Everyone procrastinates. It’s not uncommon to find yourself either scrolling through the Facebook news feed or watching some random cat videos on YouTube. You don’t feel like doing what you should be doing. Actually, you probably just don’t feel like doing anything productive at all.
We know we shouldn’t be procrastinating – it will hold us back from getting things done. It will hold us back from crossing off items from our daily to-do list. It will hold us back from achieving our New Year Resolutions. It will hold us back from achieving our goals. We understand the consequences of procrastination. We know the truth – procrastinating is going to hold us back from success.
But, we aren’t disciplined enough to take control of our own actions. We need a way to prevent ourselves from procrastinating.
Getting Things Done
Recently, I came across a book about productivity titled “Getting Things Done” by David Allen. I found that a few of the techniques that were mentioned in the book are really effective in helping us to stop procrastinating.
These techniques are very simple and aren’t time-consuming. It won’t take much time at all to implement them in your daily life:
2 Ways to Stop Procrastinating:
1. Ask yourself “What’s the next step?”
Sometimes, it’s not that we want to procrastinate. It’s because we are too tired or bored, and then we decided to take a break. Eventually, we ended up doing something else irrelevant. Or perhaps, it’s because the next step seemed to be so overwhelming. You just don’t have the energy left to deal with it and decided to just give up and do something else.
But most of the time, this is not true at all. The next step seems to overwhelm us mainly because our brains have yet to decide what to do next.
You know you have an assignment that need to be handed up next week, but it just seems too much for you to do it right now.
You know you need to lose weight by the end of summer, but your body just doesn’t feel like moving.
You see the pattern here? We are clear of what we want to achieve, but there is one thing missing. You haven’t found out what’s the next step you should take, which causes us to procrastinate. You haven’t decided what the next step is yet, your mind is not clear about what it should do next, that’s why you choose to procrastinate in the end.
Here’s what to do:
When you feel like procrastinating instead of doing the tasks which you should be doing, ask yourself:
“What’s the next step I should take (in order to get the task done)?”
Let’s use the previous scenario as an example:
You have an assignment which needs to be completed by next week. Since it’s impossible for you to get this done in the next few hours, ask yourself what the first course of action should be to improve the overall progress. Sometimes, it’s actually a simple action – start reading up on relevant materials, researching information from the internet, or delegating some tasks to your group members.
You want to get fit and healthy by the end of summer, you know you need to start working out right now, but… you’re too lazy to get up from that comfy couch. So ask yourself what you can(should) do next. It’s pretty simple really. Suit up in sportswear and running shoes. Then, walk out of your room and go to the nearest park/gym and start exercising. I guess it’s safe to say you won’t be procrastinating anymore when you reach the park/gym right?
When you ask yourself what you can do next, you break down overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks. You’ll noticed that some tasks/projects that seem overwhelming at first isn’t that overwhelming in reality.
“The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and starting on the first one.”
– Mark Twain
2. The “2-minute Rule”
In the book “Getting Things Done”, the author, David Allen stated that after knowing what the next step is, you’ll have 3 choices:
- Do it if it takes less than 2 minutes to complete.
- Delegate the task if the task is more appropriate for someone else.
- Defer it.
Here we will emphasize on the first choice: Do it if it takes less than 2 minutes to complete. This is the mindset you should plant in your mind to stop procrastinating. The reason this works because 2 minutes seem really short to us. If the task takes less than 2 minutes to complete, it’s hard for our brain to say no to it.
So what if some tasks require more than 2 minutes? Then, will this strategy works? Yes, if you break down the tasks into smaller parts as mentioned above.
Here’s what to do:
So the next time when you’re going to procrastinate, ask yourself if the task is going to take more than 2 minutes, if not, just do it. If yes, ask yourself if it can be broken down into smaller tasks. The key is to start doing. Once you start, you’ll have the momentum to carry on with the tasks even after the 2 minutes window has lapsed.
For more detailed on how to implement this technique, check out “How to Stop Procrastinating by Using the 2-Minute Rule” by James Clear. (I first came to know about this amazing technique from this article instead of the book. And the article is also where I came across the book “Getting Things Done” and decided to grab a copy myself and read it.)
Now I have shared these 2 techniques with you, but by just reading this article without truly implementing it in your daily life, these techniques cannot help you to stop procrastinating. A simple question, and a rule, I don’t think it’s hard to implement it in your daily life right?
Remember, to prevent procrastination, we need to keep our momentum going while working on the tasks at hand. As I realized, once I take a short break, I will be more likely to procrastinate for the next 30 minutes. So, never let procrastination take over us.
NOW, ASK YOURSELF, WHAT’S THE NEXT STEP FOR YOU?
Feel free to comment and share your thoughts.
Thanks : )