What is the most effective way to beat procrastination?

First, get your brain on board. Then train it to work for you.

When you feel the urge to procrastinate, get your brain on board with what you’re about to do so you get motivated to take action. Then, train your brain to focus on what is most important.

You can do this in 3 steps:

  • by turning your action into a choice
  • by reminding yourself why you are doing it
  • by visualizing your progress

Step #1. Instead of approaching what you’re doing as a chore, turn it into a choice.

It’s very possible that you procrastinate because you feel like everything you’re working on each day is just another chore and one more thing on your to-do list. Who can get excited about that? Try a different approach by changing your attitude towards your work. Tell yourself, “This is something I really want to learn more about!” or “What I am doing today will impact my future in a positive way.” The benefit? Having this attitude will allow you to feel that you are in control of your life, instead of just reacting to it.

Step #2. Remind yourself of the reason for doing something with this question: “Why am I doing this?”

Whenever you are working on something, it’s critical that you understand your why. Make the connection with the initial reasons for working on something to begin with. For example, maybe you wanted to become an expert at something, to learn a new skill, to research a topic you’re interested in, to study for an exam so you can graduate, to make progress in your career, to explore a new business opportunity, to solve a particular problem or to help someone else solve theirs. A simple reminder of the reason will keep you on track so you don’t lose focus on what is important to you.

Step #3. Visualize what you’re about to do.

This is a technique called building a mental model; you take a few minutes to imagine in detail what you expect to see, learn, read, or do. As you imagine the details, be sure to cover all the steps you will be doing. For example, if you are researching something new, visualize covering a certain amount of material (chapters or sections), taking notes on the important concepts you discover, anticipating what you’ll do if you encounter a problem (devote more time to it, ask for help, check out other reference material), and writing down questions you want to research later. The benefit? By telling yourself a story on what you’re about to do, you train your brain to anticipate next steps and map out the entire learning process in a way that is easier to understand.

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