Getting stuff done is hard. But it doesn’t have to be!
Here are some amazing anti-procrastination tips to get you off that couch and into #hustle mode.
In this guide, you’ll find:
- The difference between procrastinating and being lazy (and how to tell if you’re either)
- The telltale signs of procrastination (and how to tell if you’re in denial)
- How to eliminate procrastination with the MEGATRON Method (yes, it’s as cool as it sounds)
- How to stick with your new anti-procrastination routine so you’ll never procrastinate again
Let’s get to it!
How to Eliminate Procrastination Forever Using the MEGATRON Method
We know Megatron like the back of our hand for us nerds out there. Megatron is a supervillain in the Transformers franchise for those out of the loop.
Like, THE villain nobody wants to mess with.
So I want you to think of your procrastination demons as the super-evil Megatron. He’s coming after you, and the only way to stop him is to use his method against him.
Sounds cool, right?
Here it is—all laid out for you in these 8 simple steps:
- Motivation: Using the Procrastination Principle to stay motivated
- Environment: Controlling your environment and setting up your workstation
- Greatness: Becoming an expert in your field or industry
- Allowance: Allowing yourself to have occasional moments of procrastination
- Time: Using time techniques to ace those daily tasks
- Recovery: Controlling your levels of dopamine and focus
- Origami Technique: Doing the one smallest thing possible
- Ninety-Ten: Planning ahead and having a goal
So grab your swords and shields because we’re about to take on a battle that could change your life forever.
Dr. Piers Steel is an expert at procrastination. Not in the “he procrastinates a lot”-sense, but more like the “he devotes his life to stopping procrastination”-sense.
In his book, The Procrastination Equation, Dr. Steel outlines a straightforward equation that determines a person’s motivation levels:
Motivation = (Expectancy x Value) / (Impulsiveness x Delay)
If your motivation is too low, you’ll likely procrastinate more.
Sounds simple, right?
Let’s take a look at what these variables mean:
- Expectancy: How good you are at a given task and what results you might expect. Suppose you’re in sales and have high expectancy, for example. In that case, you may feel good about your ability to influence and hope to land new clients.
- Value: How much meaning a given task has or how enjoyable it is to you. A low-value job might be stapling papers together or doing the dishes.
- Impulsiveness: Your ability to focus and not give in to temptations or distractions. People with high impulsivity may check their phones, think about other entertaining pursuits, and have trouble concentrating.
- Delay: The amount of time you push back a given task instead of doing it immediately. A student who has to do his homework but delays it until the night before is an example of high delay.
You’ll need to keep all 4 variables in check to stay motivated.
And if you ever find yourself procrastinating, you can look back at this equation and realize which element of your motivation needs improvement.
Follow these action steps to have high motivation, no matter your situation:
- Increase expectancy by developing your skills. Are you a writer? Public speaker? Relationship expert? Knowing you can do well will motivate you to smash your goals instead of building up task anxiety when you know you won’t perform at 100%.
- Increase value by thinking of tasks as part of a whole. What is the main goal you’re trying to accomplish, and what are these tasks doing to get you there? You might be bored out of your mind by stapling those papers, but keeping in mind the necessity of a stable job to earn money might be just the fuel you need.
- Decrease impulsiveness by setting up your environment and recovering from dopamine sinks. Try to avoid as many distractions as possible throughout the day.
- Decrease delay by eating that frog. Brian Tracy’s “Eating That Frog” rule is to do the worst or most challenging thing first thing in the morning. After all, if you eat an entire frog, all the other tasks seem easy by comparison.
We’ll cover more on how to deal with these 4 variables below!
Pro Tip: Want to know one secret variable that will increase your motivation in everything you do in life? A positive attitude! Research shows being positive has dramatic positive effects on your life (who knew?). You can literally change your life by changing your mindset. Read more here: The Best Positive Affirmations and Why They Work.
Take a look around at your usual workspace. What do you see? Is it:
- Messy and full of distractions, or
- Clean and organized
Your procrastinating tendencies will either be limited or flourish depending on your workstation. For example, let’s say your workspace has your Nintendo Switch lying around, a bag of chips, and photos of your vacation in Mexico. These things are better left for “fun time” and not serious “work time.”
The objects around you “prime” yourself in procrastination or focus mode.
