Distractions and Procrastination: And How to Out Think Both

If you’re reading this, you know all about procrastination.

I can see you sitting at your computer, trolling the blogs for the reason why it seems to take you five times longer to complete a project than you know it should.

Trust me, I can relate. I’ve been a procrastinator my whole life.

Yet, even as a procrastinator, I’ve still managed to launch three separate million-dollar businesses. I’ve also coached hundreds of entrepreneurs, consulted with major corporations, and launched a ton of other side projects.

How did I manage that? Simple.

Over the years, I have found ways to get things done in spite of my own tendency to procrastinate.

I’ve figured out how to think around – or “out-think” my procrastination – so I could be successful regardless. Let me explain…


A Procrastinator’s Dream Team

One of the reasons I’m so successful is I’ve hired a team of talented people for my business who handle many things I would normally procrastinate on.

For example, my President, Tom Beal is an expert at managing the operations side of a business. An ex-Marine, he’s extremely disciplined in many areas of his life. He handles all the day-to-day operational tasks – which I would procrastinate on.

My Affiliate Manager, Linda takes care of networking with affiliates and setting up all affiliate deals. In other words, she takes care of another side of the business that I would usually put off till later.

I also have a team of writers who take care of promotions… email copy… ghostwriting reports… special projects etc. I even have a writer whose job is finishing my unfinished projects.

That way I can focus on what I really love – coaching clients and researching the next big breakthroughs.

Even if you have a one-person business, you can still copy this strategy by hiring outsourcers or VAs to knock out the certain projects that you know you’re more likely to procrastinate on.

How to Out-Think Procrastination On Your Own

Of course, I have several projects that no one can finish for me.

So over the years, I have also created strategies to out-think my own procrastination, without anyone’s help.

It’s these strategies that I’d like to share with you in my next couple posts. I think they will be the most useful because they will help you achieve success in every aspect of your life.

So let’s get started…

As an entrepreneur, you will find out pretty quickly that if you’re constantly putting things off, you will NEVER reach the level of success you want.

So if you find yourself procrastinating, you have a couple options.

First, you can do what I do…

When you’re feeling bored, just switch to another important task.

For example, let’s say you really don’t feel like doing task X. You feel guilty about that because X is genuinely important, but you’re just not up to the task today.

As a procrastinator in this situation, you may use this as an excuse to check your email, look at Facebook, read Twitter or just stall in general.

Next thing you know, four or five hours have passed and you’re still trying to do task X.

Here’s one solution: Rather than agonizing over task X, move on to another equally important task. For instance, tackle task Y or Z on your list.

Once you get done with task Y and Z, you might have the energy to go back to task X. Or you might quit for the day.

But regardless, you still accomplished something. That’s what important.

Again this is just one strategy that I use. I’ll be back in my next couple posts with more ways to work around procrastination and distractions.

In the meantime, be sure to comment below if you’d like to see more strategies like these.

82 thoughts on “Distractions and Procrastination: And How to Out Think Both”

  1. Hi Rich, You are one of my role models along with guys like Gary Vaynerchuk, Tony Robbins, Jay Abraham, Chet Holmes, Donald Trump, Richard Branson, etc. I want to model you, however I have little info about you online. Can you share more info about you, and various aspects about you professionally, etc.

    Dr Maharaja SivaSubramanian N

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    • Thanks for sharing Rich, your advice has encouraged me to never give up, despite all the time that I’ve wasted. I will implement your stategy today, so that I can achieve better results.

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  2. This strategy looks very beneficial and useful for long term benefits. Now waiting for more posts for new exploring strategies. thanks for this useful guidance and awesome tip. 

