Whenever I have an idea for a new project, a retreat for example, or a new online course, I get all excited.
I have the initial idea in my head and talk to all sorts of people about it.
I start researching, gathering information.
And then, somewhere in the middle of this, procrastination hits me.
I get lost in my research, pretend that surfing the web is research…, find reasons why my idea won’t work…
Well, let’s get to the bottom of that.
What is Procrastination?
Procrastination = the action of delaying or postponing something.
But is is not as simple as that.
Procrastination is a sneaky little bastard that comes in many different shapes and forms:
- Surfing the web pretending you’re researching
- Telling your friends all the reasons it can’t be done so they agree it can’t be done
- Cleaning the house (instead of doing something)
- Watching television.
- Filling your agenda so you don’t have time.
They’re all just you trying to find excuses…
Those excuses however, are only symptoms, they are not the cause or reason you procrastinate.
You procrastinate because of two things:
- Fear (of failure, of success, of oh so many, often ridicule things – read this!)
- Lack of structure.
Sooo… how do we fix this, you ask?
Again, two solutions:
- Get motivated.
- Get systems.
Either one will work. Both together, they will make you invincible!
I have spoken long enough about systems already.
So today I am focusing on motivation.
Here is a great video on how motivation works. I suggest you watch this first so you understand why you procrastinate or why your boss can’t get you motivated 🙂
My experience is that human motivation is highly influenced by two things:
- How imminent the reward is:
The further away the reward, the less value it has in our eyes. This is called hyperbolic discounting. So checking what your friends are doing on Facebook presents a more imminent reward to you than for example studying for a test or planning a project.
- How intrinsic or extrinsic the reward is:
Intrinsic is the joy it gives you to do something, the WHY you are doing things.
Extrinsic is the carrot at the end of the stick, the bonus your boss gives you, the applause you get from the audience.
So in order to avoid the procrastination trap, you use the Pomodoro technique.
Here’s what you do:
- Take ONE project you have been procrastinating.
- Break it down in DO-able tasks
DO stands for: Define Outcomes. So clearly define what the outcome of that specific task is.
Example: New online creative course
a) Task: initial mindmap of project. Outcome: clear picture of all parts involved.
b) Task: research similar projects online. Outcome: clear idea of the competition
c) Task: define course structure and must haves. Outcome: first draft of course outline
- Define the time it takes for each task.
a) mindmap: 50 min
b) research: 60 min
c) course structure: 3 hours
- Now, each of the above can be done using the Pomodoro technique:
break each task down again into 25 minute tasks.
Example: mindmap = 2 pomodoros (ie 2 x 25 minutes)
- After each Pomodoro (25 min) you have a break (5 min)
- After 4 Pomodoro (2 hours), you have a longer break (30 min)
- Schedule the time.
- Remove temptations (switch off phone, deactivate Facebook etc). These can all be done during the break.
- Set timer and get started.
- because the tasks are small enough to fit in any calendar
- because you will not get overwhelmed with too much doing
- because you get rewarded imminently for doing the work (breaks) and don’t have to wait until project is finished
- because you can do a lot in 25 minutes
- because the timer keeps you focused
- because you keep track of your tasks and those you have accomplished (each 25 min you tick off one task)
- because it’s fun