There are a lot of ways to beat procrastination. Here are 5 super-simple ways that are fun and easy to implement for anyone.
1. The 5-Minute Trick
The 5-minute trick is where you take what you’re procrastinating on and do it for just 5 minutes. That seems pretty easy right?
It’s only 5 minutes, and we can tell ourselves that if we really still don’t want to do it after 5 minutes… then we won’t.
But here’s the thing – once you have the momentum of that first 5 minutes, then you’ll find yourself carrying through and finishing the task all the way. And if you don’t – that’s fine! It probably means that the task was something difficult and that there were perfectly good reasons for not doing it in the first place.
A more advanced version of this is what we call solar flaring. This is where you start with a small amount of activity… then EXPLODE into a burst of sudden activity. It gives you the mental permission to start small and “warm up” on a task before fully committing to it and giving it your all.
The great thing about the 5-minute trick and solar flaring is that the more you do them, the more they become habitual. This means that in the future when you start to feel like procrastinating – your mind and physiology will just kick in and help you get things done.
2. Scratch Around the Itch
Have you ever had a mosquito bite that just really really itches?
We know that we’re not supposed to scratch the bite mark itself, otherwise it may burst and bleed and generally just itches more. So what do we do? We end up scratching around the itch to get some sense of relief.
You can do the same thing with procrastination. Find the thing that you’re procrastinating about, and start scratching around it – find the supporting tasks, things that could get in the way, things that you really should do but haven’t gotten around to (yet) and do those instead.
This is also known as Creative Procrastination. It lets us procrastinate on a given task while letting us simultaneously be productive on other things – the best of both worlds.
3. Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is
This is a very raw, brute-force way to motivate yourself past procrastination to getting something done.
It can be useful in a pinch, but we do not recommend it as a long-term habit as it builds dependence on external incentives – and what we really want is to be able to internally motivate ourselves to do things when they need to be done.
The technique itself is simple – find someone that you trust, and give them an amount money with instructions not to return it to you until a particular task is done.
This can be a trusted friend, a roommate, or even your 8-year-old. And it has to be an amount that hurts, be that $100, $500 or $1,000.
Usually the pain of losing the money is more than enough to motivate us to take action – I suppose that says something about human nature in that potential loss or losing out tends to motivate us better than reward or gain does.
4. Remember, Your Feet Don’t Stink Today
Credit for this technique goes to Tony Robbins.
One of the hacks that he teaches for getting in a great mood is to stand up, jump up and yell at the top of your lungs, “Hallelujah, my feet don’t stink today!”
I know what you’re thinking. It’s corny. It’s cheesy. It’s silly. *I* would never do that.
But that’s kind of the point. The fact that it is silly, not-normal and not-proper is what makes the technique work.
You’ll get a big rush of good hormones and general silliness that will make you smile, laugh and put you in a more positive and productive emotional state for whatever it is you want to do.
And let’s not even mention all the people who happen to be around at the time :)
That’s right, phone a friend.
If you find yourself stuck, call up a friend (or grab a co-worker) who’s in a talkative mood and get a boost of social energy to put towards whatever it is you’re procrastinating upon.
The best of course is to talk to that friend face-to-face – over coffee, over lunch, or just be the water cooler. I know it’s tempting to text or IM them instead, but it’s really the verbal communication that gets the brain going.
This technique comes from something that Thanh and I developed for networking and conferences. We found that if we went straight from say getting up to the conference room, the parts of our brains that make us witty and funny and (you get the idea) were cold, and our conversations would stumble and generally stall. But if we hopped on the phone and talked to someone for 10-15 minutes first – about anything really – then we’d be “warmed up” and ready to have great conversations.
The technique worked so well for its original purpose that we decided to test it out on other things – and it turns out that talking to other people imbues us with a special something that helps make us more productive. Try it out and experience it for yourself!
Where To Go Next
You’ve just learned about 5 really simple ways to beat procrastination:
- Do it for just 5 minutes.
- Do everything around it.
- Put some money on it.
- Remember, your feet don’t stink today.
- Phone a friend.
You can take this list and write it down or put it in Evernote and carry it around with you everywhere – when you get stuck, pick one and go for it.
As we mentioned there are a lot of different ways to beat procrastination. It’s also possible to structure your days and life in such a way that procrastination is no longer an issue – ever. Check out the Asian Efficiency Primer for more details.
Also make sure that you’re subscribed to our newsletter too (it’s free and we don’t spam). We’ve got some new content coming out on how to eliminate procrastination for good, and we’ll be telling our newsletter readers about it first.
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