According to Paper Plant, the average person wastes 4.3 hours per week simply searching for papers. Now, I’m not sure how accurate that number is. Still, I’m pretty sure we can all relate to searching under our beds for that last-minute document due tomorrow.
The increased stress and decreased productivity aren’t helpful either, especially when avoiding procrastination. So if you’re dissatisfied with your conditions, let’s prime yourself for the optimal working conditions:
- Tidy it up. This goes without saying – get rid of video games, food, your phone, and even other people if you have to. Treat your workspace like a sacred zone, where the only thing that enters are things that help you boost your productivity.
- Find your Optimal Comfort Level (OCL). Contrary to what some may think, I found the best working conditions are where you’re not too comfortable (think: laying in bed with your laptop), but not too uncomfortable, either. This leads to your OCL for working. Find the best work chair that won’t show you a broken back. Get your room or office to be that perfect temperature sweet spot. And stretch to stay comfortable yet uncomfortable enough to be productive.
- Have a workstation. Whether you’re in an office or have the pleasure of being a remote worker, having a consistent workstation is key to staying procrastination-less. Over time, you’ll come to associate your workstation as THE place to get stuff done. The key here is to not give in to temptation whenever you’re at your workstation. Do all your other non-work activities away from your station to avoid snowballing into bad habits.
Are you good at what you’re doing?
There’s a clear difference when you’re an expert and can accomplish a task in a breeze versus when it’s not your A work.
The fantastic thing is we can get better at what we do!
(Hint: it doesn’t take 10,000 hours.)
So whether you’re in IT or psychology, brush up on your skills by following these tips:
- Read every day. There’s a reason why VIPs like Mark Cuban and Jeff Bezos advocate reading regularly – reading literally changed your brain! Read some of the best self-development books or books in your industry. Set a goal to read just one or two pages a day if you’re struggling with time.
- Listen to audiobooks. Not a fan of reading? You can always listen to audiobooks whether you’re out for a drive, getting in a good workout, or walking in the park.
- Attend those courses. Do you have a course you have always wanted to attend, whether in-person or online? Courses are a “second school” where you can learn while also testing yourself with supporting materials. Take that course and learn to your heart’s content!
On the one hand, you’re probably thinking, “Don’t let procrastination win!”
On the other hand, you shouldn’t be so harsh on yourself when procrastinating.
Allow yourself to procrastinate once in a while.
We’re all prone to procrastination, but research shows if you put yourself down, you might end up hurting yourself more than doing any good.
One study examined 119 college students who were preparing for midterm exams. The researchers found that students who forgave themselves for procrastinating on their first exam were much less likely to procrastinate again for the second one.
The best after-procrastination remedy is a sip of forgiveness if you do catch yourself procrastinating.
As the researchers noted, procrastination is a “self-inflicted wound.” We can be angry or feel guilty about procrastinating, but let’s face it: We all procrastinate!
Yes… Even you, Gandalf.
Try these anti-procrastination tips to be kinder to yourself:
- Try a morning meditation session. Just 10 minutes in the morning might be all you need to realize what needs to get done so you can avoid procrastinating in the first place.
- Do random acts of kindness. Have you ever heard the phrase, “Like begets like?” The same thing also applies here. Be kind, and you’ll find that you’re much more forgiving to yourself… Yes, even when you procrastinate.
- Allow yourself to procrastinate. This one is tricky, especially if you’re a serial procrastinator. The next time you have the urge to procrastinate, just do it! But only this once. Grant yourself “Procrastination Permission Slips” you can use once a week or a couple times a month, and hold yourself accountable for the rest.
OK, so there IS a benefit to procrastination.
Procrastination gives us time pressure, which many benefits many people because they have to get something done soon. In other words, procrastinating is like not knowing how to swim and jumping off the diving board.
For many, this can be helpful. However, in the long run, controlling your procrastination urges will net you more consistent results (not to mention fewer grey hairs).
Try these time tips to obliterate procrastination:
- Use the Tri-Time Technique to your advantage. The Tri-Time Technique (or 3T Technique for short) allows you to maximize your daily energy levels. Here’s how it works: Imagine your waking hours as a pie divided into 3 slices. That’ll be the morning, afternoon, and evening for most people. Now think about how you best feel during these times and when you’re the most productive. For example, I always feel my most effective during the evening. The mornings are OK, and the afternoons? I feel like a sloth! During your peak time, aim to tackle your top priorities for the day. And leave the rest for your downtimes.
