Brian Tracy in “Eat that Frog” has some solutions to stop procrastination. Here is a summary of the twenty-one great ways to stop procrastinating and get more things done faster. Review these rules and principles regularly until they become firmly ingrained in your thinking and actions.
1. Set the Table. A major reason for procrastination and lack of motivation is vagueness, confusion, and fuzzy-mindedness about what you are trying to do and in what order and for what reason. Decide exactly what you want. Clarity is essential. Write out your goals and objectives before you begin. The number one reason why some people get more work done faster is because they are absolutely clear about their goals and objectives, and they don’t deviate from them.
2. Plan every day in advance. Taking action without thinking things through is a prime source of problems. Remember the 6-P formula, which says “Proper Prior Planning Prevents Poor Performance”. So, think on paper and make a list. When something new comes up, add it to the list before you do it. Every minute you spend in planning can save you five or ten minutes in execution.
3. Apply the 80/20 rule. You often see people who appear to be busy all day long but seem to accomplish very little. This is almost always because they are busy working on tasks that are of low value while they are procrastinating on the one or two activities that, if they completed them quickly and well, could make a real difference to their companies and to their careers. Determine the twenty percent of your activities that will count the most and it account for 80 percent of your results. Always concentrate your efforts on that top 20 percent. Remember, if you choose to start your day working on low-value tasks, you will soon develop the habit of always starting and working on low-value tasks. And, low value tasks are lie rabbits; they multiply continually. You never get caught up.
4. Consider the consequences. Your most important tasks and priorities are those that can have the most serious consequences, positive or negative, on your life or work. Focus on these above all else. Before starting on anything, you should always ask yourself, “What are the potential consequences of doing or not doing this task?”. If a task or activity has large potential positive consequences, make it a top priority and get started on it immediately. If something can have large potential negative consequences if it is not done quickly and well, that becomes a top priority as well.
5. Practice creative procrastination. Since you can’t do everything, you must learn to deliberately put off those tasks that are of low value so that you have enough time to do the few things that really count. Everyone procrastinates. The difference between high performers and low performers is largely determined by what they choose to procrastinate on.
6. Use the ABCDE method continually. Before you begin work on a list of tasks, take a few moments to organize them by value and priority so you can be sure of working on your most important activities. The power of this technique lies in its simplicity. Here’s how it works: You start with a list of everything you have to do for the coming day. You then place an A, B, C, D or E next to each item on your list before you begin the first task. An “A” item is defined as something that is very important, something that you must do. This is a task that will have serious positive or negative consequences if you do it or fail to do it. A “B” item is defined as a task that you should do. But it has only mild consequences. A “C” task is defined as something that would be nice to do but for which there are no consequences at all, whether you do it or not. A “D” task is defined as something you can delegate to someone else. An “E” task is defined as something that you can eliminate altogether, and it won’t make any real difference.
7. Focus on key result areas. A key result area is defined as something for which you are completely responsible. If you don’t do it, it doesn’t get done. Your failure to perform this can lead to the end of your job as well. Identify those results that you absolutely, positively have to get to do your job well, and work on them all day long.
8. Apply the law of three. Identify the three things you do in your work that account for 90 percent of your contribution, and focus on getting them done before anything else. You will then have more time for your family and personal life.
9. Prepare thoroughly before you begin. Have everything you need at hand before you start. Assemble all the papers, information, tools, work materials, and numbers you might require so that you can get started and keep going. Don’t expect perfection the first time or even the first few times. Be prepared to fail over and over before you get it right.
10. Take in one oil barrel at a time. One of the best ways to overcome procrastination is for you to get your mind off the huge task in front of you and focus on a single action that you can take. A great life or a great career is built by performing one task at a time, quickly and well, and then going on to the next task. You can accomplish the biggest and most complicated job if you just complete it one step at a time. As Lao-Tzu wrote, “A journey of a thousand leagues begins with a single step.”
11. Upgrade your key skills. The more knowledgeable and skilled you become at your key tasks, the faster you start them and the sooner you get them done. Determine exactly what it is that you are very good at doing, or could be very good at, and throw your whole heart into doing those specific things very, very well. Learn what you need to learn so that you can do your work in an excellent fashion.
12. Identify your key constraints. Determine the bottlenecks or choke points, internal or external, that set the speed at which you achieve your most important goals, and focus on alleviating them. Look into your company honestly. Look within your boss, your coworkers, and members of your staff to see if there is a key weakness that is holding you or the company back, acting as a brake on the achievement of your key goals. Successful people always begin the analysis of constraints by asking the question, “What is it in me that is holding me back?”
13. Put the pressure on yourself. To reach your full potential, you must form the habit of putting the pressure on yourself and not waiting for someone else to come along and do it for you. You will feel better about yourself whenever you push yourself to do your best. Create your own “forcing system”. Raise the bar on yourself and don’t let yourself off the hook. Once you’ve set yourself a deadline, stick to it and even try to beat it. Imagine that you have to leave town for a month, and work as if you had to get your major task completed before you left.
14. Motivate yourself into action: Be your own cheerleader. To perform at your best, you must become your own personal cheerleader. You must develop a routine of coaching yourself and encouraging yourself to play at the top of your game. Look for the good in every situation. Focus on the solution rather than the problem. Always be optimistic and constructive. Most of your emotions, positive or negative, are determined by how you talk to yourself on a minute-to-minute basis.
15. Technology is a terrible master. Take back your time from enslaving technological addictions. Learn to often turn devices off and leave them off. Create zones of silence during your day-to-day activities. Turn off your computer and your smartphone for one hour in the morning and one hour in the afternoon. You will be amazed at what happens.
16. Technology is a wonderful servant. Use your technological tools to confront yourself with what is most important and protect yourself from what is least important. You must discipline yourself to treat technology as a servant, not as a master. Keep asking yourself, “what’s important here?”
17. Focus your attention. Stop the interruptions and distractions that interfere with completing your most important tasks. Here is a simple way to double your productivity. First, plan each day in advance, select your most important task, and then start on that task first thing, before you do anything else. Second, work nonstop for ninety minutes with no diversion or distraction, and then give yourself a fifteen-minute break. Third, start again and work another ninety minutes flat out. Finally, after this three-hour work period, you can then reward yourself with a shot of dopamine by checking your e-mail.
18. Slice and dice the task. A major reason for procrastinating on big, important tasks is that they appear so large and formidable when you first approach them. One technique that you can use is break the large, complex tasks down into bite-seized pieces, and then do just one small part of the task to get started.
19. Create large chunks of time. Organize your days around large blocks of time so you can concentrate for extended periods on your most important tasks.
20. Develop a senses of urgency. Make a habit of moving fast on your key tasks. Become known as a person who does things quickly and well.
21. Single handle every task. Set clear priorities, start immediately on your most important task, and then work without stopping until the job is 100 percent complete. This is the real key to high performance and maximum personal productivity.