There’s something important you need to know about productivity – what makes you productive, and what motivates you, will be different to what makes someone else productive and motivates them.
This is what makes it so hard when you listen to one person tell you their go to method to be more productive and avoid procrastination, and you try it… and it doesn’t work…
Which is why it is important to first of all try different methods of motivation to get you being more productive, and then work out what actually works for you (and stick to it!!).
This is a list of popular and often effective methods to stop procrastinating and help you actually get things done. Remember: busy does not mean productive.
So make sure when you’re using these methods, you’re actually ticking things off your to do list and not just being busy for the sake of being busy (these methods will help with this too). You don’t have to just use one of these methods either, you can mash them up, mix them up, use them together or create your own!
Method #1 – Reward Yourself
This is the first method I’m sharing because it’s my favourite and it’s one that I find works for me better than anything else (and hopefully it will work for you too!).
The idea is, you set a task or something you need to achieve or complete, then when you get to a certain, predetermined point, you reward yourself. Initially you create little rewards along the way, then when you’ve completed the whole task, you have a bigger reward.
For example, today I know I need to get a whole lot of writing done. My goal today is to write 7000 words, so I have broken it down into 1000 word increments.
Whenever I have finished writing 1000 words, I will reward myself with a coffee (oat milk latte thanks), or I will allow myself 5 minutes to check my phone.
Once I have achieved my goal of 7000 words, I’ll allow myself time to do my hobby (crocheting a blanket for my friends baby) and take my time cooking dinner with a glass of red wine.
My rewards are things I enjoy doing, and your rewards should be things you enjoy doing too! Be mindful of rewarding yourself with food – I am lucky to have a good relationship with food so these rewards are fine for me, however if your relationship with food is not so great, then you should consider other rewards.
The reason this method works so well is because rewarding yourself with something you enjoy and like doing triggers of dopamine in your brain which is the neurotransmitter that tells your brain ‘that feels, good, let’s do it again’. Therefore you train your brain to be more productive because it knows you’re going to be rewarded! Neuroscience for the win!
Method #2 – Pomodoro Method
Pomodoro (literally meaning tomato in Italian) is a technique whereby you set a timer for 25 minutes, work at your task with no distractions until the timer goes off, then have a 5 minute break to do whatever you want.
You repeat this process 4 times and at the end of the fourth time, you have a longer break.
The idea is that you only have to focus on tasks for a shorter period of time, and therefore it is easier for you to maintain focus.
This is a good technique if you are the kind of person who can keep focus on a task for a period of time, and who isn’t so easily distracted.
For me, this method doesn’t work so well because it doesn’t focus on what you get done, more so just the time you spend doing it (which, in turn, should mean you still achieve more than you would without that dedicated focus time).
Method #3 – The 5 Second Rule
The 5 Second Rule was created by Mel Robbins and designed to help you move from that state of knowing what you need to do, and why you need to do it, to actually doing it.
It’s all about harnessing your impulse – acting on that idea you have within 5 seconds of having the idea, before your brain convinces you not to do it.
The reason this works for productivity is because you can stop your mind from throwing every excuse at you as to why you shouldn’t, couldn’t, or wouldn’t do it – and just do it.
As soon as you have an idea to do something, or as soon as you tell yourself to do something (think, seeing something on your to do list) you do it. On autopilot. Don’t think about it. Just do it.
I use this method when I get out of bed of a morning. I’m up at 4:30am most mornings. I love being up early, but I don’t love getting up early. I love the result, not the action.
So, when my alarm goes off, instead of laying in bed, snuggling back into the covers and saying ‘just 5 more minutes’ I count down from 5 to 1 and on 1 I get up. Autopilot. I get out of my head, stop thinking, and just do it.
Check out Mel’s awesome TED Talk here:
Method #4 – Beat The Clock
Are you competitive? I sure am! And while my brother might argue that I am most competitive with him, I can assure you the person I am most competitive with is myself. And when it comes to beating procrastination, it’s this competitiveness that will serve you well.
This is kind of a mix between the ‘reward yourself’ method and the Pomodoro method, and it’s pretty simple.
Set yourself a task, and a time to do that task within, set the timer, and go for it!
Back to my writing example – I know I can write between 1000 – 1500 words in an hour fairly comfortably. My goal before I get a reward is to write 1000 words, so I’ll set a timer for 45 minutes and work my butt of to get that 1000 words written in that time.
This also works for the 10 minutes you have before someone arrives at your house – it’s amazing how much tidying up I can get done in those 10 minutes!!
The thing I love the most about this method is that you choose the time frame that works best for you, and you have a goal to meet in that time frame. It ticks off two key motivation areas – time and goals achieved.
Method #5 – Instant Gratification
Let’s face it, we all love a little instant gratification. It feels good, it hits that dopamine response and it makes us want more. So how do we hack this in order to make ourselves overcome procrastination?
We start with tasks that are a) quick to achieve and b) make us feel good.
There’s a big hit of gratification when you tick and item or two off your to do list, so having your first task of the day take you 4 hours means there’s going to be a big delay to hitting that first tick in the box.
Instead, trick your brain into knowing you’re already ticking things off and that you’re already being productive.
Add 3 – 4 tiny tasks to the top of your to do list that will take you less than 30 minutes to tick off. My favourite one to add is always ‘make a coffee’ but you could always add simple tasks you’re going to do anyway such as ‘get dressed’ or ‘eat breakfast’.
Once they’re done, tick them off and you’re on your way to a super productive day having ticked things off your to do list already! It also helps you to move onto that next task and avoid procrastination because you’re already on a roll!
This isn’t an exhaustive list of all ways to avoid and overcome procrastination but they are certainly effective methods that are easy to implement and allow for you to adapt them to suit your own style and own motivations.