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How To Slay Your Procrastination Demons and Get to Work

It involves eating a frog

I’ve too much to do today.

I’ve two articles to write, a video to record and several painful phone calls to make.

So I don’t have much time to read up on Marvel’s planned superhero movies for 2019.

And yet here I am, procrastinating again on Den of Geek.

I’ve often wondered what’s an efficient way to overcome these apparently wasted parts of the day and work on more useful creative projects, like writing or blogging.

Allow For Guilt-free Moments Of Procrastination

In The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg wrote,

“Rather, to change a habit, you must keep the old cue, and deliver the old reward, but insert a new routine.”

Instead of fretting you’re not getting anything done, reward yourself with little moments of procrastination between important meetings, projects and calls.

Keep a notepad by your desk of things to procrastinate about or look up online. You can attend to these after you’re finished that big meeting or submitted an important report.

This way, you’re creating a new routine but still getting the reward that comes with procrastinating.

Remove Unnecessary Cues

In some ways, the tools we’re using are broken. They compel us to click, press, tap and swipe up and down. They clamour for our attention and take us away from creative projects.

The tools serve as triggers for work — and for procrastinating.

So why not remove the tools you don’t need?

For example, I spend two or three hours each day on the phone. I find it difficult to listen to long group phone calls while sitting at my computer.

I just can’t help trying to figure out what will happen to Iron Man in the next Avengers film.

So I bought a headset, and I often put away my laptop while on calls.

I can walk around the room and listen to what callers are saying without mindlessly opening my favorite news, social media or superhero website.

Introduce Friction

I’ve yet to meet the person who enjoys password management.

It’s painful to log in and out of various apps, tools and online services. For this reason, many users open social media networks like Facebook and Twitter and leave their account logged in on their desktop or laptop.

So navigating to an attractive newsfeed is just a few keystrokes away.

Instead, log out of these tools and services when you’re finished using them (yes that includes Medium!).

This practice introduces a small amount of friction to logging back in, and it’s often enough to encourage focusing on your work.

Other examples of friction include: leaving your phone in a room other than where you work, uninstalling unnecessary apps from your devices or computer and keeping food and snacks away from your desk.

Start With The Hardest Task

Mark Twain famously said,

Mark Twain: frog-eater
“Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.”

This translates to procrastination and modern work too.

At the beginning of a working day, you probably possess more energy and focus than at the end of the day.

If possible work on your most important task or project first thing, like writing 500-words or recording the video you’ve been putting off.

Even if you accomplish only 30 minutes of work, the rest of the day will feel easier.

Now if the prospects of eating a metaphorical frog each morning is enough to put you off your creative work, prepare your frog the night before.

Tidy your desk, arrange your tools and notes and gather everything required in one place.

This way, when you get in to work or sit down at your desk, it’s much easier to get going (gulp).

Getting To Work

Procrastination, by itself, is neither good nor bad.

Productive people procrastinate too; they just manage these parts of their days a little better.

With a little self-knowledge, you can focus on your work and still get the dopamine hit that comes from productive procrastination.

A version of this post appeared on Forbes