- Set that Pomodoro! The Pomodoro technique is a technique to help “block” time. Set routine amounts of time to get the job done (in the case of the Pomodoro technique, it’s usually 25 minutes of work followed by a 5-minute break). In this way, you’ll regain that focus since you know exactly when you’ll have a break!
- Eliminate multitasking. If you’re used to switching from writing, to scanning videos, to researching for projects, to checking your email – you’re overloading your brain! Science proves that multitasking generally makes us slower and less efficient when tackling tasks. If you must multitask, try blocking longer blocks to work on one task before switching to the next.
Let’s face it.
Nobody wants to sit around a circle and admit that they’re an “addict.”
But just like alcohol and drug addictions, we’ve come along as a society to accept a more common form of addiction – modern entertainment addiction.
Modern entertainment looms everywhere. But the closer we get to it, the farther we get from our goals.
So let’s take it down a notch. We’re all recovering in some way or another. Here’s how to recover based on your needs:
- Level 1: Newbie. You tend to watch movies on the weekends, play the occasional game, or indulge in social media if your friends are on. You can control yourself well, and you’re not distracted by entertainment when you work. Good for you!
- Level 2: Adventurer. You’re definitely more informed than most. You know the new Facebook news (“Are they really going to get rid of the Like button!?”) and keep up-to-date with the latest trends. This causes you to have staggered focus at work, and you’re also constantly planning about what you’re going to do when you’re free. Consider going on a digital detox the next time you’re away from technology zones to combat this.
- Level 3: Grand Master. Uh-oh. You’re really distracted now. You tend to have difficulty focusing for more than 20 minutes, and your mind constantly wonders if your phone just buzzed. This one will require some more elbow grease – try detoxing and finding an accountability partner or joining a coworking space. You might even want to join a mastermind group weekly to hold yourself accountable for getting stuff done.
Origami is the Japanese art of paper folding. And if you’ve ever tried making one of those paper cranes before, you’ll know it’s not as easy as it seems!
To create an origami crane, there are many steps involved, from:
- Cutting your rectangular paper into a square piece
- Making the base
- Endless bouts of folding, unfolding, flipping, and Googling where you went wrong
And here’s where the Origami Technique of anti-procrastination unfolds:
Take each task and break it down into the SMALLEST step possible.
- Want to run a marathon? Start with putting on your shoes.
- Want to launch a blog? Start with writing just 50 words.
- Want to bake a cake? Start with looking up ONE recipe.
The Origami Technique works because instead of looking up at the peak of the mountain and getting anxious/disheartened/[insert negative adjective here], you’ll find simply walking to the base of the mountain is a much easier task.
So easy that it literally takes minutes or even seconds.
Now, take a look at your task list. If that de-motivates you, think of the simplest ONE thing you could do for each task to get you started moving in that direction.
Let inertia work its magic from there, and soon enough, you’ll see the entire crane come to life.
The 90/10 rule states that you can save 90% of the time it takes to complete a task by just taking 10% of that time to plan.
Here’s how it works: Imagine your boss calls, and you’ve got a big deadline due tomorrow. You might be able to crank it out if you work all night and the cortisol starts kicking in.
But wait! Sit down, take a breather, and put on your planning antennas – because, according to the 90/10 Rule, every minute you spend planning is 9 minutes saved.
That’s a whole lot of minutes.
Putting in just 15 minutes of planning upfront can save you over 2 hours in the long run!
Planning is the long-term killer of procrastination.
- Plan your following day. Every night before you go to bed, write down what you need to complete the next day. Overnight, your subconscious will work overtime to come up with problems automagically! It really is a brain “hack.”
- Plan your free time. If you’re a sucker for tuning into Netflix when you’ve got important stuff to do (“Just ONE more episode!”), slay your demons by planning your play periods. I like to set a couple hours around dinner time to do whatever I want away from work – whether it’s Netflix binging, spending time with my daughter, or catching up with friends.
- Set up a system. Whether it’s a bullet journal or an online task manager, plan your to-do’s where you can visually see it. It’ll cost some time up-front, but once you get involved in your system, you’ll be shocked at how much you instantly know what to prioritize and do whenever you’re “feeling bored.” No more wasted moments!
