A (very) simple strategy for beating procrastination

We all procrastinate, but there’s usually a simple strategy for beating it.

Just start.

That sounds such dumb advice to give, but it often really is that simple.

Last week I procrastinated on two tasks. One was something I wasn’t looking forward to. Even though it was straightforward, there was some ambiguity with it. It also wasn’t that interesting. I figured it would take me about half a day.

The other task was going to be harder. It needed some research. It also required some deep thinking and problem solving. I was confident I would be able to get it done, but it was going to push me out of my comfort zone for sure. About a full day of work.

I procrastinated on these tasks all week. Sometimes they didn’t even make it onto my plan for the day!

Throughout the week my anxiety for both tasks grew. I beat myself up for being so lame. People were relying on me to do them, so I worried about leaving them to the last minute. I could feel the pressure of rushing them close to the deadline. In a worst case scenario, I imagined delivering them late and being embarrassed.

I also started to build up some of the difficulties with the tasks to a fictional level. The first task went from being straightforward and not that interesting— to just plain painful to do. It was going to be torture! I started to dread it.

I started to doubt my capability with the second task. Maybe I wouldn’t be able to find the research or figure it out. I wasn’t good enough to get it done. Perhaps I wouldn’t be able to deliver the task at all!

I stumbled on Four Things Procrastinators Need to Learn over the weekend — and boy I’m glad I did. My main takeaway was, you just have to start. From there, everything gets easier.

So, on Sunday I sat down to do the first task, and to at least start the second task.

The first one took about an hour (not half a day). It was very straightforward and actually ended up being a pretty decent piece of work. It wasn’t super exciting, but it wasn’t as boring as I imagined.

The second one took about three hours (not a full day). The research came together quickly. It also required less deep thinking and problem solving than I’d expected. I had underestimated my experience in this area and most of it was fairly straight forward. I felt pretty good with the end result.

I had expected both of these tasks to take about a day and half — and be a mix of boring and / or difficult. They were anything but.

I felt stupid for delaying them for a week. I cringed at the time I spent worrying about them and what that did to my mood. It affected my whole week.

And I realised, all you have to do is force yourself to start. Just take the first step. After that, confidence usually kicks in. Most of the negative things you dream up in your head, never happen.

I had a similar task on my list yesterday. Something which was genuinely outside of my experience. Instead of procrastinating, I pushed aside the uncomfortableness. I sat down, and started it.

I surprised myself by how easy it came together. It reminded me that I can get my head around most things and can be pretty resourceful when I need to be. And that confidence carried through into the rest of the day.

So, if you find yourself starting to procrastinate (or even think about procrastinating), use that as a trigger to just start. Just sit down and start. It all gets easier from there.

Nike were kinda onto something with their ‘Just do it’ slogan.

My favourite life changing books

I read a great article recently — If It’s Important, Learn It Repeatedly. It makes a good case for going back and re-reading important books.

So, I went back and read Deep Work by Cal Newport. It’s one of my favorite books and it was even better the second time round. It gave me a renewed enthusiasm for doing deep work and some fresh ideas for how to go about it.

It got me thinking, what other books could I go back and read again?

Read more

High risk investing & cryptocurrency

Whenever anyone asks me for advice about investing, I always give the same response:

Invest in indexes. Contribute regularly, hold for the long term and rarely check.

Then I point them towards two bits of reading — JL Collins Stock Series and Warren Buffett’s $1 million bet. These do a great job of outlining the above approach, with some proof that it actually works.

I’m now convinced it’s worth having a small percentage at a higher risk. And as usual, Barry Avraam is the person responsible for getting me to take more risk. Fred Wilson’s writing on AVC also helped. Crypto Asset Allocation and Diversification (aka How To Survive A Crash) are two posts that have been particularly helpful.

Read more

How I think about everything

As we get older (and hopefully wiser), our thinking about the important things in life changes. We learn new things. We have amazing, good, bad and awful experiences. We try things that work and don’t work. We slowly build informed opinions and beliefs from all of this.

I’ve noticed that in the first 35 years of life, my thinking on certain things has changed a lot. As I’ve got closer to 40, things are starting to settle. I’ve had a few epiphany / mid life type movements. These have either solidified how I think about something, or significantly changed my thinking — probably for the rest of my life.

Read more

How to plan a killer week

Get more done, spend more time on what really matters and be happier. It sounds too good to be true, but it isn’t.

Planning the week ahead could be the one, single biggest thing you can do to get more done — and be happier. It’s usually the difference between a bad, or an awesome week.

Read more

7 things to look for in a dream job

I made a tough decision towards the end of last year — I changed my work situation. What made it tough was, it was a good job, at a good company. It ticked most of the boxes.

All jobs have their ups and downs. I tend to find I go through periods of about 8-10 weeks when things feel really good. The work is engaging and challenging, and the results are there. And then I will hit a couple of weeks where I feel low. Everything feels like a bit of a slog. Sometimes it’s an unexpected miss or a problem. Sometimes, it’s just a case of burnout. But, I soon come out of it and get myself back into a good stretch.

Around the middle of last year, I found the good periods were getting shorter and the slogs were getting longer. It forced me to do some thinking and exploring around what is important for me at work.

Read more

Can technology free us from technology?

Freedom

I’ve been using Freedom for the last couple of weeks, with interesting results.

Freedom is an app that helps you control distractions by blocking the internet, apps and websites — or any combination of those. You can start a freedom session whenever you like, or schedule a session for the future. It supports recurring sessions too. You have complete control over how long you want sessions to be, and what distractions you want to block.

Read more