I’m about to show you how by just incorporating these 7 proven techniques, you can eliminate procrastination and improve your motivation & productivity in your personal and professional life.
As you read through, ask yourself:
Am I (consciously or subconsciously) using these techniques consistently? If you are then great, you’re probably meeting your maximum potential for productivity. But if you are not then one simple little tweak will most likely have a profound, domino kind of effect.
One more thing. This article makes an assumption about you. Make sure this applies to you before you decide to read on.
The assumption is that you value your time.
This article is not for the stubborn perfectionist type, who is not willing to break out of their current habits of spending lots of time on all the little extra details without any substantial improvement in results. If this is you then stop reading. This article is only concerned with doing what will get you results. I can’t emphasise this enough.
However saying that, if you make the choice to break out of your current habits and start applying the ideas in these techniques properly, then the perfectionist will probably have the most to gain from this information.
Without further ado, let’s get into it.
Productivity technique #1: Manage time according to the 80/20 rule
“80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes” - Pareto principle.
This phenomenon is universally applicable in practically every sphere of our lives. For example, 20% of customers account for 80% of profits”, 20% the world’s wealth is held by 80% of the world’s population, 20% of biological species (all insects) account for 80% of the worlds biological mass, 20% of pea pods yield 80% of the peas, and so on. It makes sense therefore that you have easy access to a dramatic increase in productivity by focusing on the 20% and eliminating, automating or delegating (outsourcing) the rest.
This can also be applied to the amount of time taken to do a task. Very often our subconscious tends to get confused and ends up correlating how long something takes to get done with how important it is. Avoid falling into this trap.
Productivity technique #2: Ignore urgent tasks with a low importance
“What is important is seldom urgent and what is urgent is seldom important” – Eisonhower.
You should always favour something that is important but not urgent (“important goals”) over something that is unimportant but urgent (“interruptions”). These ‘interruptions’ are just that, they are interruptions that distract you from your goal. Always make the distinction. Don’t get sucked into them and avoid them wherever possible. This will have the added benefit of taking away stress associated with how much work you need to do.
Productivity technique #3: Give yourself strict deadlines for task completion
“Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion” (Parkinson’s law)
This means if you give yourself a week to complete a two hour task, then you will spend this extra time working less efficiently, or procrastinating so as to fill that week.
By assigning a strict time limit or deadline, it forces you to work at your most efficient to get it done on time. You may be shocked at how much more efficiently the human brain can work if you create the right conditions for it.
For this to be effective however, you have to train yourself to see making the time limit as crucial. If you’re having trouble with this, strive to beat the clock as if it were your opponent. Rather than just using a clock, set a time limit on a timer instead. Use that human, instinctual longing for competition to your advantage.
Of course you do not want to give yourself too little time or you will just become deflated and will avoid doing it. But generally, people will tend to give much more time to complete the task than is required.
It has been proven that using 25-minute time intervals, followed by a short break is the optimal approach for maximising attention and mental activity. This is because it reduces the impact of internal and external interruptions on focus and flow.
This is the basis for the Pomodoro technique, named after the tomato-shaped kitchen timer used by the technique’s creator, Francesco Cirillo, when he was a university student (pomodoro is Italian for tomato).
The physical act of winding up the timer confirms the user's determination to start the task; ticking externalises desire to complete the task; ringing announces a break. Flow and focus become associated with these physical stimuli. For this reason it is recommended that a low-tech approach with a mechanical timer, paper and pencil is used.
Productivity technique #4: Stick to your plan at all costs
“Your plan is your manual for success”
Your plan will dictate how productive you will be. Provided it was structured using the three principles above, the more you stick to the plan the more productive you will be and the more you deviate away from your plan the less productive you will be.
Of course you can be a bit flexible. Little tweaks as you go along are fine. Your plan will not be perfect, nor can you expect yourself to stick to it perfectly. But do not make significant changes for the sake of ‘perfecting’ something.
There is a big misconception that the overall quality of your work will go down if you neglect some areas of work. This is simply not true. Imbalance is good (see Pareto’s principle). The overall quality of your work will only go down if you do not stick to the plan. After all that is the whole point of a plan… right?
Productivity technique #5: Do one thing at a time
Often considered the pinnacle of efficiency, multitasking can actually be extremely destructive, especially for complex tasks. This is because of what psychologists call, the ‘switching cost’ - time lost when switching from one task to refocus on another. This time interval gets bigger the more complex the tasks involved.
Simply, the greater the number and complexity of the tasks, the less productive you will be.
So don’t fall into the trap of multitasking. Instead focus all your attention on one thing at a time. Getting off Facebook and Twitter, switching your phone off and logging out of your email are good starting points.
Productivity technique #6: Develop a love for the journey
“The joy comes from the journey itself, not the destination” (George Leonard)
In modern society we live in a culture continually bombarded with promises of immediate gratification, instant success and magic pills, all of which tend to guide us in the wrong direction for achieving real success.
Look past the immediate gratification of results and focus instead on embracing the process. Be in the moment. Put all your focus into the now.
You will inevitably hit a few plateaus along the way, where you experience long hours of diligent effort with no apparent progress. This is when you most need to trust the process. And trust that if you continue to take right action you will break through it and hit a new high level. Learn to love these plateaus, and learn to love the process as a whole.
Productivity technique #7: Become an executer
“Just do it.” (Nike)
What we fear doing the most is usually what we most need to do. If there is a specific task you have been putting off out of fear, consider the short-term pain of doing it now versus the long-term pleasure thereafter. Also consider completing only a small part of it 'perfectly' versus completing all of it badly...but then having loads of extra time to refine it.
Take pride in becoming an executer who just gets things done. When you do this the quality will come organically over time anyway.