The Three-minute Rule and Tips to Avoid Procrastination

Let’s admit it, we are all guilty of constantly putting things off.

We all have big, colorful plans on how to make our day productive but we usually find ourselves stuck in a rut, mindlessly scrolling through social media feed, browsing the internet, comforting ourselves that we’ll find time to execute things before the end of day.

And after exhausting our energy in mindless things like watching a video of cat on Youtube or playing a tv show on Netflix—even when we actually don’t pay any attention to it, we realize we are not interested to do things anymore. Then we creep towards a different mental state, we promise to get things done the next day.

And the cycle just repeats itself.

You’re not alone in this bad habit. This is now the new normal in this digital age, in a world full of distractions. We are confronted of information overload; we struggle to come to grips to what information is needed from what is not. We feel overwhelmed and most of the time, we succumb to our gadgets and stay stuck.

We usually attend to the object around us depending on a level of our interest, and most of the time, we pick the ones that cater to our immediate gratification, pursuing restful activities rather than the difficult ones that serves to our goals. This explains why activities that takes a long time to complete are most likely to be started late.

How do we will ourselves to get out of it? Are we mentally strong enough to resist all these gadgets and focus on getting things done? Most importantly, can we concentrate to a certain task at once?

We tell ourselves that we need to declutter and organize our junk drawer, garage, basement, bedroom closets, kitchen drawers… but did we ever get any of these things done?

If these things are difficult to accomplish, how can we fulfill our bigger goals and uncover our potentials? We all know how crucial some tasks are and yet, we continually postpone them because of the time we have in our hands.

Procrastination is something that affects us in different levels. And this is due to our poor planning and poor self-regulation, lack of willingness or inability to control our impulse. As such, we experience immense stress and our confidence in ourselves deteriorate; we tell ourselves “we just cannot do it”, leading to critical problematic outcomes.

We usually ask these things over and over, in attempt to get ourselves out of the situation:

  • “How do I stay motivated?”
  • “How can I fight laziness?”
  • “How can I be mentally strong?”
  • “How can I finish the work I started?”

And yet, most of the time, it was hard to eliminate distractions and we usually end up not prioritizing our goals.

Humans have low tolerance for frustration. Moment by moment, when choosing what tasks to undertake or activities to pursue, we tend to choose not the most rewarding but the easiest. This means that unpleasant or difficult things get put off

—Piers Steel

Know that whatever type of procrastination you may have, there are still simple ways that you can do on a daily basis to overcome it. And I know that is exactly what you’re here for.

So let’s get right in!

1. Know Your Priorities

I cannot stress how important it is that you know the important things that you should be pursuing, what your goals are. As such, you need to create a list of executable steps to accomplish these goals and experiment on them until you find what works for you. Discover your reasons why some things are more important to focus on than other things that only serves to your entertainment.

It is extremely vital that your motivations are strong enough so it will be easy for you to eliminate distractions. If your reasons for executing your goals and your willingness to push through fall short, you will not bother spending your time and you will constantly lie to yourself of doing it “next time”.

It is recommended that you develop a routine of planning your day ahead. Listing down non-negotiable tasks that needs to get accomplished before summing up your day. You can do this in bed and keeping your journal in your nightstand.

You have to decide what your highest priorities are and have the courage — pleasantly, smilingly, non-apologetically— to say “no” to other things. And the way to do that is by having a bigger “yes” burning inside

— Stephen Covey

2. Finish Quick Important Tasks Right Away

We usually give in to temptation of putting off quick tasks as they’re easy to do. We batch these little chores together so we can deal with them at a later time. The common problem is, they pile up and becomes increasingly stressful to complete as they generate more work.

If you had a snack and you place your plate in the sink, instead of washing it instantly, you are most likely to do the same when you finish your next meals. Before you know it, the dishes are mounting and it’s a lot harder to clear the sink. This creates unnecessary stress.

For quick important tasks, you can try applying the three minute rule. For an instance, if you know your kitchen needs tidying, you start your timer to three minutes and wipe down the counters, clear the dishes, sweep the floor and empty the table. If you practice this on a daily basis, it’s a lot manageable and noticeably, you will spend less and less time doing these chores.

You can fold your laundry and quickly organize your closet in three minutes. You can spend three minutes dusting your furniture or mopping the floor, or three minutes on uncluttering your junk drawer, and so on.

Consistency is key. You have to act on it before you talk yourself out of it.

3. Create Systems

In overcoming procrastination, you should learn to try systems that will work for you. Prepare roadblocks ahead to prevent yourself from mindless scrolling, excessive binging on Netflix series (I’m not saying it’s wrong but it’s important that you are intentional of each activity and not just because you feel like it at the moment. Instead, you can plan watching a tv series ahead and make sure it’s one day per week/biweekly), spending hours on social media platforms (same idea applies), etc.

Make bad habits difficult and good habits easy to fulfill. For an instance, if you want to consistently spend a time in a day working out, prepare your workout clothes ahead before you go to bed each night so they are ready the next morning.

4. Setting Deadlines

In order to get tasks done, make sure that you give yourself a short ‘realistic’ time frame in working on a task or a project. By concentrating on finishing a page each day into a novel that you’re writing, a chapter each day into the book you want to finish, an hour to tidy your house, etc., you are able to get a lot of things done and at the same time, you are not feeling overwhelmed in completing these tasks.

Short, manageable deadlines should help you to be consistent in staying productive.

If you give yourself a long time (i.e. two weeks in an easy project), you are most likely to put it off until the start of the second week (depending on how easy the project is).

Jot down tasks on your journal, be intentional on when you need to get each of them completed and make sure to stick to it.

5. Detach your sense of self-worth from the outcomes

While it can be beneficial that you take recognition of each successful goal you accomplish, big or small, the proper mindset for each failed outcome is not to associate your self worth to it. Know that it is sufficient for the time being that you tried and you acted on it. I like the expression that there’s only two outcomes, either you did great or you just have to do it again.

The most common reason why people put things off— a project, a business venture, a skill, etc., is because they are scared of the outcome and how it can potentially damage their self confidence. So work on this issue: remind yourself of positive affirmations and remember that you are only counting on yourself in making your dreams a reality; no one else will do it for you.

Parting words

Having pointed out all the above important aspects, please also remember to take small breaks in between, if needed. Having breaks in intervals also helps your productivity level.

Get organized by creating To-Do lists, continually note your goals, reward yourself in each completed task, and make sure to always have a healthy mindset which to always be happy whatever the outcome is and never stop trying.

You have to acknowledge that it’s the procrastination that prevents you from accomplishing all your goals. and act on it.

Remember, you are working in improving yourself each day so there’s no other way but to start getting things done. You cannot unveil that best version of you until you start doing things.

I wish you all the luck ! See you on my next blog.

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