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Procrastination—we’ve all done it. Some of us are repeat offenders and some of us find ourselves backed into a corner because of stress.
If you’re anything like me, you’ve read book after book, told yourself you would get better at time management, and worked hard to set clearer goals. But despite all the effort, discipline, and cranking down, nothing seems to work.
For me, it wasn’t until I met a woman on my travels in Bali that I discovered I’d been going about trying to beat procrastination all wrong.
You see, despite what you may have been told, the fight against procrastination isn’t a mental one. No amount of reasoning and willpower will make any difference—in fact, they’ll leave you feeling burned out and worse off than before.
The key player in defeating procrastination is actually a behavior pattern you can program yourself to do in just a few short weeks…
Sound too good to be true?
Don’t take my word for it—meet the productivity expert I met in Bali, Carey Gjokaj. She’s the founder of Lifehack Bootcamp, an 8-week online program that teaches you how to end the vicious cycle of procrastination and become an expert at time management. Through Lifehack Bootcamp, Gjokaj has helped thousands of people worldwide to become immediate action-takers who optimize what they get done in a day.
This week on the Unconventional Life Podcast, Gjokaj shares her tips for making procrastination a thing of the past and embracing productivity.
“We try to reason our brains into productivity but it doesn’t work,” Gjokaj says. “‘Wake up, let’s do this today, let’s get stuff done,” we tell ourselves. We have to realize that productivity is controlled by a completely different part of our brain. It’s not an intellectual concept. It’s a habit run by the animal part of our brain and we’re the animal trainer.”
Are you ready to train your brain to make a habit out of productivity?
Studies show the average person can form a new habit in just 66 days. Reclaim your time and peace of mind by applying Gjokaj’s method for maxing out your productivity below.
Distraction-Proof Your Work Space
Referencing research by Gallup, Gjokaj says, “some type of distraction is getting us off of our workflow every three minutes and five seconds. But it also takes our brain time after we’re distracted to ramp back up to the level of productivity we were at before—so you’re not just losing the time it took to answer that text message. It’s that time plus the amount of time it takes you to ramp back up.”
You can reclaim lost time by making your work space a distraction-free zone. Gjokaj recommends setting your phone and computer to “do not disturb” mode, working in a small room with the door shut, and decluttering your desktop by dragging scattered files into folders. You can also set your desktop background to an inspirational quote that reminds you of your larger mission and keeps you committed to focus.
Take Frequent Breaks
If “getting in the zone” and cranking down for long periods of time is how you work, you’re actually being less effective. Studies show if we break down our work time into smaller blocks followed by short breaks, we actually get more done because we allow our brain to replenish energy and focus.
“It’s the difference between a sprinter and a marathon runner,” Gjokaj says. For maximum productivity, she advises breaking down your work into smaller tasks and taking a short break every thirty minutes or so.
Work Towards A Weekly Goal
Identify one goal each week that would be a cause for celebration if you attained it. Gjokaj calls these goals “champagne moments” because they call for opening a bottle of champagne when they’re completed.
Make sure this goal is attainable but also requires you to challenge yourself. Break down the goal into daily action steps that will keep you on track to finish by the end of the week.
You can turn each day into a game by racing against the clock and trying to beat your best time on each of your tasks. When you’ve completed each day’s tasks, let yourself be done with work for the day and feel a sense of accomplishment.
Science shows that when we reward ourselves for doing a particular behavior, we become more motivated to do that behavior and are more productive at it. Essentially, the reward triggers the pleasure neurotransmitter dopamine to flow into our brains, so we associate the behavior with pleasure. You can use your biology to your advantage by programming your brain to associate work with pleasure.
Each time you complete a small work task, reward yourself with something small, like an m&m or a few minutes of free time.
“We need to reward our brain for doing good work,” Gjokaj says. “It doesn’t have to be big—just something big enough that it gives your brain a jolt of pleasure that burns those cognitive patterns deeper and deeper each time. That’s how you create habits that are gonna be there for you 24/7, especially when it’s really hard.”
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This article originally appeared on Forbes.com
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