Avoiding procrastination in a world where technology takes us down the rabbit hole

Avoiding procrastination is becoming harder! Did you know that proximity to a distraction is one of the biggest determinants of procrastination?

When I was a kid it wasn’t nearly as easy – proximity of the computer was actually downstairs in the study room. Now, our technology is in most people’s back pocket. Not only are our distractions right in our face all of the time – but the power of these distractions are stronger…a lot stronger. 

No wonder there has been a five fold increase in chronic procrastination since the 1970’s.

Email, Facebook, Twitter, or just plain old surfing the web all provide an opportunity for the procrastinator to go down a rabbit hole – and when we go down that rabbit hole we spend time that we can’t get back - no matter how many time management programs we watch we can’t get more than 24 hours a day.

There are four things that you can do to minimise the chances of technology derailing your ability to get stuff done. 

  1. Throw away the key
  2. Have Pit Stops
  3. A little drop of poison
  4. Create implementation intentions.

1. Avoiding procrastination by throwing away the key

This is about being proactive and removing the distraction – so in other words 'throwing away the key'.

This might include shutting the door, turning off the phone, shutting down social networking sites and removing clutter.

If email is the thing that you distract yourself with then turn off your alerts. This alone will gain you an extra 2 weeks a year.

Consider using technology to block your distractions. For example, if you struggle with all the apps and notifications on the Internet why not use the same technology to eliminate distractions.

If you struggle to avoiding taking a peep....and that peep turns into a great procrastination session...see how I used Rescue Time to protect my time on the stuff that matters. 

For example, if you can't resist Facebook and as much as you try to focus on what you have to do - you find yourself dipping in and out of Facebook – you can get apps like Rescue Time (which is light on your wallet, in fact the free one works fine) which allow you to block access to Facebook, or email, or whatever your distraction is for the amount of time you need.

2. Avoiding Procrastination with a Pit Stop

Interestingly another way to reduce procrastination (as a result of distractions) is to make time for those areas that you procrastinate in. In other words satiate the needs before they get too much. 

For example, if you schedule in some time to check email or Facebook, what you do is that you let off a little steam before the boilers burst - kinda like a nicotine patch for the smoker!

Pit Stop activity

Look for those things that you procrastinate on and see if you can schedule some of those things in. Some examples include scheduling in email three times a day or checking Facebook for half an hour after work.

But there the danger is that I intend to spend 10 minutes but end up spending an hour. If that sounds like you then consider the next two ideas.

3. Avoiding procrastination with a little drop of poison

In the immortal words of Tom Waits - “a little drop of poison” is a strategy that involves hitching your misdemeanors to a penalty. 

For example, I once worked with a guy, actually he was one of my flatmates, who was often very for meetings thanks to procrastination - it was really threatening his career. So everytime he was late to a meeting he would add $2 to the kitty.

Why this works

When we stuff up and allow ourselves to become distracted we poison the experience with something that we don’t like or don’t want to do. The trick is to make that disincentive just enough so that it stops your limbic system being hijacked by the tempting distractions. 

Which type of procrastinator are you? Find out here

This strategy can be a good one for dealing with email or social media addiction. For example, you might commit to check your email only 3 times a day – then if anybody catches you responding to email on the fly you owe them a beer.

4. Avoiding procrastination with an intention plan

But for those distractions you can't anticipate then consider an intention plan. This is a pre-thought out strategy.

For example, I find it really hard to say NO when my friends drop in and ask me to go out. So my intention plan might look like this: 

IF my friend drops by over the weekend and invites me out THEN I will have a prepared response to the effect that this weekend is all taken up with an assignment and that I would love to go out with them on Tuesday night to the movies. 

See how to create an intention plan.

5. Activity for overcoming procrastination

Think about the tasks that you procrastinate on. If you need some help here have a look your zones of procrastination.

When you look over your different zones of procrastination ask yourself:

  1. Can I be proactive and remove the distraction – in other words throw away the key, or
  2. Can I satiate yourself with the distraction, so in other words schedule some time and create a Pit Stop for the distraction, or
  3. Can I hitch a penalty to your distractions, or
  4. Can I create an implementation plan for those distractions that are less predictable. 

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