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  3. I think the most procrastinating I’ve done so far is while putting together a ****** business plan which I’m still doing – Rahhhhhhhhh…

    I realize it’s an absolute necessity and I’ll probably still procrastinate regularly over this B Plan, but I’ll still work on it & procrastinate at the same time like I’m doing now.

    cheers 

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  4. One of the best ways to deal with procrastination is to set timers. Using the Pomodoro method is a great one for a lot of entrepreneurs. It is free online and if you are on a mac, they have a great timer for your dashboard. I like the physical timers because there are projects better done off the computer like mind mapping so you don’t have the distractions like email and facebook notifications. I set the timer for 25 minutes. After 25 minutes I get up and stretch and get a glass of water taking no more than a 3 minute break. Then I set the timer again for another 25 minutes. Then it is a 10 minute break. The timer method is always a great way to manage the activities that you love to do, like for me that is Pinterest. I look up at the clock and find out it is 3 a.m. and I started on Pinterest at midnight!!! So I set a timer to get out of Pinterest in 15 minutes. 

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  5. Great post! Personally, it all comes down to the timer — if I “know” I’ve only got 2 hours to do something before it goes live, I put all my energy into it to get it done in time. So, I’ve basically adopted this for everyday. I set time limits next to each task, while doing no more than 3-4 IMPORTANT tasks per day.

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  6. You nailed me right on the head, anytime I don’t feel like doing my most important task I go to facebook, Twitter, etc. Then as you said 4 or 5 hrs have passed and task A is still not accomplished. I was going to procrastinate on reading your blog post, then I slapped myself, lol. Look forward to some great tips to help me move forward inch by inch to get the results I seek.

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  7. This tip as others to come I’m sure will be gold. But main issue to date though, is I have not found a goal that really drives me. I’m basically using willpower, and that can only last so long. I want to find people that were in the same situation (no driving goals and purpose) and turn it around. While I might still procrastinate, I’m sure it won’t be to the same degree…

    Reply
    • It’s true. I’ve often said the greatest productivity secret is to be passionate about what you’re doing. So if you’re not passionate: Why is that? Why are you working towards a goal that doesn’t excite you? Might be something to ponder in your journal. 

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  8. What used to get me was wasting mental energy worrying if I was paying enough attention to different pieces of information. Thankfully, I realized prioritizing projects and actions was what would help me grow to where I now. When I realize procrastination may be setting in today, I have healthier more productive outlets. More and more, those outlets are turning into physical wealth as the result I produce helps more people. Thank you for reminding me of what’s important, Rich!

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  9. So here’s a challenge for helping to bust procrastination. For me it is not the particular work that I am doing that I abandon. It is work itself. I’m not lazy, I just feel that at that time, I want to do absolutely nothing else that tasks my brain. Enter…… the “idiot box”. After “a while” I return to the task until I feel overwhelmed again. Of course by then I have wasted enough time for the consequences to show up. I’m looking for any kind of insight. Thanks

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  10. Good stuff, Rich.  
    I started alternating  between important tasks today. Now I’ll do  it consciously when I’m slogging through an important task. It also made me rethink about outsourcing one of the important  things I need to do but hate doing… filling out mortgage loan apps for my business.  It’s the same info but every lender wants it packaged a little differently.  Now I have the right person to delegate it to.   Thanks for the ideas. Now enough of your blog!  Back to other important stuff! 🙂 

    Reply
    • One of my favorite procrastination strategies that I didn’t mention in this post (although several mentioned it in the comments) is to use a timer. I set a timer for 30 minutes when I have to do any task I don’t enjoy. I do nothing else for those 30 minutes except focus on the task at hand. 

      That might be something to try when you have to make calls. Set a timer and only focus on calls until the timer stops.

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  11. Hi Rich, As usual, excellent content. I have been listening to your Founders dispatches on the same subject. I get around my own procrastination by working in a ‘just in time’ mode. That is, I leave my self just enough time to carry out the task before starting it. As a result, I am forcing myself to complete the task, just in time to have it ready for whatever purpose it is required and leaving no time for procrastination. Paul FitzGerald UK

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  12. That is a very useful distinction. Thanks Rich. I’ve done this before quite regularly without knowing. But now I’ll keep that trick up my sleeve consciously here onwards.

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  13. I started adopting this about a week ago, the problem is my project that I’ve been doing this with still hasn’t gotten done. It is further along, guess I’m being an impatient procrastinator.

