People on Quora were asked: “What’s an efficient way to overcome procrastination?” These are some of the most insightful answers.
1. Start acting like an essentialist.
What is the essential work you need to get done to get closer to the life you picture for yourself? Sometimes we get lost in our overly ambitious plans and forget to focus on the only thing that matters: doing the job. We fantasize about the books we will write, the apps we will build, the love of our life that we will eventually meet. By failing to put out there the bad writing, the buggy apps, and our open hearts because we want to hog it all from the beginning effortlessly we get nothing instead.
Probably the main killer of productivity and feeder of procrastination is poor, or irregular sleep. Many of you will recognise the scenario of getting a great idea and then getting up to record it. By the time you have done this you are fully awake and in extreme circumstances can sometimes find yourself sitting on your computer working until the rest of the household wakes up, often drawing odd looks or negative comments, which in themselves can deflate your energy levels. Plan for these times by keeping a notepad by your bed. Not an electronic device that will allow you to do more, just a notepad.
3. Forgive yourself for procrastinating in the past
This should let you temporarily relieve yourself of personal regret and pressure. No one enjoys the pressure they put on themselves. So breathe and free yourself from it. We tend to build up how much we have procrastinated and end up reflecting on how we should be doing better, instead of actually getting to it.
4. Create a perfect workspace
Before starting your day, make sure you have everything ready for the work you’ll need to complete. Gather these materials the night before so that you don’t waste any time in the morning looking for them. This applies to reference materials (bookmark them in your browser or write notes that you’ll have handy on your desk), a checklist of tasks you need to complete during the day, a bottle of water at your desk, an energy snack (a power bar or a fruit and nut mix). Too much noise from sharing your space with family or roommates? Pack it all up and go to the library, then find a desk in the back so you don’t get distracted by anyone walking by.
5. Catch yourself from taking too many breaks
If you find yourself sneaking in a snack every 30 minutes, work-dreaming off into social sites or your phone, let yourself know you will not get something done without true focus. Some background sound may help, some peaceful silence may unlock your ability to focus. Keep a drink with you so you don’t venture to another place to eat or stand around thinking about what to do. As long as you can dedicate 30+ minutes to a single task or set of tasks, you’ll easily break through to working 3 or 5 hours straight. I promise (as much as I can).
6. Categorize your distracting impulses
There are three main types of them.
-> Impulses that go away when you dont satisfy them (might distract you for a short time while youre using willpower to suppress the impulse)
-> Impulses related to frequently checking something that may frequently update (email, weather, sports, forums, etc.) These impulses only temporarily go away when you satisfy them, and if you suppress them and indulge in them later, you still recapture any of the benefit you get from satisfying the impulse earlier (e-mail). But if you satisfy the impulse earlier, you probably end up indulging the impulse more, wasting more of your time
-> Impulses that wont go away when you dont satisfy them and that will end up distracting you for a very long time unless you satisfy them (assuming that you dont suppress such impulses)
The first type of impulse is the type of impulse that you should suppress whenever possible. The second type of impulse is the type that you must find *some* creative way to control (a different environment often helps when they come out). You probably have to indulge in the third type of impulse to keep yourself sane in the short-term (while finding ways to use your own higher-level thinking to suppress it in the long-term)
Alex K. Chen
7. Shift your mind from potential to results
Have you ever thought: “Once I achieve this and that, I will do this step next, and then you fantasize about how all of these dots will connect in the end”. Life usually has other plans for you. In software development one of the most used frameworks is the scrum method because it allows you to ship fast a minimum viable product that basically is just the bones of the application and you instantly get feedback from a pool of users and you know what you should focus on next to increases your chances of success instead of guessing and relying on potential.
8. Busy is NOT productive
If you develop into a non-procrastinating, efficiency machine, then yes, a lot of life hacks will improve your skills. But trying to implement them to change your life is like a weekend golfer buying a new driver to fix his slice. It’s not the club, it’s the guy swinging it.
9. Be smarter about email and social media
Reading email and constantly checking your Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter feed is distracting, prevents you from focusing, and can contribute to feelings of chaos and overwhelm. Even worse: studies have shown that it can lower your IQ by 10 points! Try this instead: check your email and social media apps twice a day (around lunchtime and in the afternoon). Why is this important? When you dont allow interruptions, you are more likely to finish your work sooner. The bonus? You will can have more time later in the evening to get the rest you deserve.
10. Eat That Frog!
This is a book by Brian Tracy. The entire concept can be broken down to: What if every day you had to eat a frog first thing in the morning? As much as that would suck, how good would you feel right after knowing that part of your day was over with?
In short: Do your worst things first.
Build this habit. It’s like a muscle that is really weak right now, but will be less weak a few weeks from now and in a couple months could be pretty damn strong.
There are many life hacks and tricks to avoid procrastination like Chrome browser plug ins that don’t let you sign into Facebook or block other tabs, but if you are a person that procrastinates then none of these tricks will work in the long run.
These just treat the symptoms, not the disease.
11. Delayed gratification
Giving myself something I want, but only after getting something accomplished first. Treat yourself like a child, but be deliberate about it. Have clearly defined rewards for success and strictly deprive yourself of them until you meet the criteria you set. If I’m feeling particularly lazy, I’ll even do this on a micro scale in my daily workflow (e.g. opening a few articles or blog posts I want to read in the morning, but then only skimming each one after I finish editing a section) and on a macro scale for big projects (e.g. buying a slightly expensive and not necessary item only after turning in a report).
