EPISODE 9 – FOUR COOL HACKS TO BEAT PROCRASTINATION
So I’m a good bit into the podcast now and I feel that I’m doing alright. I hope you’re finding possibilities in what I’m presenting here and that they are working for you. I think that any early troubles with the Podcast feed or syndication have been dealt with now but if you ever do have trouble with it then grab the Podbean app from the link on my website. Film Pro Productivity is syndicated all over the place but Podbean is my media host and will always have the new episodes first. It’s a free app and it’s available for IPhone and Android. I also post the latest episodes on the website as they launch and you can grab them there if you prefer to listen on your desktop.
Last week I introduced the very simple 5 second rule and talked about how it can be used to overcome obstacles, and cheat the brain into conquering your fears. I’ve been trying that one out and it certainly does work if you can buy into it.
THIS WEEKS INTRO
Procrastination makes easy things hard, hard things harder. Mason Cooley
- This week I’m going to squeeze in 4 more productivity “rules” that I know will make your life easier and continue to help you to beat procrastination and just get things done. I’m talking about the one-touch rule, and it’s close cousin the two minute, then I will move on to the 5-minute rule and the 10-minute rule. These rules have much in common but if you can get to grips with them individually they’ll help you to decimate your task lists and kick procrastination right in the mammy daddy button.
- My fightdirector.com email address receives a vast number of messages every day and if I don’t pay attention to it overwhelms me. On many occasions, I’ve found myself having to stop everything else just to work back through those emails and deal with the backlog. The simplest productivity technique of all is the DELETE button but once it’s done its job I’m left with a plethora of small to mid-sized replies, links and follow-ups to deal that just can’t be avoided.
- I started looking for solutions and ways of thinking that could help me clear my backlog of incomplete tasks quickly and efficiently and s. I’ve been messing about with these sort of things for a few years now - some float to the top and get used more than others and a few start to become habit - Nowadays I find them coming into play in day to day life without me consciously considering them.
- The four rules that I am introducing today are solutions to procrastination problems. It needn’t be emailed, it could be telephone calls or just simple jobs about the house - It can even be larger tasks that you’ve split up into chunks. That’s called chunking btw and that in itself is an awesome productivity method.
Firstly I want to introduce to you The one touch rule which simply means that you must process a task the first time you touch it. YOU MUST PROCESS A TASK THE FIRST TIME YOU TOUCH IT.
It was formalised by Productivity consultant Ann Gomez and it’s more of a guideline or a hack than a rule but if you adopt it, you’ll find that most of the little tasks that can clog up your vision, and deplete your mental energy start to disappear.
Ann also points out that it builds the habit of starting things only when you're ready: She explains and I quote, “It's a simple trick to help you batch your work into scheduled, focus blocks: you won't open an email until you're ready to give it your full attention, or you'll decline to accept your co-worker’s rough draft until later when you know you'll have the time to sit down and do it.”
I use this all the time now, especially when collaborating on scripts with my colleague Bryan. I ask not to be sent updates as they come up but I schedule time to look at new drafts and complete my work on them at one sitting. It’s immensely useful and saves both of us from wasting time. Beyond that specific use, I use it to blast small tasks like email sorting right out of the water, to generally prioritize better and I force myself to stop leaving tasks half-finished. That just clogs up my brain and messes me up.
The two-minute rule is another simple strategy. I first saw it in David Allen's bestselling book, Getting Things Done and I threw it out there at the end of the 1st episode in very basic terms as I felt I should introduce at least one technique before asking listeners to join me on episode 2 - but here it is in a little more detail.
It’s also an anti-procrastination hack. All of these small rules can be used in that way but there’s a bit more to them. They can generally be used to tackle tasks that aren’t actually that difficult to do. The 2 Minute Rule overcomes procrastination or as it’s sometimes known laziness by making it SO EASY for you to start taking action that you can’t say no. It’s surprising how many things we put off that we could get done in two minutes or less. That’s the rule in action - if you have a task that takes less than two minutes, just do it now.
