We’ve all had that moment where we entered a blank Word doc, all prepared to start on that 6000-word proposal and BAM! 2 hours later, we have 12 tabs of cat videos and quizzes to find out when we’ll meet the love of our lives. Then you get so guilty about how you procrastinated that you become guilty about how much guilt you’re feeling and yet still not working on that document. Calm down, my friend.
Here are 15 techniques to combat procrastination and be highly productive, that have been tried and tested by successful people. Promise me you’ll read them now and not 2 weeks later.
1. 2-Minute Rule
An object at rest will stay at rest, period. We feel you- it is almost impossible to break out of inertia. The keyword is almost.
If there is too much inertia to start on a task, try this: Tell yourself that you will try doing it for only 2 minutes. What is 2 minutes, right? That is merely 120 seconds which is almost nothing. Usually you end up spending way more than 2 minutes because you’ve already overcome the initial inertia. You just tricked your own mind into productivity!
2. The Pomodoro Technique
This is a really famous and simple time management method, by Francesco Cirillo. The word “pomodoro” is Italian for tomato, which is the shape of the kitchen timer Cirillo used.
For every task, break it down into intervals of 25 minutes. Each 25 minutes period is a pomodoro. Dedicate yourself to intense and distraction-free work for each pomodoro. Once the 25 minutes is up, take a good 3 to 5 minutes break. Take a longer break after 4 pomodoros! This method is effective because the short working period keeps your mind focused and clear, while the regular breaks acts as a good motivation.
3. The Touch-It-Once Rule
This rule is very literally, to touch your task only once. This means that once you touch a task, you act on it immediately. If you open an email, reply to it immediately instead of leaving it to later because sometimes, later = never. Also, re-reading the email again will waste more time and energy. This rule thus prevents a piling up of half-completed tasks.
4. Productive Procrastination
Procrastination isn’t all bad! Disclaimer: before you snort with disbelief and ask “Really meh?!”, what we mean is that procrastination could be productive. Rather than spending your time on cute animal videos or stalking your eye candy on Instagram, why not do other things that you have to complete as well? This can be other tasks on your to-do list, or even a personal errand. The point is to not just waste your time away, simple as that.
5. Eat That Frog
Mark Twain once said “Eat a live frog the first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.” So yup, eat a live frog and you’re good to go!
Just kidding. The frog here refers to that big, fat and ugly task staring at you. It is your most challenging or important task of the day, therefore making it all the more difficult to start on. This mantra recommends that you finish this task first because once you’ve gotten it over and done with, you’ll have enough motivation and adrenaline to complete the other ones. Most importantly… dayum, that sense of accomplishment!
6. Block Out Distractions With Technology
The Internet is like an infinite vortex of distractions – once you get sucked in, you never get out. Thankfully, there are apps to block out these distractions and they are perfect tools to help us be productive!
RescueTime saves you hours by tracking the amount of time you spend on productive work vs. not so productive work. This computer app tracks the amount of time you spend on each website. It then provides you the results in the form of stats that give away which website is the culprit for your procrastination.
It also does a bunch of other cool stuff like alerting you when you are spending too much time on a task, temporarily blocking distracting websites while you score on that productivity meter!
Ah self-control, the very thing we all lack. SelfControl blocks out selected websites for a predetermined amount of time, and you wouldn’t be able to access these websites until the timer runs out. Not even if you reboot the computer, or reinstall the application. #ruthless. So for you Youtube addicts, don’t be overly ambitious on the blocking! This app is only for Mac users.
Facebook has got to be one of the most distracting websites ever. Think the countless times when you are harmlessly searching up a company’s Facebook page for an assignment, and before you know it, lo and behold… OTTERS HOLDING HANDS! Your productivity’s gone, just like that. This is why we need apps like the News Feed Eradicator for Facebook (a Google Chrome extension), which removes almost everything distracting from your newsfeed- like a diet for our brains.
If there is anything more distracting than Facebook, it’s Youtube. So many videos of cute kittens, celebrities throwing shade at T Swift and korean spicy noodles challenge… So many videos and so little time. But no, move aside Taylor, activate the DF Youtube Google Chrome extension and it’ll transform the appearance of the YouTube page by completely eliminating recommendations, related videos, and comments, leaving you with only what you need- like lifesaving videos solving economic equations. Exciting, no?
