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We’ve all been bitten by the procrastination bug. What matters is how you respond. We asked 10 uber-successful people and Advisors in The Oracles for their best hacks to beat procrastination and stay productive. Here’s what they said.
1. Be like Nike.
Most people sit back and wait for things to happen to them. Don’t be that person. Working overtime doesn’t impress anyone; get the job done accurately and quickly. You know if you’re going to be the next Michael Phelps in your industry because you don’t look left or right — you just get to the wall before anyone else.
Nike says it best: “Just do it.” It took me exactly 30 seconds to start writing the answer to this question. If you hesitate, you lose. So whatever you have to do, stop thinking and talking about it and just tackle it now in an organized manner. And if you feel stuck and struggle with procrastination, you probably need to find a job that you enjoy and are good at. —Bethenny Frankel, founder of Skinnygirl, cast member of “The Real Housewives of New York City,” New York Times bestselling author, and Shark on “Shark Tank”; follow Bethenny on Twitter and Instagram
2. Divide each hour into 15-minute blocks.
Whether it’s Netflix, Facebook, or your dog, life serves up distractions that take away your attention from important tasks. You justify it because it’s just five minutes here, five minutes there; but before you know it, you’ve wasted an hour. To beat procrastination, you cannot compromise or get distracted by activities with little or no value.
I divide each hour into 15-minute blocks, then I work fast and furiously to see how much I can accomplish in each block. When you approach time this way, you have little room for distraction as you move from one thing to the next. —Grant Cardone, sales expert, who has built a $750 million real estate empire, and New YorkTimes bestselling author; follow Grant on Facebook, Instagram, or YouTube
3. Write a check to someone you don’t like.
Create some stakes to reprioritize. Identify an amount of money that is a lot to you, but not so large that it would ruin you if you lost it. For some, that’s $500. For others, it might be $2,500 or more. Then clearly define what needs to get done and set a reasonable time frame.
Finally, think of the last person or organization you would want to give that money to and commit to send it to them if you miss your goal. Write a check and give it to a friend to mail if they don’t see proof of completion. I’ve used this method for years and have never failed to hit my deadline! —Josh Harris, founder of Agency Growth Secrets; teaches entrepreneurs how to start, grow, and scale marketing agencies that help businesses grow
4. Use cue cards.
Procrastinators fill their time with menial tasks because they provide immediate rewards. So the secret to beating procrastination is devising a system to reward you whenever you act on the important things. Break down projects into small, manageable tasks. For example, if you’re writing a book, break it into 500-word sections. Keep a stack of cue cards with notes on each section on one side of your computer. Every time you complete 500 words, flip that card face down on the other side. This reward gives you a shot of the feel-good hormone dopamine, pulling you through the process.
Your dream might require a lot of pain or sacrifice now to get the benefit later. It might seem far in the distance. But in the words of entrepreneur Victor Kiam, “Procrastination is opportunity’s assassin.” It stops us from doing what we love, not what we dread. —Jonathan Goodman, founder of the Personal Trainer Development Center, a collection of resources for fit-pros who offer personal training or are hoping to build an online fitness training business; connect with Jonathan on Facebook and Instagram
5. Establish the right systems before you get stuck.
Productivity is about establishing the right systems and teams before you get stuck or are under pressure. At my company, everything has a process. For example, whenever we introduce new software, we build a checklist for it. One employee is dedicated solely to creating, optimizing, and auditing our processes. Our teams meet every morning to discuss what everyone is working on. Then in the midafternoon we discuss what didn’t get done so we can reprioritize as needed.
Nobody works alone either. For quality control and perspective, at least two people work on every project. Everyone also has an escalation process, including me. If you’re stuck on a problem that’s taking a lot of time, you have an obligation to ask for help rather than continue losing time to inefficiency. Most people are busy being busy, not being effective. My teammates don’t have that problem. —Patch Baker, founder and CEO of Mobius Media Solutions; former U.S. Marine, with a mission to help people leave the military today and not feel abandoned tomorrow
6. Focus on how you’ll feel afterwards.
Willpower is finite; we have a certain amount each day and then it’s gone. That realization has motivated me to integrate habits so deeply that I don’t even have to think about them. Make them part of who you are to create maximum results with minimal effort. Then prioritize doing the work that your “ideal self” would do each day.
