3 Powerful Tactics for Hacking Procrastination

I’m taking a 30-minute procrastination break by writing this.

Odds are, if you are reading this, you are procrastinating as well.

Let’s just be real, we all do it in one way or another!

We drift off into a habit, a crutch, or a comfort in order to avoid what we know we really should be doing. Whether it’s doing homework, mowing the lawn, doing the laundry, or facing a source of difficulty or pain, we always find creative ways to hold it off for just a little longer.

If you’re like me, you are always looking for ways to keep procrastination at bay. In my search, I’ve developed layers of protection, which is useful when my monkey-mind tries to outsmart me. But first, we must realize…

There’s Levels to This

As I see it, there are three different levels of procrastination:

  • High-Level Procrastination: requires forcing functions. These are large, life-altering decisions that can have echoing effects far down the road. I have discussed this in relation to changing jobs and walking a 500-mile pilgrimage in a foreign country. Other examples could take the form of apartment searching or even (cough…) getting married.
  • Low/Mid-Level Procrastination: requires checklists and daily to-do lists to ensure things get done. Examples include avoiding mowing the lawn, writing an essay, finishing homework, or cleaning out the garage. This will be the focus of this essay.

I won’t get into differentiating low and mid-level procrastination because they are subjective. I will say, however, that the higher the cost is of not doing something coincides with how high it will register on the meter.

However you define your versions of procrastination, I have three methods for you, that I have used to successfully defeat it once and for all:

Method 1: The Timer Method

  • Find something that you often use as a means for carrying out your deferment of plans. This could be social media browsing, reading ESPN, checking email, or watching the next episode of Ozark on Netflix.
  • Set an alarm for 30 minutes. Do the thing you’ve been holding off for those 30 minutes, then reward yourself for 10 minutes with your guilty pleasure.
  • Rinse and repeat.
  • I’ve found that, although there are task-switching costs involved in this method, there is a significant boost in my productivity when I revert to this system.

Method 2: The Touch it Once Method

This can work for both overwhelm and procrastination. When you are drowning in “to-dos” (ex: creating your blog site, communicating with people, little things that you keep pushing off, etc.):

  • Pause. Breathe deeply. Back away from what you are doing.
  • Make a list (write it on paper) of all the smaller, important things you have to do.
  • Keep it visible (next to your computer). 
  • Get into the habit of planning your three MITs (Most Important Tasks) the night before.
  • Make your physical list one of your three MITs. (Three primary objectives is psychologically superior to having 20 things floating around that might never be done, halfway done, or forgotten altogether.)

You don’t have to complete everything on the list every single day. However, when you start on each item, you must follow through and finish it. Never do something halfway and come back to it.

You want your mind to be at ease, and in one place.

I used this method to open and manage a large restaurant, and I used this method to build a website and write every single day. It simply works.

Touch it once.

Method 3: The Lesser Evil Method

This is the method I am currently using as I type this to you.

The idea is simple. Accept that procrastination is inevitable. Then proceed to procrastinate by doing something with less friction and of equal importance.

I currently have bigger fish I could be frying, but since my mind is reluctant to take them on at the moment, I’ve decided to procrastinate by writing to you about three of the most powerful techniques I use to overcome procrastination. (Don’t you just love Jedi mind tricks??)

So there you have it. Next time you face procrastination, you will have an arsenal of tools at your disposal.

And if you have any strategies of your own, I’d love to hear about them!

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