Lessons in Productivity: Overcoming Procrastination

One of the major forms of resistance when working on any project is the temptation to put it off until tomorrow. The problem comes when you wake up a year later and realize you did nothing. So here are a few ways to overcome one of the most pervasive vices of mankind.

Start Smaller

This is the mistake I make time and time again. I even did it with the first game of this year. The final goal looks so big and time demanding and mentally holding everything that it takes to get there is just exhausting so you put it off. But that is not how you start things.

The phrase that keeps coming up when I read about productivity is “How do you eat an elephant? …. One bite at a time.”

And it is true. Don’t think of the whole problem. It often overwhelms and keeps us from taking the first steps.

If you need to, make the first step ridiculously simple (like turn on your computer or open your notebook and get a pen) and list out 2 or 3 simple steps that you know you can do to get started, then do them. After you are done, do it again.

This builds momentum and gets you in the habit of doing instead of putting off.

Find the Pleasure

When you find yourself wanting to procrastinate, stop and think about what it is you are avoiding and why it is bad. What happens if you actually finish it? What are the physical, emotional, or spiritual rewards? What are the consequences of not doing it? What are you planning on doing instead?

Tony Robbins, a self-mastery kind of guru, proposes that the reason we do things is because we associate them with pleasure and the reason we don’t do things is we associate those things with pain. But you can condition yourself to associate the task you are finding difficult with pleasure.

Find the Why

Most of the information I have found about becoming successful and productivity says that if somebody has a strong enough reason, they will do something.

Are you writing that blog post just because you think you should have a blog or because you have an idea you really need to share? Are you building that app because you feel like you should, or because you want to learn and grow as a developer and bring your ideas to life in a computer?

You will only do things consistently and well if you have a good enough reason. Find your reason for doing what you are doing and make sure it lines up with your life goals.

Change your State

Another idea I got from Tony Robbins, change your physical state if you are feeling like procrastinating. Often we put off stuff because we feel tired or mentally exhausted. This may be because of bad diet and lack of exercise, but regardless simply improving your physical posture as if you had energy, taking some deep breaths and putting a smile on your face often helps you feel better and gets you in a state to get things done (a brisk walk will help as well).

All Together Now

These are just a few of the ways to beat procrastination but they are effective. Use them and get more done this week. Procrastinate next week.

I Want to Be a Better Developer