Whenever I’m unmotivated, I think about how I’m going to feel afterwards rather than how I feel in the moment. I ask myself: looking back from that place, what is the choice I know I must make? Discipline and consistency are critical traits you can cultivate, but discernment is also key. Sometimes it’s valid and even useful to procrastinate so you can get clarity around what matters most. So trust that you know what to do, then make it nonnegotiable. — Katrina Ruth, founder and CEO of “The Katrina Ruth Show,” a multimillion-dollar online coaching business for entrepreneurs; connect with Katrina on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube; read more about Ruth: She Chose Tattoos Over Traditional Success. Why Katrina Ruth Refuses To Be Anything but Herself.
7. Put yourself on a procrastination “diet.”
It’s human nature to dodge things that don’t feel good, which is why the tasks we want to avoid linger week after week. When something starts to create anxiety or pressure, we resist it and run away. But when you have to get it done, that’s not a viable option.
The best way to break a habit is to develop new ones, so put yourself on a procrastination diet. Whenever you feel resistance, give yourself one task and then do it. Do two the next time, then three. The first few days of a diet can be hard, but it gets easier if you stick with it. Set aside an hour each day solely to be productive. What’s important is getting started. Before you know it, you’re breaking old habits and doing things that make you uncomfortable. —Dottie Herman, CEO of Douglas Elliman, a real estate brokerage empire with more than $27 billion in annual sales; connect with Dottie on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter
8. Prioritize based on urgency and importance.
I group my tasks based on urgency and importance. Urgent and important tasks get done. Tasks that are important but not urgent get planned. Urgent, unimportant tasks get delegated. If it’s not urgent or important, I ignore it. Ideally, I spend at least 80% of my time on important items.
Then I take 10 minutes at the beginning and end of each day to plan. In the morning, prioritize the two or three things you need to get done, then take inventory at the end of each day. Finally, make sure you are connected to your “why,” which will pull you through whatever you are working on. When you feel connected to a bigger purpose, you accomplish more. —Daniel Lesniak, founder of Orange Line Living, broker at the Keri Shull Team, and co-founder of real estate coaching business HyperFast Agent; author of “The HyperLocal, HyperFast Real Estate Agent”
9. Block time and stay organized.
As the founder, balancing my time between navigating my company’s day-to-day, putting out fires, and tackling big, forward-looking projects is an art and a science. To ensure I tackle my projects, I block time on my calendar solely for this purpose. I make this mandatory so I can’t skip it, even for a work emergency.
To make that time effective, I have folders with all pertinent information for each project. As project-related things pop up throughout the week, I store them in their respective folders so I don’t get distracted. Then when it’s time to work on a project, everything is ready to go so I don’t waste time hunting for information in long-forgotten emails or to-do lists. —Dennis Najjar, co-founder of AccountingDepartment.com, a virtual accounting service for small businesses; connect with Dennis on LinkedIn
10. Take a break and get outside — then delegate it next time.
Unfortunately, parts of business aren’t always fun. It’s easy to get burned out or procrastinate on projects that we aren’t in love with, especially as an entrepreneur. Whenever I feel stuck, I disconnect from social media, shut off my phone, and get outside. I go for a hike, a run, or a walk on the beach. Then I take a cold shower and block an hour or two to work on that task.
After you’ve accomplished the task, reflect on why you got hung up in the first place. We often procrastinate on projects we shouldn’t have taken on to begin with. If it’s not in your zone of genius, delegate or outsource it next time. —Ryan Dossey, real estate broker and investor who owns more than 125 rental units across the Midwest; founder of Call Porter and Ballpoint Marketing, and partner at Stewardship Properties
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