This week, I answer a question about procrastination and offer some tips on beating it.
Podcast Episode 19
In this week’s episode of the Working With Podcast, I answer a question about overcoming the bad habit of procrastination.
Hello and welcome to episode 19 of my Working With Podcast. A podcast created to answer all your questions about productivity, GTD, self-development and goal planning. My name is Carl Pullein and I am your host for this show.
This week, I have a question about procrastination and how to stop yourself from procrastinating when there are important things that need doing. I think this is a problem many people face and I too, from time to time, fall into the procrastination trap.
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Okay, now it is time to hand you over to the mystery podcast voice for this week’s question:
This week’s question comes from Anatoly who asks:
I have a bad habit of putting important things off and instead watching videos on YouTube or just watching TV for hours even though I know I have to finish some important work. Do you have any suggestions on how I can stop myself from doing this?
Thank you do much for your question, Anatoly. This is a question I am sure many people would ask. How to stop procrastination from interfering with getting the important stuff done in your life.
I believe not all procrastination is bad. We need procrastination to allow our creativity to flow and develop ideas, so we should not be trying to cut out procrastination completely. Often it is when we are lost in some form of procrastination that we come up with some amazing ideas or brilliant solutions to problems we are facing. What we need to be able to do is to prevent procrastination from stopping us from getting important work done when that work needs doing. How do we do that?
Well, as with all bad habits we first need to identify when we are doing it. What are we doing and where are we when we slip in to the bad form of procrastination. For example, do you find yourself procrastinating when you are trying to do work in your local coffee shop? What is happening here is your environment is telling your brain that this place is a good place to procrastinate. If that is the case, what you should do is find another coffee shop and only do important work in that coffee shop. Your local coffee shop can be used for browsing YouTube, chatting with friends online and reading magazines. The second coffee shop is for work only and you only ever go there to do focussed work. This is a trick I use all the time. I move around Seoul pretty much every day and I have a number of select coffee shops I use for only doing focussed work. I also have a few coffee shops around the city for what I call “creative play” I use these when I am brainstorming ideas or just want to do some non-essential research or reply to messages.
The coffee shops I use for doing focussed work are places that the moment I walk in I go into a focussed state and I can lose myself completely in the work I have to do. My phone is on do not disturb and all I have on the table is the work I am working on. It’s a simple, yet very effective way of preventing negative procrastination from creeping in.
Another trick, and somewhat related to the previous one, is your normal work environment. I do a lot of my work from home and my desk is where I write and plan out my videos and courses. My desk is incredibly minimal. I do not have anything on my desk except for things that are essential. Computer, lamp, water bottle and my journal. There is nothing else. This means there is nothing around to distract me and cause me to procrastinate. Once again, I do not have notifications turned on, so there are no popup windows distracting me. It means I can just sit down and focus on my work. The same can apply at your office, if you find you procrastinate when sat at your desk, then look around you environment. If there are a lot of distractions, files, books, phones, tablets and so on, remove them from your desk. Only have the essential items on there. Don’t allow anything to come between you and your work.
Still on your working environment, I find music is a good way to stop me from procrastinating. If I am at play, or doing something that is not important I listen to 80s/90s pop music or uplifting dance tunes from the music festivals I have been to. This music brings back wonderful memories for me and it’s just great fun to listen to.
However, when I want to do some focused work, I change the music. I listen to music from Cafe Del Mar or the Anjunadeep podcast which is all slow, deep, electronic music. This music is incredibly relaxing and does wonders for my focus. (a link to a Cafe Del Mar Apple Music playlist and the Anjunadeep podcast is in the show notes)
The scientific side to this music idea is when your brain recognises a type of music it knows you want to focus. Of course, this is not going to happen overnight. You need to train your brain to understand that slow, deep electronic music means focused deep work. You can also do this with the lighting. Change the lighting in your workspace when you want to do focused work. For example, if you want to get some focused work done, turn on your lamp. This way you are subconsciously telling your brain it’s time to focus. All other times, when you are watching videos on YouTube or in Facebook, turn it off.
Other ways to beat procrastination are to use your calendar to assign times to do focused work. Lets say between 10 and 11:30am you rarely have any meetings or lectures. Then schedule focussed work for these times. What you need to do is be specific about the work you want to do. For example, if you have an important presentation to prepare, you write in your calendar “Work on next week’s presentation” for 10 to 11:30am on the specific day. Then on that day, when you see you calendar you see “work on next week’s presentation” and you subconsciously tell your brain it’s time to do focused work. This might seem a bit simple, but it really does work.
Part of the reason we procrastinate is because we are not being specific about what we want to do. If you are not specific, you are giving your brain an excuse to procrastinate. You need to be very specific about what it is you want to accomplish. If you write something on your to-do list or calendar like “do some work” I can guarantee you will procrastinate. “Do some work” is not specific. What work? That’s the question your brain asks and then it goes off into all sorts of different places and before you know it, you’ve lost an hour. Be specific.
Last week, I did a video on the Golden Ten minutes, a practice you should follow every evening before you finish. I’ll put a link to this video in the show notes. What the Golden Ten minutes does is prepares you for the next day so you can get the important work done. It keeps you in control of your projects and deadlines and allows you to plan what you will do for the day. This means you are being very specific about what you want to accomplish and does not give your brain any chance to procrastinate. It’s very powerful and it only takes ten minutes. If you really struggle with procrastination, then I strongly suggest you start making the Golden ten minutes a part of your everyday routine.
Bad procrastination is caused because you are being unclear about what you intend to do. To overcome procrastination all you need to do is to become more specific about what your intention is. So if you have a piece of work that needs completing by Friday, then schedule the time to sit down in a place that focuses your brain on work and make sure you are specific about the outcome you want for that period of time. Repeat this process and you will soon be training your brain to focus on the work that needs doing and not cute puppies on YouTube or your Facebook newsfeed. There are times for YouTube, Facebook and Snapchat, but when you have important work that needs doing, then that’s not the time.
And don’t forget to create a specific work environment. This simple trick does work and is very easy to implement.
Thank you very much for listening to this podcast. If you have a question you would like answering about productivity, time management or goal planning, then please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or DM me on Facebook or Twitter. All the links are in the show notes.
It just remains for me now to wish you all a very very productive week.