5 procrastination 'hacks' for the secretly lazy

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Procrastination: How to Overcome Putting Things Off

If your first thought when you saw the word PROCRASTINATION in the headline was, 'I'll read it later,' this is the article for you.

Every time I write something about procrastination, I can always expect humorous responses like this:

It's funny...but it's also true.

I get lots of emails each week from people who struggle with procrastination. And I can relate to EVERY. SINGLE. ONE. Because I was a master procrastinator...I took procrastination to new levels.

I sometimes even procrastinated on my procrastinating.

Dealing with procrastination is a daily struggle, and it can affect so many different facets of your life.

Maybe you struggle with getting started on a project...so you put it off.

Or you might procrastinate on exercising...it can start tomorrow, right? So you put it off.

Perhaps you simply procrastinate on taking action on that big (scary) dream of yours...so you put it off.

Sound familiar?

If so, I want to help you win just ONE battle against procrastination today, and I'll make it as easy as possible for you. Here's what I want you to do:

a) Read the five quick procrastination "hacks" below. Read them right now (it will take about 2.5 minutes). Don't put it off to later.

b) Think of one thing you've been putting off. Something simple.

c) Pick one of these hacks...it doesn't matter which one, just pick the one that resonates the most with you.

d) Try it.

e) Accomplish your simple task. GREAT JOB!

f) Do it again tomorrow....

Ready? Let's go!

1. The "(10+2)*5" Hack

This one comes from 43 Folders and it's like a shortened version of my beloved Pomodoro Technique.

a) Pick your task.

b) Grab a timer and set it for 10 minutes. You can only work on this task.

c) Then give yourself a two-minute break.

d) Repeat the second and third steps five times.

2. The "Super-Tiny Tasks" Hack

This technique is great for any big and intimidating tasks. Simply take the big task/action/whatever and break it down into easy, super-tiny tasks. Here's an example:

Let's say the BIG task is going to the gym and working out.

The super-tiny tasks would be:

a) Put on your sneakers.

b) Get into your car.

c) Drive car to the gym.

d) Stretch.

e) Workout for 15 minutes.

3. The "Airplane" Hack

This one is my favorite.

If you're someone who spends lots of time responding to emails, text messages, social-media updates, calls...this one is for you.

a) Pretend you're on an airplane (one without Wi-Fi).

b) Put your phone in airplane mode. Pause your email.

c) Get stuff done.

4. The "Scheduled Stress Time" Hack

This one sounds really weird at first, but it's oddly effective...especially if you're someone who is very anxious and constantly stressed out.

When you're stressed, you're typically going to be less effective, and of course...less productive.

With this hack, you're accepting that stress is a part of life, BUT it doesn't have to be all of your life.

So what you do is simply schedule a short block of time, like 20 minutes, when you give yourself permission to give into all of your stress.

I find that it's even more helpful to write down all of the crazy thoughts that come up...it really helps to purge them.

5. The "Schedule It Last Minute" Hack

This one comes from Leo Babauta and will help make your procrastination an asset (in small doses).

Do you have an absolute deadline for a task that will take one hour?

If so, simply schedule it so you don't actually start on it until about an hour before that deadline (even though he recommends giving yourself a 30-minute cushion to be safe).

The thinking behind this is that if you have absolutely no padded time in your schedule...you will have no choice but to get a move on.

Think about how productive you are the day before you go on vacation....

Now it's your turn...ready?

Related: 9 ways the workplace will change in the future

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5 procrastination 'hacks' for the secretly lazy

In the past 25 years, one-quarter of companies have reduced the number of layers of management they have, moving toward a flatter, more grid-like management structure.

We've already seen it in companies like Vegas-based e-commerce site Zappos, which eliminated employee titles just over two years ago in favor of a manager-free "holacracy."

"Traditional roles are going to disappear because many workplaces are going to disappear, so the whole structural hierarchical system is going to disappear," said James Canton, PhD, chairman and CEO of the Institute for Global Futures and author of "Future Smart: Managing the Game-Changing Trends that Will Transform Your World." "You'll end up with a system, a network of humans and artificial intelligence, crowd-based intelligence — they're all going to get mashed up."

In May, NPR created a digital tool to calculate how likely it is that certain jobs will be taken over by robots 20 years from now.

Manual-labor jobs appear to be most at risk, while jobs that require empathy, like social workers and caretakers, are least at risk.

A University of Oxford report predicts that "by 2030, let alone by 2050, we'll have lost almost 50% of the workforce to artificial intelligence," said David Price, co-founder of cultural-change practice We Do Things Differently and author of "OPEN: How We'll Work, Live and Learn in the Future."