- The Sand Method. Imagine you’re on a beach, and your tasks are to build something with sand. Now, you can create one colossal sandcastle, spending all your time to make something big. Or, you can break it down and build many small sandcastles, leaving some unfinished to get to them later. The point is, tasks are like sandcastles. You have different ways of finishing them, but you should have a game plan in mind for how you want to approach them before you start.
Why is Procrastination so Dangerous?
Let’s take a little history lesson to better understand why we procrastinate, shall we?
Around 800 BC, the Greek poet Hesiod famously said to not “put your work off till tomorrow and the day after.” Even Roman statesman Cicero noted procrastination was “hateful” in accomplishing affairs.
For all we know, our cavemen ancestors might have seen a hungry jaguar right outside their cave and decided to go right back to playing with their sticks and stones!
(I hope not.)
So, procrastination has been around for quite a while.
And you probably already know the detrimental effects of delaying the important stuff:
- Less time to accomplish our task
- The added stress of less time to finish
- Loss of sleep due to hurrying to finish a task
…Not to mention a massive loss of productivity!
Sure, procrastinating just a little bit might not hurt so much.
But let that procrastination monster roam free for too long, and the effects grow like wildfire. Just take a look around in real life, and you’ll see what procrastination can do:
- Little to no savings for retirement
- A lack of genuine, caring friendships
- Not advancing up the career ladder
- Not accomplishing your most meaningful goals
The long-term effects of procrastination can really ruin your life in the real world.
Example of a person who procrastinated?
Procrastination vs. Laziness (which one describes you?)
You may have spent one too many countless nights staring at the ceiling, wondering if you’ll ever finish that project/homework/random house task you put off at the last minute.
And you might have even been told you’re lazy.
But the key in recognizing the difference is that procrastination is an active process while being lazy is passive.
When you choose not to write that assignment that’s due tomorrow and instead tune into the latest episode of Game of Thrones, you’re procrastinating.
But if you instead don’t even care about finishing that assignment, you’re being lazy.
And there’s another type of procrastination that takes it to a whole new level – chronic procrastination.
Are You a Chronic Procrastinator? (Quiz)
There’s a difference between being a procrastinator and being a chronic procrastinator… Just like there’s a difference between being sad and being medically depressed.
Joseph Ferrari, professor of psychology at DePaul University, found that 20% of US men and women are chronic procrastinators.
Take this quick procrastination quiz to see if you’re a chronic procrastinator!
- When you have a deadline due tomorrow, you usually…
- Find excuses to NOT finish and save it for the last minute, coffee on hand.
- Deadline tomorrow? Pfft. I had already finished it last week!
- Prioritize it and crank it out ASAP.
2. Imagine you’ve got a handful of tasks due soon. How do you decide which to prioritize?
- Whatever I feel like.
- Create a task list and prioritize tasks based on the due date and time to accomplish them.
- Keep the functions in mind and do them in order of importance.
3. Your boss asks you when you’ll be able to turn in your assignment. Your immediate thought is:
- “Assignment? What assignment?”
- “I already finished yesterday and am making final touches!”
- “I’ve already planned to finish tonight!”
4. You’ve got a virtual meeting at 10:00AM sharp. When do you show up?
- Usually, late – mornings aren’t my thing.
- 5 minutes early, with my notes on hand.
- Right on time, give or take a minute.
Now, take a look at your answers.
- If you mainly answered the first answer… You’re a chronic procrastinator! You leave tasks until the end and usually need a lot of motivation to get yourself going.
- If you mainly answered the second answer… You’re high on conscientiousness! You tend to stay on top of your tasks and even remind others when theirs are due.
- If you mainly answered the last answer… You’re about average! Maybe you procrastinate sometimes, but try your best to keep on track.
So how did you rank on the procrastination quiz?
If All Else Fails…
Own your procrastination! After all, some people are more likely to procrastinate than others. And if that sounds like you, maybe you’ve got to accept it.
And maybe that’s just the thing you need—a little bit of acceptance and permission to think of procrastination as “OK.”
After all, procrastination isn’t the end of the world…
Now, it’s your turn! Go out there and do the thing you need to do.
Do it now – don’t procrastinate for later.
You got this!