    The biggest obstacle for me has been when a project is huge. I’ve managed to get around that by only working on it 30 minutes a day. After a couple weeks the project is done and I didn’t stress about how impossible it was.

    Reply
    • Thanks for the comment. You also might try breaking that huge project up into daily projects, so you can accomplish something on it each day. I’ve found that’s worked for me, more than simply committing the time to it every day.

      Reply
  14. Nothing eases the conscience like a productive diversion… but, we must continue to stalk the thing we are avoiding.  Isolate the details, the steps, and find those pieces that complete the puzzle.

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  15. This was a helpful tactic and I plan to implement it right away. There are some things that really are boring, but in this way instead of letting it stop me I’ll take a break to a more passionate task and resume when I’m ready for more.

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  16. OK, here’s my personal trick: a Post-It note.
     
    Seems I can make a list as long as my leg, full of important tasks, and get a good start on any given half-dozen of them on any given day, often finishing none, procrastinating on all of them.
     
    These days, my last actions before retiring, are to:
     
    a.) Review what I’ve done that day and add to my running task list, take off what was finished, has expired, lost relevance, or comes off for another reason.
     
    b.) Write down ONE, non-negotiable task to get done tomorrow. No Fail. No excuse. It is to get done.
     
    c.) Write down tomorrow’s primary task on a (small) sticky-note, and park it in the upper corner of my monitor (or in my wallet). Someplace I will see it all day, or often through the day.
     
    This can be as simple as “make dentist appointment” or it can be “spend two hours learning X software or researching Y” or “build a new web page”, or it may be a chunk of a larger task, that has been broken off into a do-able piece.
     
    At any rate, It has to be do-able, and it has to be non-negotiable. I am committed.
     
    When I use this tactic, I always get the primary task completed (usually first thing, so as I see it, it pleases me that it’s done, or prompts me if I haven’t done it), and when that task’s finished the others seem to easily fall into place, and knocking off extra points is a breeze. 
     
    That’s a satisfying feeling; it feels like over-achievement for the day.
     
    And the final bonus is that at night, when I’m done with my daily review and I jot down the next task on tomorrow’s Post-It note, I take the old one off the corner of my monitor (or out of my wallet), and I throw it away. Wad it up and make the basket? That’s two more ponts.

    Three from long range.
     
    Aaahhh…
     
    Then I sleep like a baby.

    Reply
    • Thanks for sharing this. My Content Director, Kat also swears by Post-it notes. For her, the most important post-it note of the day goes inside her laptop – so she has to look at it every time she opens it. 🙂

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    • Am also very terrible at this evil ‘procrastination’. It is contributing t my living below poverty line……I like ur comment

      Reply
    • A simple way is to focus on the outcome, not the “how-to.” For example, you may not know how to set up a list or build a website, but you will likely know what you want it to look like when it’s done. 

      So when you go to hire an outsourcer: Tell them the exact outcome you want. Then you can gauge their performance based on how close to that outcome they actually produce.

      Actually Pete Williams is a great resource for choosing outsource talent. An entire module of ProfitHacks is based on it. If you’d like to learn more, I’d encourage you to check out a video that Pete created during a livestream we did together: 
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fobfkSwOkv0

      Reply
  17. Many thanks. It’s really helpful for me. Because I have the problem with finishing the projects. It would be great if you give some tips about planning. Thanks in advance.

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  18. Hi Rich, thanks for posting… what you describe is true of me too.

    Part of it is having so many ideas and enjoying the buzz of idea development, as opposed to project completion.  I like your strategy, so I’ll put it to use until year’s end and let you know how it went.

    And Merry Christmas to you and Debbie and your girls. I like seeing your pics together – there’s a real joy in you all.