7. Evaluate and Reboot
This might sound like common-sense, but you have no idea how much it helps with your productivity. Firstly, set aside some time in the middle of your day to assess your progress. For example, if you have a 9-5pm workday, stop at 1pm to evaluate the tasks you have completed and left uncompleted. Reflect on how productive you are, and whether you should speed things up a little. This is a great method to catch yourself procrastinating and establish better time management habits. Time to up your productivity game!
8. Don’t Break The Chain! / Jerry Seinfeld strategy
Grab your calendar and a red marker. Each time you complete all your required tasks for the day, cross off the day on the calendar. This creates a chain of red Xs, charting your progress. When you don’t finish your tasks for the day, you don’t get to cross it off and hence, breaking the chain. Trust me when I say there is an indescribable satisfaction with every cross you draw, making it super motivating to strike the next one. But don’t be too hard on yourself if you do break the chain, just look forward to making a longer one next time!
9. Important-Urgent Matrix
Sometimes you have so many things to do and you feel so overwhelmed that the only thing that makes you feel better is to take a nap, amirite? #priorities. This is where the Important-Urgent Matrix can help! It is a 2×2 matrix, made up of 4 quadrants: tasks that are important and urgent, important but not urgent, not important but urgent, and lastly not important and not urgent. It helps you to clearly outline which tasks are truly urgent AND important, so that you know what to assign your time to.
10. Create a Commitment Device
This is really simple but effective. Make a bet with your friend that you will complete a task. If you don’t, you have to pay him $100 – that is your commitment device. This technique holds you accountable to others when the self-discipline struggle is real. The commitment device can be anything- food, Starbucks, movies let your imagination run wild!
11. The Elephant Technique
How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. Simply put, the task might seem as big as an elephant, but all you have to do is to split it into smaller, more manageable parts and focus on each one individually.
For example, if you have a week to complete a 6-page essay, try splitting this into bite-sized goals. These can be to “finish my research for the essay by Monday”, and then to “finish the introduction paragraph by Tuesday”, and then to “finish three body paragraphs by Wednesday”and so on. Make it manageable!
12. The “Body Double” Technique
No, this does not mean to get somebody to substitute you to complete your tasks or sit for your exams. A body double is somebody who provides a physical presence whenever you need to carry out a task. This is as simple as having a study buddy – seeing somebody else studying hard will motivate you to do so yourself. The body double’s presence acts as a reminder for you to focus on your task.
13. Anti-To-Do List
Since most of us use a To-Do List, why not have an Anti-To-Do List as well? Write it down everytime you complete something, and this will be a list of your achievements for the day. Just as how a To-Do List shows you the things you have yet to complete, an Anti-To-Do List is a celebration of your productivity! This actually acts as a good motivation and gives you an idea of your progress. If your Anti-To-Do List remains short throughout the day, you know it’s time to (as Troy Bolton would sing) get’cha your head in the game!
14. Use Red And Blue More Often
Don’t we all love shortcuts? Here’s a shortcut to increase productivity! According to a Science Daily study about which colors improve brain performance, red was discovered to increase attention to details while blue sparks creativity. Make sure to get your highlighters, post-its and whatnot in these colours!
15. ‘Verberize’ Your To-Do List
Nope, you did not read that wrong. “Verberizing” is a technique recommended by Marie Forleo, which is to add a verb before every task in your To-Do List. Not just any verb, but small and actionable verbs which you can complete in (preferably) one step. For example, if you want to complete a presentation, verberize your To-Do list so that instead of having a single point “Do presentation slides”, it looks something like this:
- EDIT background and layout of slides
- CREATE main sections
- WRITE content in each section
- CHECK that there are no typos and grammar mistakes
This makes the task much simpler and less intimidating, and the use of verbs in caps actually spurs us on to conquer the task!
So there you go, 15 procrastination hacks to gear you up for the work battle. Trust me, your brain will definitely be thankful that it’s no longer working in a deadline-induced panic.