You got an email to respond to? Do it now. You got an online payment to make? Do it now. Need to pack the dishwasher. Do it now. Need to send an invoice, or send a thank you text, or make the bed or whatever you have to do, just do it now and it’s done, and it's behind you. If you don’t then these small easily doable jobs build up and suddenly you’re looking at 10 or twenty of them and they’re on your mind and they’re a mountain of work. If you shoot them down as you go, then they are gone and you’ll be able to focus on the stuff that matters. Doing them as you go has the fringe benefit of giving you an on-going feeling of accomplishment and this buoys your spirit and brings confidence and positivity into your life.
A good example and its something that I do every day is just to make my bed. Now this, like many of the productivity techniques I adopt, might seem to be unimportant but think of it like this. That minor achievement, every day, means that I am leaving the house, even with early starts on film shoots with at least a small sense of accomplishment before I leave the house. My day actually starts very early and I achieve usually a lot more, but we’ll talk about the 5 am miracle at another time.
Can all of your goals be accomplished in less than two minutes? No, but every goal can be STARTED in 2 minutes or less. And that’s the point. Small accomplishments like this start to become a habit and large jobs split into small parts, become after time, a sum of their parts, and complete.
So that’s the basics of the two-minute rule. Give it a try to see if it’s something that will work for you. Get your head in the right space and see what you can either deal with in two minutes or that you can begin or chunk into two-minute bites. Once you’re sitting down to do something you may find, kinda like the one-touch rule that you complete it in that sitting. Thinking of it as a two-minute commitment though will possibly trick you into doing more.
My next rule again links into that and it is known as The 5 Minute Rule. Kevin Systrom the billionaire CEO and co-founder of Instagram came up with this simple trick to tackle procrastination. It’s similar in many ways to the 2-minute rule but is worth tackling separately.
Kevin’s 5-minute rule states that “If you don’t want to do something, make a deal with yourself to do at least five minutes of it. After five minutes, you’ll end up doing the whole thing.”
According to Psychology Today, we procrastinate because of.
- LACK OF STRUCTURE. Without knowing why we are doing something or when it is to be done by we find ourselves putting it off. We find ourselves checking Facebook instead of doing work and today's easy online access makes this easy. I’m a terrible addict of Youtube, but when I’m focussed on a specific task with a deadline my focus becomes much sharper.
- UNPLEASANT TASKS. Any task we consider unpleasant, boring, or uninteresting is one that we can find ourselves putting off to another day.
- Here procrastination occurs when you postpone tasks because they are not imminently important. If there is good reason to put them off, for example, because you have higher priority tasks to deal with first, then that’s fair, but if not, why not just deal with them and move on?
- SELF-CONFIDENCE. When difficulties arise, people with low self-confidence develop doubts about their ability to accomplish the task at hand, while those with strong beliefs are more likely to continue their efforts. I cover this topic in the episode about the inner voice. Episode 6. If self-confidence is a problem then check that one out. I think this is particularly true of some creative roles in the film industry.
- A close cousin of lack of self-confidence and one I know all too well. Avoidance is a well-known form of coping with anxiety. Procrastinators will postpone getting started because of a fear of failure and evidence also indicates that procrastination is associated with high levels of stress. To relieve stress procrastinators shift their focus away from the future toward more immediate rewards in order to avoid challenging high-priority tasks.
…and I personally can take procrastination much further - I’m a black belt in procrastination. I’ll procrastinate over even the opening of an email, because I’m frightened and anxious that it will cause me bother, like clash with a job I have already started or create more unnecessary work for me. If I have things running smoothly, I get the fear that an email or the returning of a phone call will upset my finely organised day or week and I’ll try and dodge it.
So the five-minute rule tricks our brains into thinking that we can dip quickly into a task, but once we are in there it also makes room for us to re-assess our position and, after ultimately overcoming the initial burst of effort to get started - it allows us to choose to give it more time. You might not want to do it at first, but once you have started and committed just 5 minutes, you will likely decide that you might as well get it finished. The momentum created by starting a task is carried forward should you choose to give it more time. And once you’ve started, you just might find that you have a more positive attitude toward the task than you thought beforehand and actually want to give it more time and mental energy. Also if the task you have started at first seemed vast, then once you are into it, it may feel more achievable and less impossible just because you are moving forward.