    God bless

    Stephen
    New Zealand

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  19. Hi Rich:
    You hit me where it hurt the most.  I’m 89 years old and my way of beating the Procrastination game; is to tell one of my good, trusted friends my problem and have them literally give be a “boot” in my hind end.  This gives me the reasin and desire to get things done.  Am working on starting 2 new businesses in 2013 and will do everything in my power to prevent Procrastination.
    Lou, The Handlebar man

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  20. Thanks Rich.  I have what I believe is not unusual, but very difficult procrastination issue.  My clock does not line up with the rest of the world.  I am very creative, and not a morning person.  However, I do have to get up at 5 am to see my grandchildren off to school.  But, my mind is not functioning at that time.  I can muddle though the day, but if I do, I get very little important things done during that time.  If however, I take a nap, and finish getting my night’s sleep, I don’t get started being productive until the late afternoon.  By then, there are a lot of things I need to do, but cannot because businesses are closing for the day etc….  But, about 8 pm. my brain is firing away with ideas, and I have energy to spare.  I live with quilt all the time about the hours I work.  I am having trouble dealing with this issue.  Any word of wisdom???

    Reply
    •  Gradually, using behavior modification, alter your bedtime to an earlier time. Try altering the bed time by 15 minutes a day. Eventually you can get to a point where 5:30 AM is at the end of a sufficient sleep for the night. Just an idea.

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    •  Morning people will never understand night people.  Don’t feel any guilt!!!

      Remember, other people can conform to your natural rhythms just as much as you can to theirs.  Do they feel any guilt or is it all on you.  Be fair to yourself and get your lifestyle adjusted to what works best for YOU.  Somethings will just not align, and that’s just how it goes.

      As for the grandkids: maybe you can take the afternoon shift instead and let some other morning person take the 5AM, since that’s just too ridiculously early.  I wouldn’t do it, that’s for sure.  No way am I sacrificing my health day-after-day for other people’s preferred lifestyle.

      Or, something more drastic:  switch to 3rd shift completely.  Stay up all night working so you can see the grandkids at the end of your waking “day” (which is the beginning of theirs’) and then you go to sleep from 7AM to 3PM.  Get up and interact with the “regular” world from 3-6PM and then spend time with the family again for your “lunch” which is their “dinner.”  You can run some errands as well in the evenings with them, and then you can work in peace when they all go to sleep.

      Hope it helps,
      Perry T Plotkin
      http://www.SynergizeInc.com

      Reply
  21. Our lives are multi-layered and increasingly complex interactions
    between all our worlds.  Thus, wouldn’t it make sense that we each have
    multiple priorities, just in different categories?  Exactly as Rich says: Of course my “To-Do List” has my top 3+ priorities for the day…but not just overall, but in EACH category (day-job, side-business, personal, health, fun, etc.)  That way when I’m tired of working on one category (A.D.D.?), I can switch to a different one, but STILL be working on my #1, #2, or #3 task or in that category.  That way I’m almost always working on some top priority without feeling so bad about often not finishing ALL 3 in the one category.

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  22. Sometimes I don’t know if I’m procrastinating or just lost in the act of development. My passion is music and I am writing songs and playing guitar through a lot of my time. But there is the technical side that I put aside or push back a lot. It’s important, but I feel intimidated by that stuff. Yet I own the whole studio. Taking your advice I guess I should just bite the bullet and  invest the money in time with a professional studio. It really makes a lot of sense. But yeah…the damn email. I have finally gotten to the point where I delete a lot of stuff. I used to just let it ride, or move it to a folder, saying to myself, “I’ll read it later” (the procrastinator’s refrain). I ended up feeling totally overwhelmed by all the unread email. Anyway…great post Rich. I appreciate what you’re doing.

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  23. A Very relevant topic ..as sometimes we suffer procrastination on our way to accomplish an import task…we may not know it…but often times it happens in our lives …then…its too late…

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  24. I look forward to what Rich will come up with. As a life-long procrastinator who has recently found out that it takes will first and foremost to overcome the malaise, any new inputs would be welcome. I will read and do, that I promise.

