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Remedies for Procrastination

In previous posts, I’ve talked about “Flow Killers”, and how to get back in the flow.

Today I want to back up a level and look at the pieces of the procrastination puzzle.

A high-level procedure for overcoming procrastination might look something like this:

Recognize Procrastination –> Find a Remedy –> Apply the Remedy

One problem we face in overcoming procrastination is that there are many remedies. And usually only one or two of them is/are the magic bullet(s) we need to overcome a particular case of procrastination.

I’ve listed over 20 potential remedies below, and I suspect there are many others I haven’t listed.

Because there are so many potential remedies, we need an effective troubleshooting guide to find the right remedy for a particular case of procrastination, and that will be the topic of future posts.

In this post I simply want to ask what are the remedies for procrastination? I will post the list I came up with, and then I want to ask you if you can think of other remedies for procrastination.

The Initial List of Remedies For Procrastination:

  1. Clarify your goals.
  2. Get stuff out of your head and into your planning tool
  3. Break a plan down further
  4. Re-factor a plan into a clear, compelling construction story.
  5. Resolve conflict in plans.
  6. Uncover dependencies in a plan so you can do things in the right order
  7. Brainstorm/free write/outline (discover what the pieces of the puzzle are)
  8. Break off a SCRUM sprint to work towards a feedback-oriented deadline.
  9. Re-prioritize your project queue using cost-benefit/risk-reward analysis
  10. Schedule items
  11. Research a solution to an obstacle
  12. Consult with an expert about how to overcome an obstacle
  13. Outsource a task
  14. Insource a task
  15. Make changes to your work environment to reduce distraction (includes moving low priority plans to a maybe-later list)
  16. Implement a work/rest rhythm
  17. Improve physical energy: get rest/recreation/sleep/improve diet, etc.
  18. Play motivating music.
  19. Make yourself accountable to someone for completing a project
  20. Create a reward for yourself for completing a project
  21. Do mental contrasting to increase the perceived value of an outcome
  22. Create implementation intentions to rewire existing negative cues, or establish new positive cues for productive behavior.

That’s my list so far. If you can think of any others (or you want to ask a question or comment on this), post your comment/question below.

Thanks :-)

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10 Comments

  1. Shari
    Posted April 9, 2012 at 10:46 am | Permalink

    Ask yourself what you are afraid of if you do this task?
    Then address the fear and move on to the task.

  2. Posted April 9, 2012 at 11:56 am | Permalink

    Hi Jim,

    Here’s a good one:

    Take time off

    EJ

  3. Posted April 9, 2012 at 1:09 pm | Permalink

    In a nut shell, I agree with just about every remedy you have on your list, however I would appreciate your suggestions on the list even more if you elaborate on The Initial List of Remedies for Procrastination: numbers ten through fourteen.
    Our initial list of remedies for procrastination:
    1. Start your day off by being, feeling thinking, and doing. Instead of doing, thinking, feeling, and doing first.
    2. Create a list of reminders that remind yourself how you can prepare to manifest your daily agendas.

  4. Luv
    Posted April 11, 2012 at 7:26 am | Permalink

    One thing I would love to add about flow killers are recursive thoughts..
    Imagine a TV series I saw today which had a very painful event..but wait-they suspended that for the next day, leaving us all in tizzy. Or some other thought whcih you feel shouldn’t come to you as you work, yet it comes to our mind, and disturbs us with even more frequency than it had been initially-Reason-We say to our mind” DON’T LET IT COME….I CAN’T LET IT COME…DON’T…DON’T…DON’T”..But the thing is, the more DONT we think and force on our brain and become cranky, the more those thoughts become a nuisance.
    Now consider this- I give you two things to hit on a wall-a nail and a hammer, and a sponge ball of equal mass as nail. Hammer the nail on the wall, and compare it with the scenario when we strike the wall with sponge ball-Which one hurts even more? Obviously, as the common sense says, the NAIL HAMMERED.
    The same indeed happens with our thoughts as they surface on our minds-”DON’T” keyword makes them hit even more on our brain, and makes it more difficult to concentrate on our stuff, because the more DON’T we think of, the more our BRAIN would concentrate on them, probably because our BRAIN does not know how to interpret NEGATIONS.
    So, the best way is to let those thoughts like be a sponge ball-i.e. learn to BOUNCE them off head, so they impact less. Say to your brain-”Dude, we would DEFINITELY think about it, when we would pack up with the work.” And as you wind it up, do give those thoughts a thought-now see, you would realize how light they were and would be even laughing as if “why the hell on the Earth did they even spring up?Lolz!”
    So, in a nutshell, for those Recurring thoughts which you are trying to suppress brutally interrupt your work, and want you to get up and waste some more hours, remember to bounce them off rather than letting them nail you.
    God Bless Ya!