So that’s the 5-minute rule, but wait a minute did I not do a full episode on the 5-second rule in episode 8, then how many rules can there be? And can you handle one more – If yes - what is The 10-minute rule?
Well, put simply it states that - Every task on your to-do list should take no more than 10 minutes to complete.
If tasks longer than 10 minutes, then break them down into smaller tasks or delegate it to someone else.
This rule involves setting the alarm on your phone or a stopwatch to go off after 10-minutes and that in turn focuses your efforts into a very tight timescale. This isn’t about tricking your brain, this is about setting yourself forced deadlines to complete specific tasks.
To help you to follow concept this let me talk about Parkinson's law - Which is the adage that "work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion" – This is an awesome concept and is so true it makes me laugh. It goes hand in hand with my episode on perfectionism too. If I say give myself a week to write notes on a script I’ve been sent, I can guarantee you I will take a week, but if I’m given 4 hours to do the same job I bet ya I can get it done. No, it might not be perfect but I’ll get it done. That’s Parkinson's law in action.
It’s incredible to see what you can achieve when you consciously commit to the ten-minute rule. It’s like an extension of the High-Level Thinking I batter on about and all it takes is a bit of conscious effort to make this work. I want you to find those easy ten minute tasks or break a larger project into ten-minute bites and set a timer. It can be an email reply, a phone call, a brainstorming session - whatever. This stuff is always easier of course if you remove any distractions so get your phone and that time destroying app you find yourself on all the time, you know the one, and either delete it or get it the hell away from you. Actually yeh – delete that app in fact as you’ll need the ten-minute timer on your phone. That app’s a great distraction, isn’t it? Get rid of it. You know I’m right. And that do not disturb function on the phone is just a click away remember. Hit that too. Now set the timer and get to work. That’s all you need to do.
I always like to end episodes with a quote a Brainy Quote threw up these,
Procrastination is one of the most common and deadliest of diseases and its toll on success and happiness is heavy. Wayne Gretzky a Canadian Athlete came up with that one and I love it, but more commonly I hear
“Never put off till tomorrow what may be done day after tomorrow just as well.”
― Mark Twain
Not everything is urgent and not everything needs done today, but if you know you have a problem with procrastination and you can feel things getting on top of you then grab hold of these techniques and start applying them - You’ll find that life will get a little easier and as a side effect you might find yourself a little happier too.
CALL TO ACTION
These rules really work btw but you need to engage in them and commit. You might be asking yourself, how does this work? It doesn’t make sense. Well suck it and see. That’s all you need to do with the things I discuss here.
There’s a lot of info in this episode and I’ll detail all of it with links to resources in the show notes, which can be found at filmproproductivity.com/episode9. Take just one or all of these techniques and give them a test drive. The one-touch rule, the 2-minute rule, the 5-minute rule and the 10-minute rule. All are similar but different. All are highly effective if applied correctly.
Abraham Lincoln said that “You cannot escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today.” If procrastination has snuck up on you and you are in a bit of trouble then grab one of these rules, apply it to your life and work today and things will get easier.
Thanks again for listening - Next episode I’ll be talking about MULTITASKING AND WHY DOING ONE THING AT A TIME IS A FAR, FAR FAR BETTER OPTION.
For now, though, take control of your own destiny, keep on shootin’ and join me NEXT TIME on Film Pro Productivity.
- The music that you are listening to right now is Adventures by A Himitsu.
- You can view the show notes for this episode at filmproproductivity.com/Episode9
- If you’re struggling with something you think I can help with or would like to tell me how you are getting on then please get in touch via the contact page on the website. Alternately you can get me on Twitter @fight_director or follow the show @filmproprodpod
- Please subscribe on the podcast app of your choice and if you are in the caring/ sharing mood then I’d really appreciate it if you would spread the word and leave an AWESOME review.