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This week I have been thinking about procrastination, and how you can conquer that demon that stops you doing something you know you must get done.  It’s common, there are so many opportunities and distractions around us. So much information. So many calls for our time. Hesiod, a Greek poet from the 8th century said:

“Do not put off your work until tomorrow and the day after. For the sluggish worker who does not fill his barn, nor the one who puts off his work; industry aids work, but the man who puts off work always wrestles with disaster”

So, here are five steps that I think help me to avoid procrastination:

  • Step 1 – Mindset: I constantly try and train my brain to realise the connection between the work I have ahead of me, and my goals in life.   I keep a journal or activity log to record what the things I do, and how they align with my goals. This helps me correct my mindset when I feel that something is not important, if it aligns with my goals, then it is important and needs focus.
  • Step 2 – Body: This is the tough one for me, but if I focus on the simple things, I find I get more productive and focus.  Getting enough sleep. Eating as healthily as possible. Exercising regularly.   I need to do better here.
  • Step 3 – Preventing: One you are in good shape mentally and physically, it’s time to reduce distractions.  I try and create an environment where I reduce the flows of information inwards.  Reducing the time I spend checking email, or turning off the Wi-Fi when I really need to focus on something.  Using my commute to read in otherwise dead time.  Every time you switch something off, you reduce your chances of distraction.
  • Step 4 – Productivity: Answering 100 emails every hour is not productivity, it is efficiency. Learning the difference is a big challenge.  I try to focus my time on doing the right things in the least amount of time. Prioritisation and consciously deciding what needs my focus helps me to reduce the chances of distraction by non-essential things.
  • Step 5 – Persuasion: I try to share what requires my focus and why I need to focus on it with the people around me. This can be a powerful tool to reducing the inputs and distractions.  I also try and use persuasion and planning to empower people around me to handle the distractions that otherwise steal my focus. This is not a simple delegation exercise, but more about finding the tasks that align to the characters and roles of people around me.

That’s it – all sounds simple, but it’s a step-by-step process that helps me drive improved focus and reduce the distractions that cause procrastination.   If I am successful with these, then I can achieve more.

Something from the Web

Somewhat related to my top of mind. This is a good way to reduce audible distractions around you, create a soundscape that helps you focus.  This is creepy, a website that knows everything that you do.

Many years ago, I used to work in an office in Hayes where the evening would bring a giant, mesmerising flock of starlings. Later, I learned they were called murmurations – this video shows some epic examples – The Art of Flying.

Finally – continuing my cartographical obsession – a world map of every country’s tourist slogan.