7 TopMind Tips to beat PROCRASTINATION

Procrastination is perhaps the biggest waste of productivity and mental energy. Apart from obviously getting less done it also costs a lot of mental energy which drains you and takes the joy out of everything.

In this blog I will share with you a number of insights and tips on how to beat procrastination. These tips are based on thorough academic research from the book: How to have a good day by Caroline Webb.

If you don’t want to read until the end here they are:

  1. Picture the benefits 

  2. Plan a short term payoff 

  3. Tie the first step in with a treat 

  4. Check the downside of in-action 

  5. Pre commit 

  6. The 5 why's 

  7. Ready for take off? …5,4,3,2,1...

For weeks now I have been procrastinating writing this blog! I know that I will enjoy writing it once I get started and usually there are a couple of followers who like to read my blogs. I also know that by publishing qualitative content more often I am building my brand and image.

Yet, … Right NOW, I'm thinking of so many other things that ‘need’ to be done, getting myself a cup of coffee, checking my emails, listening to my voicemails…

Procrastination is the thief of time. Edward Young

Doesn’t it feel fantastic when we reach the end of the day and look back with satisfaction on all the things we’ve achieved? It feels great to get things done; it makes our brain’s rewards system very happy and we end up feeling amazing.

The general idea behind all these tricks to beat procrastination is to teach your brain to make the connection between the short-term costs and long-term returns. Your brain tends to make the short-term costs greater than the longer-term returns.

Most of the tasks we avoid are the ones that promise long term benefits -better relationships, career success, better health etc.- while requiring immediate effort from us.

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A client of mine, a politician, has difficulty in responding to a couple of questions posed in our training session. She spent 3 months mulling over a couple of simple questions which should have taken max 1 hour to consider and answer.

She knows that responding to these questions will benefit her self- development and will probably make life much easier. Yet she tends to give much more weight to what’s happening right now, rather than what can happen in the future. We all find it hard to make a sacrifice now for a later benefit.

We all automatically tend to put a lot of weight on the immediate downside of making an effort and underweight the long-term upside of getting something done. The key is to make the net benefits of taking action feel bigger and the net costs feel smaller.


Here are 7 tips to beat procrastination:

1. Picture the benefits 


If we paint ourselves a vivid mental picture detailing the future benefits of getting it done, we will be highly motivated to get started.

If I picture the reactions I get once I’ve published a well written blog and how amazing I feel when I‘ve put the last word to paper, it makes it easier to start.

2. Plan a short term payoff 


For the challenging tasks that will only bear fruit after a few months, where the future benefits may feel too far away, it can help to allow yourself rewards in the short term, for example on completing a small detail of the project.

I promised myself a cup of coffee, when I finished writing the next tip. I would have made myself this cup of coffee anyway, but by planning it as a reward for effort expended, it helps me to stack the cost benefit balance in the direction of overcoming procrastination.

3. Tie the first step to a treat 


When you link the first step of doing something to something you like doing it makes it easier to start.

For example, before I started writing this blog, I walked with my dog on the beach and I set myself the goal to just identify the theme of this blog. I asked myself the question "what do I want to learn and how can I translate this into a blog?" I enjoy learning at a level where I get deep insights into a topic that interests me. Moreover, I like to walk in nature. I combined two things that I love with that which I resist doing, i.e. sitting down and getting the words on paper. And that was the kick start that I needed to sit down and write this blog.

Now it is time for a cup of coffee... (as promised...)

4. Check the downside of inaction 


We tend to weigh the pro and cons of a task. But how about the pros and cons of not doing a task.

If I do not write this blog or publish on social media, my colleague Vanesa will be without work, as she has scheduled a newsletter and blog to publish next week on various platforms. She will be disappointed. She is tremendously talented and a valued team member, I really appreciate her so it feels bad to let her down. Moreover, procrastinating on writing blogs and studying will erode my precious energy which I need for my public speaking, training and one-on-one coaching.

5. Pre commit 


Research suggests there is an effective way of making inaction look even less appealing; by making a public commitment to getting something done.

I just posted on LinkedIn that I’ll publish a blog about procrastination next Tuesday (see my feed Nov 16). Now I feel very much obliged to really do so, as I do not want to let any of my followers down.

6. The 5 why's 


If you’re still finding yourself reluctant to make progress, ask yourself five ‘why’ questions. What surfaces as the real blockage? What can you do to address this?

I asked myself the following questions when I found it hard to knuckle down and get started on this blog. Why is it hard to sit down and write something about a topic that interests me? Why is this a problem for me? etc. etc.

7. Ready for take off? ......5,4,3,2,1......

Our 40.000-year-old brain is not made for change. The motivation to do something will never come, if we just sit around waiting for it. Our brain is made for survival which implies it is wired to keep the status quo, rather than challenging it. Procrastination is in this sense our normal state and therefore doing new things feels abnormal, awkward and stressful.

No matter how long we will wait, motivation will not just show up. There are no shortcuts, miracle pills, spiritual awakenings or any other phenomenon that will change this.

And yet it takes our brains always a couple of seconds to form the reasons why NOT to do something, and exactly these few moments is our window of opportunity ....

And once we know this, only one tactic remains: 'Just do it ...swiftly’. Once you are inspired to do something, give yourself only a couple of seconds to start moving just a detail of the entire task. This can be an email, phonecall, making some notes or anything linked to the start of the task.

Envision yourself like the launch of a NASA rocket: by counting in your mind... 5,4,3,2,1 zero and GO!


Hope you enjoyed this blog. And don’t forget that insight has no value, until you start practicing it. Feel free to use our daily FREE tracker to help you get there: www.topmind.com/tracker.

Ready for take off? 5,4,3,2,1 off you go......

Would love to hear from you, please feel free to share this article and leave your comments below.

Keep your eyes on the ball,

Anne-Johan

P.S. By applying all these tips to myself for writing this blog, I’ve managed to write it much more quickly than all previous blogs....


Read more? -> “How to have a good day” by Caroline Webb

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