  5. Sydney
    Posted April 11, 2012 at 11:12 am | Permalink

    I sometimes procrastinate (or find myself wanting to stop working and go do something fun) when I have finished one task (or taken it as far as I want to for the day), and have not yet chosen a new task.

    So making sure I choose a new task after completing one is important.

  6. Miriam
    Posted June 9, 2012 at 8:36 pm | Permalink

    Jim,

    Can you make your list more fractal? That way we could add our personal takes to the main list, which would have not more than seven categories, and that would make it easier to look in a specific area that is intuitively more attractive, and go deeper instead of scanning the whole range of procrastination breakers.

    Here’s what works best for me right now:

    - Stop and take three slow breaths

    - Check in with myself: do a body scan, then check my thoughts and emotions for “stuff” that I can blow away like dandelion fluff (I like the ‘bounce’ idea, too)

    - Ask my inner Wise Advocate (aka Loving Inner Guide) for guidance

    - put on some classical or meditation music

    - take 10-30 minutes to do something that is a sure-fire flow producer – for me, often something physical.

    I think I will make my own To Do list of things that are tried and true “break-out” strategies for me:

    – take a walk or a run or a quick bike ride
    – take a shower
    – sing a favorite song at the top of my voice
    – do a silly dance to a good beat
    – STRETCH – any familiar set of stretches
    – runner’s warm-up
    – tennis limber-up
    – dancer’s stretches
    – Pilates or yoga
    – pretend to swim, practice your golf stroke, etc
    – try a few minutes of “Ageless Grace”
    (more info @ agelessgrace.com)

    I am working with YOU ARE NOT YOUR BRAIN and some of Daniel Amen’s brain health stuff. Might be worth your time. Also, THE POWER OF FOCUSING.

    You have integrated so much helpful stuff into such a usable form, can’t wait to see what you would make of YOU ARE NOT YOUR BRAIN. I have done an outline, would be glad to share it.

    • Jim Stone
      Posted June 9, 2012 at 9:25 pm | Permalink

      Hi Miriam.

      Actually, I think what you mean by “make your list more fractal” is the same thing I mean when I say I’m working on a troubleshooting scheme. I will definitely be posting more on this issue in the future as I work on figuring out the best way to go from first realizing you are procrastinating to finding the best remedy as fast as possible.

      My posts on flow killers give some clues about how to do this. And Pier’s Steele’s 4 factors in his Procrastination Equation is a different and also good way to approach it. Stay tuned.

    • Jim Stone
      Posted June 9, 2012 at 9:28 pm | Permalink

      Oh, and I also like many of your suggestions. I think doing something physical that gets your heart rate up is a great tool in the toolkit that I didn’t have listed.

      I haven’t read You Are Not Your Brain. After reading through the reviews on Amazon I get the feeling It’s outside the empirical/scientific paradigm I’m currently using to understand these issues, but I’ll bet a person could find a lot of good practical advice in there, even if they don’t agree with the metaphysical framing of the issues.

      • Miriam
        Posted June 10, 2012 at 11:23 am | Permalink

        Not necessarily ‘metaphysical’ – your ‘wise inner guide’ can be accessed whether you frame it as something ‘spiritual’ or as simply the totality of who you are, engaging your body–including the neurons of your heart and the neurons of your gut– with the neurons of your brain. I would say it is complimentary to the Csikszentmihaly construct of ‘flow’.

        When I need to break out of procrastination, I want to create a ‘concert state’ among my gut, heart, and brain. That ‘concert state’ is at the heart of what cognitive science calls ‘expertise’, a continual restructuring of your neurological system into ever more effective configurations, also called ‘wisdom’.

        Often doing something to engage the rest of your ‘physical’ system can get the brain (thinking and emotions) unstuck. Accessing my ‘wisdom’ by checking in with and engaging my body is a real short-cut to breaking out of almost any brain-based recursion, among which, procrastination.

        And by the way, there is lots of empirical and scientific paradigm behind YOU ARE NOT YOUR BRAIN. It’s part of the whole neuroplasticity and epigenetics break-out. For instance, THE BRAIN THAT CHANGES ITSELF.

        That is why I am looking forward to working your habit-change module ;->

        • Jim Stone
          Posted June 10, 2012 at 11:57 am | Permalink

          The subtitle for “You are Not Your Brain” is “The 4-Step Solution for Changing Bad Habits, Ending Unhealthy Thinking, and Taking Control of Your Life”

          I suppose the bottom line is not one of metaphysics, but whether those 4 steps form an effective strategy.

          If you get a chance, and feel inclined, feel free to present the list of 4 steps here.

          And I’d be happy to take a look at your larger outline. You can reply to one of the emails I sent out to notify you about the blog posting.

          Thanks!

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