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Procrastination checklist

5 Post author: Elo 03 March 2016 03:04AM

Procrastination checklist

This list is a revision of this checklist: http://lesswrong.com/lw/hgd/10step_antiprocrastination_checklist/


1. What is the task? Make sure you're going to focus on one thing at a time.  Write it down (helps some people).  (If you need - start with the big picture, one sentence of "what is this for")


Can you do it now? (If yes then do it)


2. How long will you work until you take a break?  Prepare to set a timer and commit to focusing.


Can you do it now? (If yes then do it)


3. What are the parts to this task?  Break things down until they are in *can do it now* steps, if you have a small number of steps that can now be done; stop writing more steps and start doing them.


Can you do it right now?  (If yes then do it)


4. What's an achievable goal for this sitting? Set a reasonable expectation for yourself.  (until it's done, 1000 words, complete research on X part)


Can you do it now? (If yes then do it)


5. How can you make it easier to do the task?

  • Is the environment right?  Desk clear, well lit area...

  • Do you have something to drink? Get yourself some tea, coffee, or water.

  • Are distractions closed? Shut the door, quit Tweetdeck, close the Facebook and Gmail tabs, and set skype to "Do not disturb."

  • What music will you listen to inspire yourself to be productive? Put on a good instrumental playlist! (video game soundtracks are good)

  • Do you have the right books open?  The right tools in reach?

  • Is your chair comfortable?

  • Can you make it harder to do the distracting or <not this> thing?

  • (step 3 is going to help to make it easier)


Can you do it now? (If yes then do it)


6. Why are you doing this task?  Trace the value back until you increase the desire to do it.


Can you do it now? (If yes then do it)


7. Will gamifying help you? What are some ways to gamify the task?  Try to have fun with it!


Can you do it now? (If yes then do it)


8. What are some rewards you can offer yourself for completing sections of the task? Smiling, throwing your arms up in the air and proclaiming victory, or M&M's all count, a trip to the beach, a nice milkshake...


Can you do it now? (If yes then do it)


9. are you sure you want to do it?  Deciding either to; not do it now; or not do it at all; are also fine.  It’s up to you to make that decision, keeping in mind what “not doing it” means in it’s entirety.



In first-person form:

1. What is the task? Make sure I’m going to focus on one thing at a time.  Write it down (helps some people).  (If I need - start with the big picture, one sentence of "what is this for")


Can I do it now? (If yes then do it)


2. How long will I work until you take a break?  Prepare to set a timer and commit to focusing.


Can I do it now? (If yes then do it)


3. What are the parts to this task?  I want to break things down until they are in *can do it now* steps, if I have a small number of steps that can now be done; I will stop writing more steps in the process and start doing them.


Can I do it right now?  (If yes then do it)

 

4. What's an achievable goal for this sitting? Set a reasonable expectation for myself.  (until it's done, 1000 words, complete research on X part)


Can I do it now? (If yes then do it)


5. How can I make it easier to do the task?

  • Is the environment right?  Desk clear, well lit area...

  • Do I have something to drink? Get yourself some tea, coffee, or water.

  • Are my distractions closed? Shut the door, quit Tweetdeck, close the Facebook and Gmail tabs, set skype to "Do not disturb."

  • What music will I listen to, to inspire myself to be productive? Put on a good instrumental playlist!

  • Do I have the right books open?  The right tools in reach?

  • Is my chair comfortable?

  • Can I make it harder to do the distracting or <not this> thing?

  • (step 3 is going to help to make it easier)


Can I do it now? (If yes then do it)


6. Why am I doing this task?  Trace the value and feeling back until I increase the desire to do it.


Can I do it now? (If yes then do it)


7. Will gamifying help me? What are some ways to gamify the task?


Can I do it now? (If yes then do it)


8. What are some rewards I can offer myself for completing sections of the task? Smiling, throwing my arms up in the air and proclaiming victory, M&M's all count, a trip to the beach, a nice milkshake...


Can I do it now? (If yes then do it)


9. am I sure I want to do it?  Deciding either to - not do it now; or not do it at all; are also fine.  It’s up to me to make that decision, keeping in mind what “not doing it” means in terms of the task at hand.


Meta: This took about 2 hours to put together; between writing, rewriting, reordering, editing feedback and publishing.

I couldn't decide whether 2nd person or 1st person was better so I wrote both.  Please let me know which you prefer.

Any adjustments or suggestions are welcome.

My table of contents is where you will find the other things I have written.

feedback on if this works or helps is also welcome.

Comments (4)

Comment author: bbleeker 03 March 2016 11:24:28AM 1 point [-]

Shouldn't step 9 actually be the first?

Comment author: Elo 03 March 2016 10:18:22PM 0 points [-]

implicit assumption: you answered yes to 9 before you decided that you were procrastinating from doing it. Should I edit the top post to include this?

Comment author: [deleted] 03 March 2016 10:21:04AM *  0 points [-]

I like the 1st person one a little better (quibble, the other one is 2nd person).

The repetition of "If yes then do it" initially struck me as highly redundant but when I tried this out, I found it was an effective reminder at each step along the way.

Point 4: set achievable goal for this session is a very important part to me - my personal battle with procrastination is usually around frustration with seemingly unmanageable longer term goals but which can be reached with clear session-level milestones.

I somewhat disagree with the level of detail of #5 and have seen it happen to many others as well - the quest to set up a "perfect" working environment can kill a lot of time in itself ("Oh, I'm nearly ready to work but need to make a cup of herbal tea and get a biscuit...."). But even worse, this approach can lead to a situation where the chronic procrastinator comes prepared with an excuse for failure even before the session begins if any one of an ever-growing list of perfect environments is not optimal. So I suggest regularly working on more easily attainable goals without removing every single possible distraction, to try and expand the range of effective working environments.

Point 6, reminding oneself of the value of the task is incredibly motivating. However it can be very frustrating if previous steps to encourage incremental progress are not followed.

Point 7 is another potential procrastination time sink in itself - I have not found "gamification" solutions for my main procrastination hurdles, but oh they are so interesting to think about........

And for me, I would drop #9 from being explicitly listed - for me this is part of #4 (setting a goal for this session)

Comment author: Elo 03 March 2016 10:26:51PM 0 points [-]

quibble, the other one is 2nd person

yep. woops.

Point 4: ... is a very important part to me

parts of 2,3,4,5 can be arranged to a more useful order for different people. They matter more or less depending on how you work.

For some, having a desk (of 5) is an absolute requirement that comes before deciding how long to work for (of 2). I will include this in the top post.

"perfect" working environment

yes, they say perfect is the enemy of the good (or good enough to work in).

ever-growing list of perfect environments is not optimal.

I agree, but also I know I can't solder things on a train. I need a solid and not moving desk. There are genuine disqualifies in an environment and not-genuine disqualifiers. The room mate playing loud music might be a problem; but it might not; or worse - a genuine problem for one person and a not-genuine problem for another.

I intend for a whole separate post about work-environment.

I suppose it's worth the caveat - if these are part of your procrastination you can skip it; but hopefully it's better than going about the task without the list. Should I include this disclaimer in the top post?