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  25. Hello, Rich
    I have read many of your great reports and you have helped me so much in building my business. I just want to thank you for this post. Merry christmas to You Rich and Your wife Debbie and your kids….I have 2 kids 4 and 6 and your knowledge has help me provide a better life for them…God Bless You Hector

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  26. I’ve found with my ADD-ish attention span working in smaller chunks of time when I find it hard to focus is a great tactic for getting work done … now if I could only be a mom in short bursts of time *grin*

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    • You’d be interested to know that a large percentage of entrepreneurs I’ve personally coached have had ADD. 

      When I ran the numbers back in 2007, I found that 76% of the successful business entrepreneurs I had personally coached had ADD. And I’m sure that percentage is even higher today. 

      Reason: People wil ADD (like myself) are exceptionally suited to excel as online entrepreneurs with our hyperfocus, quick minds, and creativity. Just something to keep in mind, next time you feel your attention wander. 🙂

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  27. Hey Rich, You’ve commented on your procrastination situations in the past and I find your solutons very helpful. A few years ago I took your course on “constraints” and in that course you recommended using and egg timer to break up your day. I set the timer for one hour to work on a task and when it goes off I decide to give the task I’m working on more time or I move on to something else that I need to accomplish. Great tip, thank you.
    Hal Hoadley

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  28. I use this method for years but it does not always help me to come back to X task . For me it is the way of avoiding the work with X problem as long as possible

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    • True, that can happen. Then it becomes a discipline issue to get back to “X.” When that happens to me, I start doing “X” project for 5 minutes before I decide if I really don’t want to start this certain task right now. Usually, after 5 minutes, I’m already caught up in what I’m doing and then it makes it easy to move forward. 

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  29. Sounds Great

    I was kind of hoping I could have a web biz created on how to be the world’s greatest procastinator since that is what I do best!

    Other than that it’s to find a way to keep the passion going on some other favorite pastime even if it’s about finding other people to do the nitty gritty tasks.

    Oh yeah and I guess it would really help if I had some organization skills and didn’t suffer from ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder; aka; Senior Moments!)

    I wonder if I’m hoping against the odds or not but I can’t quit!

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  30. That is so simple, but a great idea. I dwell on things I know need doing, without getting them done, I think If I paper shuffle for a while, I will get on with that job. but you are right time goes by, and nothing is achieved. Tackling something else that may be less stressful or easier, chips away at the overall workload. Thanks

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  31. I work like this one year now and I have done more work in one year then in 10 years together before this is realy important. “But regardless, you still accomplished something. That’s what important.”

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  32. I’ve become much better at overcoming procrastination over the last year. It helps to have something that you’re actually very engaged in doing and have a clear vision of the outcome.

    Rich, you mentioned that you hire people to handle the stuff you know that you will procrastinate on. Knowing that most people aren’t going to be able to hire people “on staff” (such as a “President”), what do you recommend to those who want to hire part-time or per-project writers and affiliate managers? 

    I would guess that some folks would recommend using websites like elance.com, but this concerns me because of the amount of effort it could require just to weed through and “interview” candidates. What’s the most efficient and effective way to deal with this?

    Thanks!!

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  33. Thank you Rich for bringing up such a common yet critical habit that most of us, if not all, have to grapple with.  One of the approaches that helps me deal with procrastination is to become aware of our two primal drives that instinctively move us towards pleasure and away from pain.  To make them memorable, I refer to them as the PIG – Pursuing Instant Gratification and the APE – Avoiding Painful Experiences.  In my opinion, the main reason that procrastination is such a difficult habit to break is due to the fact that when we procrastinate, both our primal drives, i.e., the PIG and the APE are being fed at the same time — we end up doing something that we like and avoid doing something that we don’t like. Becoming aware that we all own a PIG and an APE helps us pause and ask the question, “What’s going on over here?”

    Once you pause and ask this question, people who have successfully used this approach to overcome procrastination tell me that they start smiling having caught themselves in the act of procrastination and gently bring themselves back to the activity or get started on the activity that needed to get done. Hope you find this useful. Peace and Happy Holidays!

    Reply

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