Procrastination sucks. And despite my intentions, every now and then, more often than I’d like to admit, I fall in a loop of procrastination. Instead of focusing on my tasks and getting down to business, I spend time in the dark playground, not really enjoying my activities as I know I should be doing something else.
Over the years I’ve read about different approaches to being productive, sticking to your daily schedule, and avoid goofing around when it’s not appropriate. Sadly, all solutions I’ve come across are just cool lifehacks that seem great, but don’t always work.
The best lifehack is still a hack around an issue, not a solution for the underlying cause.
With that in mind, I present you a 5-step program that, if executed correctly, could make sure you stay on track and prevent you from wondering off for too long.
1. REEVALUATE YOUR GOALS
I’ve previously written on the most important factor in getting motivated – why are you doing this?
This may seem basic, but I’ve found that once you instinctively get focused on your vision, you’re able to enter a wormhole of energy and burst out the other side feeling like a Spartan warrior.
This is not an exaggeration; after days of sleeping in, acting sloth-ish, and drawing a creative blank, focusing on regaining my “why” enabled me to get filled up with luscious energy. I cleaned up myself, went to bed (though I was too excited to sleep), and set my alarm clock for 6am.
Next morning, at 5:59am I jumped out of bed, before the alarm clock rang, and gotten straight down to business. I only slept for several hours, but was feeling as refreshed as ever.
I was able to do this because I recalled what I was supposed to be doing something; I re-envisioned my goal and the success I crave.
This approach works time and time again; it’s not easy to regain your vision, but if you’re dedicated, you can be a changed person by the time you go to sleep. Mindset with which you go to bed will largely impact the mindset with which you wake up. If you’ve been lazy all day and go to sleep thinking “tommorrow I’ll feel productive” – guess what?
It won’t happen. And you know it won’t, so you’re just lying to yourself.
2. GET HYPED
Alright, so you’ve dedicated yourself to your goal and regaining your vision. You want to experience a blast of creative and productive energy that gets your heart pumping. But…how do you get there?
As powerful as a mindset can be, you can’t instantly go from being lazy to being super-productive just by wishing or thinking you can. What will finally bring back that energy varies from person the person, but here are some tips to get you started.
Envision your ultimate goal – What is your end goal? Where do you see yourself in a decade? How does your ideal life look like? Do you want to be a famous actor with a mansion in Beverly Hills? Travel the world and find a new home? Be a CEO of an industry-ruling business? World’s best basketball player?
Whatever you’re building towards, don’t just spell it out or write it down – completely envision it. You must be able to close your eyes and place yourself in a desired setting so that it feels as real as humanly possible. Once you open your eyes and realize you’re nowhere near your end goal, I guarantee you’ll feel much more inspired to get cracking.
We often procrastinate because we’re “not in the right mood”, i.e. because of our current, lazy emotional state. Use this knowledge to your advantage and hype yourself up.
Prepare your temporary goals – These are tasks and milestones that get you closer to your ultimate goal. These may include anything from cleaning out your room and finishing your schoolwork to drafting a business plan or booking your next gig.
You have a vision you want to make a reality, and you can do that by progressively completing tasks which bring you closer to your successful future.
jealous inspired – Dream of living in a mansion? Search the web for inspiring photos. Want to travel the world? Read someone else’s awe-inspiring story. Want to be an awesome CEO? Watch an interview with an entrepreneur you admire.
This is all pretty basic, but it’s enough to start a spark. Keep in mind that all motivation you get from these short-term solutions will wear out, so don’t rely on it in the long run. Use it to jump start your energy, but the only thing that will keep your eyes on the prize is your desire to achieve success – no matter how you define it.
3. GET ORGANIZED
You’ve got your vision, you’ve got your inspiration, and you’ve decide what your short-term goals are. But as it turns out…there’s a LOT of them. So many that you feel overwhelmed and actually more inclined to get back to procrastinating.
But don’t run back just yet. If breaking the loop was easy, everybody would do it, and nobody would be dealing with pulling all-nighters trying to turn in that paper on time.
Yes, the roads to riches has a lot of stops, and a day only has so many hours. That’s why it’s important to break it down. I suggest choosing no more than 5-6 tasks you need to complete today in order to call your day “productive”.
They may include paying the bills, working out, replying to comments on your website, or finally calling your mom. They don’t all have to be life-changing or career-changing occurrences, just things you need to stop putting off and finish once and for all.
You want to learn French? Add a lesson of DuoLingo to your schedule. Feeling out of shape? Write in a workout. Never seem to get started on your thesis? Insert completing 2 pages today.
Your tasks need to be specific, clearly defined, and relevant to you. For example, here’s my schedule for today:
- Write in my morning journal
- Create 3 wireframes for website redesign
- Clean apartment
- Write new article
- Body-weight workout 1h
- Call my parents
As you can see, these six tasks can pretty much fill up my entire productive time for any given day. Some are more important than others, but all are important for my own personal vision.
4. RAISE THE STAKES
In the beginning, struggle is in trying to complete your to-do list by the end of the day. But once you get used to completing your tasks, you can do amazing things and change your lifestyle in an awesome way.
When you’ve conditioned yourself to be able to complete all tasks before the clock strikes midnight, why don’t you ante up? Set a time limit – try to complete your list by 8pm, so you can have an evening for relaxation and leisure.
Once you’ve been successful in this new venture, try lowering the limit further – can you finish everything by the afternoon? How about 3pm?
Ultimately, you can start getting up at 6am or 7am and aim to complete all your productive tasks for the day before noon. That way you can have the rest of your day to do all leisure activates you want without any guilt dragging you down.
On the other hand, you can re-add tasks to your daily schedule, since you now have more time to do all the things you never get around to. What took you several days in the past can now easily be done in a single day.
I understand that not all of you have the opportunity to completely influence your daily schedule, as it depends on external factors such as work, school, or other obligations. But you can still apply the same principles to maximize your time.
Instead of doing an activity part-time, while stopping to answer calls, reply to texts, listen to music, or browse the internet, dedicate a several hour block to getting things done. You’ll be amazed by how much more time you have, because all of those “little things” that interrupt your workflow eventually add up, and you start to wonder where did all the time went.
5. BE UNPRODUCTIVE
At the end of the day, all productivity we obsess with is simply so we can get the work out of the way and enjoy life to its fullest, whether that means spending time with your family or friends, hitting the clubs and binge drinking, playing sports on a sunny day, or watching your favorite show when it’s raining outside.
RELATED ARTICLE: Procrastination Done Right: How to Enjoy Your Vices
There’s always more work to be done; sometimes, there will be days, even months where you will have to put in extra time in order to reap the benefits later. But every now and then, don’t forget to let go and enjoy carefree relaxation.
All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.
P.S. Be a pal and send this to a friend in need. I know you already have someone on your mind.