This article is reprinted by permission of the author. In his newsletter, author Randy Ingermanson discusses the anti-procrastination mindset.
Organization: The Anti-Procrastination Mindset
I met an author recently on a private Facebook marketing group. His name is Harry Heijligers and he lives in the Netherlands. We were talking about how he could market his book better, and I decided to have a look at his cover to see if that might be the problem.
It turned out his cover was awesome. And so was the title—The Anti-Procrastination Mindset. The book looked interesting to me.
I happen to excel at procrastination. I’ve been doing it all my life, and I always thought that was just the way I am.
But a mindset is not something you are. A mindset is something you can put on and take off. So I thought I’d buy the book and see if it might be helpful.
I whipped through it in a few days. Parts of it were actually about planning your life, which is something I’ve gotten rather good at, so I skimmed those. But parts of it seemed like they’d been written just for me.
It’s almost two months later, and I think those parts have made a difference in my life. I’ll talk about a few specific tips I was able to use right away, and then I’ll give you a link to Harry’s book so you can check it out for yourself.
What To Do When You Want To Put Something Off
What do you do when you’re working through your task list and you come to a task that you instinctively want to put off?
The answer is to take a ten-minute walk and think about that task.
That may sound like a completely stupid answer, but it’s actually rather clever. Here’s why.
Your brain has a couple of different systems for thinking. You can read about them in Nobel laureate Daniel Kahnemann’s book Thinking, Fast and Slow. Your fast, intuitive brain works great for dealing with tigers jumping at you, but it’s not so good at algebra. Your slow, rational brain is great for doing algebra, but it’s not so good with the tiger thing.
When you come to a task on your list and your instincts are screaming, “Put that off; it won’t hurt to wait till tomorrow,” that’s your fast brain talking.
Unfortunately, your fast brain isn’t great at planning your life. Your fast brain is terrible at that. But your slow brain is good at it.
So take a walk and think about why you should or should not do that task right now. Take ten minutes. Think about nothing else. Let your slow brain take a crack at the scheduling problem.
When you get back from your walk, your slow brain may very well have decided that it really is a good idea to do the task now, get it over with, and push it off your plate forever.
Or your slow brain might have decided that the task really isn’t worth doing at all, in which case you again get it off your plate.
Or your slow brain might have decided that this task really needs to be scheduled to a different day, because of some good and rational reason.
Most of the time, your slow brain will be right. If you just give it a chance.
So if you take a ten-minute walk every time you instinctively want to put something off, two things will happen:
- You’ll start getting things done that you’ve been putting off for years.
- You’ll walk a lot more steps every day, and that’s good for your health.
In the last couple of months, I’ve done a number of tasks that I’d been putting off for years. One of them had been on my To-Do list for nearly twelve years! My wife and I finished it yesterday. My fast brain feels pretty good about that, now that it’s done. And my slow brain is quietly smirking in the background.
Break The Task Down Into Steps
Sometimes we procrastinate because we don’t know exactly how to do a given task or project.
So when you create a new To-Do item, break it down into steps that you know how to do. Some of those steps might be “Research how to _______.” Because if you don’t know how to do it, you can’t do it. But you always know how to research it, or how to ask somebody who knows how it’s done.
Make The First Step Ridiculously Easy
I’ve written about the “ridiculously easy” idea before in the context of building a habit, and it works spectacularly well for that. But “ridiculously easy” also works extremely well when trying to get started on a task or project.
This trick works if you’ve already made a list of steps for the task or project. Tweak your list so the very first step is ridiculously easy to do. Make it something you can do in just a couple of minutes. Something you know exactly how to do.
And the key thing here is that after you’ve done that first step, you’re rolling. You’ve got momentum. And it’s not that hard to move on to the second step, and the third, and keep rolling.
If it’s a short task, you might even finish it all in one sitting.
If it’s a longer project, it might take a few days.
But the first step is the hardest, because the first step isn’t actually the first thing you do. The first thing you do is to say, “Yeah, I’m going to take the first step right now.” And it’s a lot easier to say that when the very first step is ridiculously easy.
Where to Get Harry’s Book
I’ve spelled out three tips above that I picked up in Harry’s book that have been especially helpful to me. They may or may not be all that helpful to you. Everybody’s different.
But Harry has 117 hacks in his book that he’s found helpful in beating procrastination. Some of them might be useful to you.
Click here to see Harry’s book on Amazon.
Please be aware that English is not Harry’s first language. (One of his Amazon reviewers complained about this.) Harry’s English is pretty good (it’s much better than my Dutch), but if you’re a native English speaker, you’ll find plenty of sentences that aren’t written the way you’d write them. If that’s a problem for you, then this might not be the book for you. It didn’t bother me at all. Some of Harry’s sentences gave me a grin, but I was reading for content, not style. I feel like his book has made me a better person. It might make you a better person too.
This article is reprinted by permission of the author.
Award-winning novelist Randy Ingermanson, “the Snowflake Guy,” publishes the free monthly Advanced Fiction Writing E-zine. If you want to learn the craft and marketing of fiction, AND make your writing more valuable to editors, AND have FUN doing it, visit http://www.AdvancedFictionWriting.com.
Thank you, Randy, for giving permission to share this article and for your perspective on the anti-procrastination mindset. We all have obstacles to overcome and goals to reach. Using these steps will help.