I recently came across this cool, colorful, hard to read chart titled, “How to Get Motivated: a Guide for Defeating Procrastination” which was adapted from a book called The Procrastination Equation, by the impressively named, Piers Steel, Ph.D. And, being the caring, giving, people-person I am, and because I have a personal vendetta against the current trend to over-complicate and obtusify straight-forward info by making it into an infographic–I have changed it into an UNinfographic. Just the info; none of the graphic.
According to Dr. Steel’s procrastination equation, Motivation = (Expectancy x Value) / (Impulsiveness x Delay). The upshot of this is you can focus yourself by increasing your expectancy of getting a reward or payoff, or by increasing your pleasure in doing a task, or by increasing the size of the reward. Another way, to procrastinate less is by decreasing the distractions overcoming your impulsiveness, or by decreasing the delay between completing the task and receiving the reward. “Lemme ‘splain. No. Lemme sum up.”, upping the reward or pleasure OR getting rid of distractions or delay in gratification equals motivation. Motivation means you won’t procrastinate, or at least you’ll procrastinate less. You can focus and accomplish great things!
First things first. Clearly focus on the problem or task you are avoiding. Being specific about what’s causing you to procrastinate will make all the rest of this a lot easier. Once you’ve done that, you can start swinging the procrastination equation towards motivational mecca by…
Increasing the Value of the Task
Here are ten different ways to do that…
- “Find Passion.” Know what you are passionate about in life, then find some way to connect it to your target task. Ask yourself, how can I make this intrinsically motivating? For example, are you a perfectionist? Break that big scary task down into perfectly-sized chunks; chunks you can do in an hour or less. Now set a timer and see how perfectly you can do the first chunk in under one hour. Another example; do you like to cut corners? See how much of the task you can avoid while still getting optimal results. This is my personal favorite, since I’m lazy. I can always find a shortcut that helps me get the job done–and done well–while I do a lot less work than most people.
- “Mix Bitter & Sweet” by combining your long-term goals with the gains you’ll receive more immediately. Hard to tell from the infographic, but I think this means you should figure out how the short-term payoffs of doing the scary task will feed into your long-term goals. More on this later.
- “Add Accountability.” Let other people know about your procrastination inducing task so they can help motivate you to get it done. Make it public knowledge! Tweet it. Let your FaceBook friends know what you’re doing and when you’ll have it done by. Brag about how you’ll have the paper written by this time tomorrow or you’ll have the house clean by the time your guests show up. Better yet, ask your friends to keep after you until you’re done; “Would you mind calling me every once in a while and asking about my progress? I give you permission to call me names and cast aspersions on my ancestry if I don’t have it done by this time tomorrow.”
- “Use Productive Procrastination.” I like this one! Ask yourself what unpleasant tasks you can avoid by doing your target task. Don’t feel like paying bills? Work on that term paper instead!
- “Keep Your Brain Healthy.” I’m not sure how this fits under increasing the task value, but you know from my previous posts that getting enough sleep and exercise, and taking frequent breaks can really help your brain work at peak efficiency. He also lumps “reduce your commitments” under this category. Seems like it would fit better under decreasing distractions, but the advice is sound. However, I’ve also found that I tend to procrastinate less when I have less free time to procrastinate. If I know I can’t afford to put it off, I tend to get right to work.
- “Create a Reward.” Another old standby here at StudyProf.com; reward yourself for accomplishing the avoided task, and reward each step in your progress towards crossing that task off your to-do list. As before, break the big tasks into bite-sized chunks and reward yourself each time you accomplish one of those chunks, then have a big, healthy, grain-fed reward waiting at the end of all the chunks.
- “Get Some Energy.” You can increase your energy level by getting your blood pumping with food (and drink), exercise, music, etc. Most of us will down some caffeine or pump up the volume to get ourselves moving, but have you ever tried imagining yourself in a pulse-pounding situation. Don’t laugh, but I’ll imagine myself in a UFC match or using a spear to fight a bear (a la The Edge and many of your ancestors). A good imagination can really energize you if used correctly. It also helps to tackle the task when your body is naturally up. That’s mid-morning for many of us, but it may be midnight for you.
- “Create Competition.” You can compete against yourself by setting small goals and continually trying to beat them. You can work against others; “I bet you five bucks I’ll have my rough draft done before you!”. Nothing like a little friendly competition to increase your focus! My personal favorite, and one I use all the time in my classroom, is to turn whatever you’re doing into a game. You’re hardwired to have fun. Use that! This goes back to the concept of flow, pioneered by Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi, which brings us to the next point…
- “Find Flow.” Flow is that optimal state that all of us get in from time to time where we forget about everything else and focus completely on what we’re doing. In this state we often lose track of time because we’re enjoying what we’re doing. Flow usually comes when we engage in an activity that is difficult enough to be challenging but not too difficult to accomplish. You can probably remember being in this flow state; think of an activity you really enjoy–playing a certain game, an athletic challenge, creating art or music. Chances are you reach that flow state during that activity. Make your procrastination-inducing task into something that will bring you into that flow state. I usually do this by making it into a game or competition. For flow, you need to make the activity challenging–but not too challenging–and you need immediate feedback on how you’re doing. For example, I’ll set myself a goal of writing a half-page of my rough draft in three minutes. I set a timer and get started. I’m now getting feedback every three minutes. Keeps me focused and motivated!
- “Find Meaning.” Establish your life goals (may I recommend, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, by Stephen R. Covey?), and connect the task causing you to procrastinate back to the accomplishment of one of those life goals. This fills even the most mundane tasks with a deep meaning for your life. That equals motivation!
Take a look back over these ten procrastination beaters the next time you’re struggling to accomplish some seemingly mountainous mound of work, and use a few of these to get yourself going. In my next post I’ll give a similar treatment to increasing expectancy, which is another part of Steel’s procrastination equation.
Have any helpful tips of your own to add? Let me know in the comments, and it only takes a second to like or share this by clicking on one of the social links below. I really appreciate it when you spread the word!© Cody Blair, All Rights Reserved.