get you closer to those goals.
Set your priorities. Those are the tasks that can have the greatest positive impact on your life or your business. Then get to work.
5. Take action now
Staring at the task will not get it done. It doesn’t matter how efficient you are at getting things done or how good you are at prioritising. You only have a certain amount of time in a day.
Don’t waste another minute and launch directly into your major tasks and work steadily until it’s complete.
When you do that, not only will you get results, but you will also feel a sense of accomplishment. That positive feeling you get that makes you happy and feel like a winner.
Personal productivity is a process. It’s a set of steps that when followed through repetition and practice, you will get more work done in less time.
There are no short cuts. As with any skill, practice is the key to mastering it.
So, every time you are swamped with work and personal responsibilities, remember to change your mindset, start with the most difficult task, focus on the impactful things, plan each day the night before, and take action immediately.
Over time, these will become habits that will put you on the right track to success both in your professional life and personal.
What specific actions will you take today to get better and faster results? Let us know in the comments below.
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