All procrastination is bad procrastination. There… now that I have said it, let me start by explaining why I think that this one of the most important things to conquer, if you want to be successful in life.
The number one thing that separates an idea from a successful business, is execution. Ideas are cheap. That is why everybody has one. A business on the other hand, comes at a price. That is why, not everyone owns one. Now a successful business? The kind that have a decent turnover and grow each year significantly? Those require intentional and consistent action. Note how I use the word intentional, because that is super important too.
It is important that you master the art of taking action because, that is the only way you can achieve any progress in life. And progress equals happiness.
I have this weird thing where strangers trust me enough to start sharing intimate parts of their life. All who I talked to that were greatly depressed, when I helped them trace back to the root cause of their severe melancholy, it commonly is a product of the feeling of being stuck. Lacking progress either in their business, job, relationship, weight goal, school… the list goes on. You see, one of the fundamentals of being a human being is progress. Growth. The minute you stop growing, you die. And to be successful, you kinda have to be alive…okay maybe more of you have to be alive!
The top two reasons on why you must conquer procrastination, is one, to stay alive and save yourself from dying. And two, to taste the sweet fruit that is success in whatever part of your life.
The main reason for my writing this piece, even though google says about thirteen million versions already exist, is to offer a simplified version of the steps I have been taking to conquer procrastination. The use of the word conquer is intentional. We are at war against bad habits. Comprehending that you are at war is the first step towards winning the war. Having knowledge on how to win the war is the second step towards winning the war. My writing this piece is living proof that the following steps shared below are attainable and produce real results, when understood and followed diligently.
- Eliminate Distractions
Your phone and environ offer the greatest distractions. They eat up our time and demand for our attention, always pulling us away from the important stuff that require our mindful action. With the wake of social media, small pop ups appear on the phone screen demanding for us to stop what we were doing and refocus our attention to latest posts and updates. That notification sound or phone vibrating has such power over you, that you can almost never get anything done when you have your phone around! A tip is to leave your phone in a separate room or put it on silent mode and away from where you can see it. If you cannot, simply switch on airplane mode for as long as you must focus on completing the task at hand.
Your environ of choice should be somewhere comfortable and quiet. Time of day may also be a good factor to leverage on. Certain hours offer peace and quiet away from distraction. For my case, this falls during early mornings, before 6am or late at night, past 10pm. Being that most people are asleep, you have the advantage of peace and quiet away from conversations and distractions caused by other people around you.
2. Start with the why
[This point sounds a lot like Simon Sinek’s book because it is stolen from Simon Sinek’s book!]
Understanding why you need to successfully complete a task is important because it gives you a sense of purpose. Going a step further to attach an emotion to your ‘why’ will give you motivation to follow through, even when the task seems difficult or very boring to execute. From finishing a detailed work or school report, to as simple as replying to a text from your mom, make yourself understand why you must complete it. Then connect the why to an emotion, and that memory of emotion will help serve as motivation. To help bring this into perspective, here is an example from my daily life.
Example one: Going to the gym – staying healthy and fit is important to me. I also happen to have a liking for salty and fatty foods. To add to that, just like you, I am lazy. So, staying physically active regularly and eating right has been a struggle. Especially over the past six months. How bad was it? Well let’s just say, I considered walking to the kitchen to get food and walking back to my couch, being enough exercise for the day! The aftermath was I added a few kilos. Eleven kilos heavier, to be exact. That is, compared to my weight exactly a year ago. My turning point was early this year. I was out dress shopping, trying out different outfits for an occasion I had been invited to. This was the fourth shop I had been to and seventh outfit I was trying on. The dress I fancied could not zip up. Put simply, I was too fat and still in denial! Settling for a bigger dress size was not an option I was willing to consider. I remember seeing my face in the mirror turn red with embarrassment, when the sales lady finally gave up trying to zip up the dress from the back and admitted under her breath, that it was too small for my body size. (My complexion makes it hard to mask my emotions.) With an air of despondency, I dragged my feet back to the changing room to peel off the dress I had on. As luck would have it, or rather lack of it, the zip that was now stuck gave in and tore, ruining the dress. It is at that moment, that I broke down into tears feeling forlorn. I felt fat and ugly. I took out my phone to send a text typing out that I could not make it to the occasion. Whenever I feel lazy to go to the gym and consider postponing the day’s session, the memory of that day, the emotion of feeling ugly and fat, quickly reaffirms that I must go to the gym. So that I never have to feel that again. Works every time
3. Daily to do lists
Do not mistake being busy for being effective. It is possible to be busy all day and have no real achievements to show at the end of it. How to ensure your being busy amounts to being effective? Start the day off with a to do list. Separate personal errands from work related tasks. Keep it as simple as can be. I strongly advise against trying to achieve twenty activities on Monday! Break down the twenty activities into five days. Monday to cover first four urgent matters. The rest, broken down into four each day, prioritizing with level of importance.
