How to beat procrastination?
Did you know that Julius Caesar always had time to write letters? He did it everywhere, even during gladiatorial games. I found this fact in the Wikipedia entry about Caesar, here it is.
If you fell for my bait and clicked on the link, congratulations: you are a procrastinator. It means that even under the pressure of deadline you manage to find time to check your social networks, or read the latest news about the presidential election in Paraguay.
I, too, used to suffer from procrastination. But then I had the opportunity to visit the workshop of Maxim Dorofeev and learn his ways. In a few hours he taught us to combat procrastination, and the boys became men.
It would take me way too long to describe the whole workshop, so I will just pinpoint three useful tips.
Tip 1: Split your to-do list into three smaller ones
Nothing is a greater turn off when it comes to work than a life-long task list. If you use any service like Basecamp, sooner or later you will see this:
Internet marketing is full of routine tasks. And our to-do lists are like planet Earth where birth rate exceeds mortality. This overpopulation makes marketers wanna sigh, grab a cup of coffee and chat with their colleagues about how many tasks and how little time they all have.
The solution is simple. Divide your to-do list into three smaller ones:
- The first list is for tasks you will manage to do today;
- The second one is for tasks you hope to do this week;
- The third one is for everything else.
Review your progress every evening, moving tasks from the second list to the first. Similarly, put tasks from the third list to the second one at the end of every week. During the day you should only check the first list.
Tip 2: Be precise with your tasks
A short list of tasks is only half the battle. Even if your list contains only three tasks, they will seem unmanageable, if they look something like this:
- plant a tree;
- build a house;
- raise a son.
Such a list will probably make you think something along these lines: “Well, I can’t build a house today. And there's no time to plant a tree. Let alone to father a son. I’d better say sorry to the customer, we’ll extend the deadline, and I’ll become a man some other day”.
Maxim shares the idea of the American procrastination fighter Tim Urban who believes that there is an instant gratification monkey living in our heads. It is that nasty voice in your head that keeps saying: “Screw the work, let’s watch this video about pretty girls losing their pants instead”.
Tackling large tasks is scary. They are time-consuming, and, let’s face it, we are all lazy. Therefore, it’s helpful to split your tasks (and lists). Put only the first step of the task in your to-do list, and the next steps will follow. That’s how you trick the monkey into thinking “Okay, it’s not that hard”.
In other words, the to-do list of a perfect man will look like this:
- Buy seedlings
- Make a draft
Stop suffering and believe in yourselffind a girlfriend
Tip 3: Break the work into short intervals
Let me tell you about the ruthless exercise I won’t easily forget. At one point Maxim asked us to select a couple of tasks from our to-do lists that wouldn’t take much time. Then he said, "Well, you have 20 minutes. Go!”, and launched a huge terrifying stopwatch.
While my colleagues were running out of the audience to make a call, frantically looking for something in their phones, and slitting their wrists, I sat there contemplating two tasks I had chosen:
- Ask my colleagues what book on SEO I should read
- Proofread the article for the blog
The choice was obvious. After all, I adore my colleagues and don’t miss any opportunity to chat with them about work. So, when twenty minutes were almost over I got exactly to the last paragraph of the article, while in the office the same amount of work usually takes me an hour or two. Keep in mind, I was not on my phone with a five-inch screen, I had a laptop that is very suitable for googling the exact date when Nickleback was founded.
When this inhumane experiment was over, Maxim asked, “Well, how did it go?”, and everyone cried: “Maxim, we hate you, but we love you”.
The moral of this story? The pomodoro technique works great.
Set an alarm and work for twenty minutes, then take a short break and get back to work. When the time is limited, you are encouraged to stay focused and ignore distractions.
It’s easy to beat procrastination
The journey to productivity is dark and full of terrors. However, you can make your way through a good half of the road in three simple steps:
- split your to-do list in three
- make clear tasks
- work in short intervals
And now tell me in the comments how many times you fell for my fake links.