It’s like a monster looking over your shoulder.
You have that slightly guilty, sinking feeling. And then the ‘shoulds’ start.
You should be starting that project. You should be making progress. You should stop procrastinating and get on with it.
You’re not even sure why you’re not getting on with it. You know what needs doing and you know it’s important.
But you still don’t take action.
Maybe the project is big. Or overwhelming. Or scary.
Maybe you’re afraid you’ll look foolish.
Maybe you can quite visualise it being perfect.
Whatever the reason, you’re procrastinating. And you know it.
You just don’t know how to beat procrastination and bust out into action.
Enter Tim Ferris.
Tim is the author of four #1 New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestsellers, including The 4-Hour Workweek and his latest book, Tools of Titans: The Tactics, Routines, and Habits of Billionaires, Icons, and World-Class Performers.
When you’re a writer like Tim, you’re intimately acquainted with procrastination, and you have an arsenal of strategies to overthrow it when it strikes.
Here are a few from Tim.
The Tim Ferris Guide to Beating Procrastination
1. Break It Down
Break big projects down into small pieces. In fact, break it down into the smallest conceivable pieces.
2. Make It Hyper-Specific
Get super specific about the details. When do you need tasks done by? What defines success?
Tim’s example is to increase his podcast downloads. When he gets specific, he says he wants to double the number of downloads in six months.
Another example is that instead of thinking, “I want to lose weight” we should be really specific and think, “I want to lose 5 kg in the next two months”.
3. Discover The Prerequisites
Figure out if there are any prerequisites to your project. Tim gives the example of looking at existing organic and paid traffic for his podcast.
If we look at our weight loss example, we might decide that a prerequisite is to eliminate any tempting but unhealthy food in the house.
4. Establish Your Next Physical Action
Sometimes it’s difficult to establish which piece comes first, or the best order for completing a bunch of tasks. In this case, Tim says to ask yourself, “ … which one of these if done will make the rest the relevant or easier?”
5. Commit To Doing Less
Tim says we often commit to big goals, which are challenging. But then we fail to achieve them and lose momentum.
His trick to commit to doing less than you believe is achievable. That way you retain momentum.
If you commit to flossing your teeth daily, you might start by committing to flossing your two front teeth. Because it’s very achievable.
6. Make It As Easy As Possible
Make everything as easy as it possibly can be. In Tim’s example of flossing teeth, he says you might use a WaterPik or a flossing gadget to make the task easier.
7. Create Tiny Assignments
When you create tiny assignments they seem more achievable. Flossing two teeth in the morning and two in the evening is a tiny but achievable assignment.
If we look at our weight loss example we might give ourselves the tiny assignment of doing 10 minutes of activity each morning before work. Ten minutes is manageable, whereas a 1-hour workout three times a week is harder to accomplish.
8. Lower Your Standards
Stop aiming for perfection. When he’s writing a book Tim aims for “ … two crappy pages per day…”
Again, this makes the tasks within the project more achievable and more likely to be done. Writing two crappy pages – that may or may not end up in a book – is more achievable that turning out a whole chapter of beautiful prose.
9. Make Yourself Accountable
If you can make yourself accountable you’re more likely to get results. Sometimes that means being accountable to others, sometimes it means finding a way to committing to yourself.
10. Meet With Yourself
Sometimes we put time in our calendar to meet with ourselves, and we blow it off. We think, “It’s only me. I can do that later” and this is another form of procrastination.
Tim tells how Mike Birbiglia – one of the most successful comedians on the planet – used a post-it note to bully himself into commitment. He wrote, “Mike!!! You have a meeting with yourself at 7:00 a.m”
So figure out a way to keep your commitments to yourself, so you follow through.
Tim has many tools in his beating-procrastination-toolkit but his key takeaway is:
“ … keep it small, keep it defined, rig it so you can win and when in doubt figure out a way to create a loss or shame if you don’t actually tackle your task and achieve some type of measurable goal by a specific point in time.”
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