The main way to massively increase your motivation is to find a hero who has been massively successful in your field and obsess over them. Watch their videos. Read their biographies. And most importantly, find any similarities between you and them-birthdays, hometown, favorite food, whatever. Even seemingly meaningless connections will significantly strengthen your connection to them and turn into a powerful motivator.
13. Identify the Causes
Each individual has a different background which prompt them to procrastinate. If you stop for a second and make a list of your own reasons, you will find a number of causes why you often procrastinate. You think it’s Laziness? Well, it can be one of the reasons. But many people procrastinate not because of laziness. They procrastinate because they feel inferior to others and this make them afraid of failure. So they pass….
Some other people, because of too many distractions like gaming, hanging out, etc. It is crucial to figure out own causes. Because if you dont know what’s the problem, it is hard to find the right solution, isnt it?
14. Stop with the mental excitation.
A lot of people practice proactive procrastination by watching videos, doing tutorials, reading books. They seem like they know so much and they feel like they are almost “experts” and so much more enlightened than everyone else. But the only thing that they actually miss is taking action and falling flat on their faces on the first try. If you want to be good, you need to increase your input. But if you really want to be excellent and get some great results you need to maximize your output. The master has failed more times than the beginner has even tried.
15. The 2 minutes rules
Do it immediately if the task can be completed in 2 minutes, but its not, start with 2 minutes, you will find yourself doing it for longer than you can imagine when you get your brain kickstart at the first place.
16. Just pick one thing
Boost your willpower by asking yourself one small yet powerful question first thing in the morning: What is the ONE THING I am committed to completing today?
There are many benefits to this technique: it keeps things simple, it helps your brain focus better, makes you prioritize your goals, and streamlines the work you need to do on that particular day so you don’t feel overwhelmed with making too many choices. Heres how: Put it in writing; write it in big bold letters on a sheet of paper and hang it on your bedroom or bathroom wall. Read it out loud as you start each day, and come up with an answer on the spot. Then, devote your time to completing whats most important to you for that day.
17. Ignore your distractions successfully
Distractions negatively impact your focus and ability to do deep work, so you need to make a conscious effort to avoid them as much as possible. To do this successfully, you will need to (a) set your phone to Airplane mode, (b) set expectations with others by letting them know you won’t be available in the next few hours, and (c) avoid browsing the Internet or reading the daily news; do these activities later in the day after you’re done with your studies.
18. Threaten your sense of comfort and security-in the right way
A disproportionate number of world-class achievers were trained in seemingly poor, run-down environments, while high tech, seemingly rich environments tend to fail at producing high achievers. When you live or work in wealthy, comfortable surroundings it tends to active your instincts to preserve what you have, rather than try to achieve more. But when you’re surrounded by a run-down environment, you feel a need to work hard just to survive.
So move out of your nice apartment, get rid of your nice furniture, and bang up the walls. The more your home looks poor, the harder you’ll be motivated to work. You don’t *actually* need to live in a dangerous situation or risk starving-you just need to convince your brain. Note that this doesn’t mean you should hang out with people who are unambitious, it just means you should mold your home accordingly.
19. You will never know 100% what the right way is
And you shouldn’t. The beauty of life hides in uncertainty and in the great perhaps that lies hidden after the first horizon. You will never be ready and the most prepared you will ever be will be today. Learning never stops, do it on the move. Start even though you feel like you are not ready yet. But don’t get discouraged and half ass it either.
“Sucking at something is the first step to becoming sorta good at something” – Jake the Dog (Adventure Time)
20. Set yourself up for success
Plan a winning day. Starts by getting up early. So whatever time you get up, wake up 2 hours earlier. It might be hard at first, but who cares.
Write down the three most important things to do that day. Then do them first, no matter what.
Whether you are a parent, a boss, an owner, an employee, whatever, if you don’t plan your winning day then you are going to be playing defense all day.
Life will happen to you, and you will be busy all day and wonder why you got nothing done.
21. Try coffee
I recently heard on NPR that caffeine functions by preventing your brain from slowing down. As a medical student, I have to disclaim that I’m skeptical of how they drew that conclusion from physiological studies–we’re probably making some inferences between the effects of caffeine on maintaining levels of adenosine triphosphate (the major chemical fuel source for the body) and our alertness–but the psychological studies and economic success of caffeine do seem to support the idea that it works.
22. Start the work with something, anything at all!
This is, to my belief, the make it or break it point. If you can just start any part of the work, ANY PART, without giving up for 30 min, you will most likely succeed in progressing further towards the end/solution. If you don’t do anything besides this one step, you will still have a great chance of realizing you have more interest in the work than you may have thought before you started.
23. Become a pro at time management
How can you focus if you believe youll be spending hours at your desk with no end in sight? Try a different approach to your work. When you’re ready to start studying, use a timer to divide up your time into manageable increments that will allow your brain to focus in a more targeted and effective way. Set the timer to 30 or 60 minute increments to maximize concentration. You can also try the Pomodoro technique which consists of 25 minute blocks of time, followed by 5 minute breaks. When you’re done with one segment, step away from your desk and do something completely unrelated to work to give your brain a chance to rest: take a 5-minute walk to get some fresh air, stretch your body for a few minutes, grab a cup of coffee or tea.
24. Define your environments
When your bedroom is your study room, your gym, your workplace and your entertainment room it’s hard to get your brain in the right mode to act accordingly. Want to do sports? Go in the park. Want to do study and be focused? Go to the library. Want to watch a movie or play on the PS3? Move that stuff to the living room. Want to just relax and take a nap? Stay in the bedroom. Keeping these environments separate will help you adjust your brain accordingly and get you in the mood needed for that certain task.