Next, start off the day with the hardest task. We mostly prefer to do the reverse. Your mind is working at optimum when you first wake up. This puts you in a more advantageous position to tackle the tasks that you consider to be the hardest. This could include analyzing reports or in my case, writing my next blog. Level of priority should always take into consideration what is urgent versus what is important. Just to ensure we understand the difference, here are their individual definitions.
- Urgent – Require immediate attention or action. Time is a luxury not extended to urgent tasks.
- Important – has enormous value. This have the luxury of time. But if not completed in good time, will often escalate to being urgent.
After you have established which tasks fall under what category, now establish what are the repercussions of not completing a task. For example, a task could be urgent to you, but not fall under important to your boss. In this case, priority should go to what is important to your boss first, then followed by what is urgent to you.
5. Take breaks in between
It is easy to lose focus when you have been doing one thing for hours. Sometimes, fifteen minutes is all it takes before you are bored and lose concentration. Not to worry, this is super normal. Everyone gets bored! But to ensure you do not procrastinate difficult tasks that require hours to complete, break this down into phases. One of the main reasons, among others, I haven’t been consistent in blogging is because it requires a lot of research and hours of typing to complete a valuable piece to share as a blog. Now knowing this, I break down a blog into points. Next, I take on at least two points and take breaks in between. Use the breaks to stretch or quickly check on your phone. Just ensure the breaks are not too long or else you are back to procrastinating!
6. Award yourself cookies for good behavior
A great motivator to taking on more tasks on your to-do-list, is a reward you can look forward to after its successful completion. However, be careful not to award a modest task with a sizeable trophy. The same way it would be ludicrous to graduate with a masters certification, a day after attending the first class. Employ integrity in matching your achievement to the award. An example I like to use, I enjoyed catching up with my favorite series on Netflix. But I was also wasting a lot of valuable time on tv. So, I decided to flip it around by using screen time as an award for a day spent ticking of tasks on my to-do-list. Now, after a day of calling the difficult customers I would in the past avert talking to and successful meetings with clients, I allow myself an episode or two max of ‘House of Cards’ or ‘Billions’ (my current watch list) to unwind. But if I fail to achieve the day’s goals, no screen time at the end of the day. Another example is after a week of eating clean and working out for 3-4days, a cheat meal awaits on Saturday.
Integrity and discipline lie at the core of this point. Without these two, just like the fall of France, you are fighting a losing battle.
7. Get an accountability partner
An accountability partner helps keep you in check and remind you of the high stakes at hand. Okay maybe it does not need to be that dramatic for you and I… But get someone you trust and respect to report to the week’s or month’s achievements and track against targets set on the onset. Their job is to help keep you keep your eyes on the prize.
8. Review progress consistently
Measure measure measure! Without this, there will be no definite way of determining whether you are making any progress or remain stagnant.
Thank you for reading this far, I sincerely hope that this was educative and fun. If you have points that you feel should have made the list, pop them down below on the comments section and keep the conversation going…
Which point do you think would be the easiest to follow through?
Don’t forget to share with that person you know needs to see this!