The Oxford report, which examined sectors most likely to lose jobs, noted that the transportation and logistics industry was particularly susceptible to upheaval thanks to the development of driverless cars by companies like Google.

Even jobs that seemingly require the human touch, like the classroom teacher, are at risk. 

"We're already seeing experiments with this robot in the classroom, and when you ask kids with autism which one they'd rather be taught by, the teacher or the robot, they pick the robot," Price said.

New technology doesn't always mean the loss of jobs. The invention of the printing press actually created a lot of jobs back in the day, said Price, "and we're going to gain jobs as well, but it's guesswork which jobs we'll gain."

Canton predicts a scenario in which humans and robots work side-by-side in the future, where new jobs could include operating artificial intelligence-based technology and old jobs could be augmented by it.

"We're going to need to train people — whether on the factory floor or in a call center — how to use A.I. smarter," Canton said. "So right now the era of using these knowledge bases is kind of cumbersome, but over the next decades artificial intelligence will sense what somebody is asking a customer and will help the human operator provide better service."

It's cheaper for employers, who have an entire world of workers at their fingertips, to hire freelancers as needed rather than full-time employees, as it doesn't involve a lengthy hiring process or require them to offer benefits like health insurance or social security.

Many workers are also starting to opt for freelance employment over full-time employment, giving them more jurisdiction over the hours they work and the jobs they take on.

But Price cautioned that this dynamic has the potential to exploit the labor force. Are workers choosing this route because "they want to freelance, or because they can't find a job?" Price wondered. "When companies are outsourcing so many jobs, people say, 'Well, I might as well become freelance because I can't get a job.'"

If the only reason people will freelance is because companies don't want to hire and pay full-time workers,"What kind of a society are we going to be getting?'" Price asked. "Are corporations going to employ a living wage, or are governments going to have to force that?"

People are living longer, and the cost of living keeps going up, requiring many to keep working much later in life. Younger generations also aren't saving money for retirement the way their parents' generation did, because they can't afford it.

"I think people will live and work as long as they're capable," Price said.

But advancements in medical treatments and remedies to the negative health effects of aging could mean people are more energized and suited to working at older ages, according to a report on the future of work by financial-insurance provider UNUM.

A "future of work" report from PricewaterhouseCoopers predicts that people will continue shifting away from the one life, one career mentality — an already observable trend among millennials. Workers will follow their passions as they change, and for many that also means changing careers.

But another driving force behind the phenomenon is a demand for social consciousness: Are companies ethically minded? Do they care about their customers, their environment, their employees?

Corporations "have to have more of a social purpose," said Price, "because people are much more ethically aware now, and people won't invest in companies that don't have a strong ethics." Companies have to prove that they're worth the time of their workers — that they have missions, values that they're invested in, and goals for becoming socially responsible in order to attract and retain employees.

The PwC report also envisions a world in which employers can monitor and screen their employees at a much more advanced level: "Sensors check their location, performance and health," the report states. "The monitoring may even stretch into their private lives in an extension of today’s drug tests."

The Daily Telegraph learned such measures will likely be met with resistance. The British newspaper installed motion detectors in early January to track their reporters but quickly abandoned them after incurring angry blowback. 

"Will companies develop a kind of 'Big Brother' approach to checking on their employees? Possibly, but I think more of them will think they need to be engaged in supporting [their employees]," Price said.

He pointed out how many Silicon Valley tech executives are setting up schools for their kids and their employees' kids in order to provide a better, more tech-focused brand of education.

"These paternalistic philanthropists who want to give their workers housing, keep them out of the pubs, [and] look after their health" may seem intruding or controlling, Price said, but "it will be in companies' best economic interest ... to play a much more active role in that."

Coworking spaces are becoming more and more popular, not just among freelancers and entrepreneurs but also corporations that can use them to relocate employees. Dissolving the traditional office headquarters would enable companies to hire the best candidates all over the world regardless of proximity to a central company hub.

Social media engagement platform Buffer announced in October that it's getting rid of its office and instead letting employees work remotely or from coworking spaces, which Buffer will pay for.

“With an office, if team members are in San Francisco it can be easy to delay meetings until all team members are in the office. The conclusion we came to is that we should always do the thing we can do immediately," said Buffer co-founder and CEO Joel Gascoigne, adding that digital advances like Google Hangouts or HipChat help Buffer survive by facilitating instant meetings, messages, and face-to-face conversations regardless of employees' locations.

Both Price and Dr. Canton imagine a world in which driverless vehicles could eliminate mass transit and transportation jobs, but on the positive side, these cars could potentially eliminate daily commuter traffic, not to mention crashes and fender benders.

"Cars are going to have V2V, a vehicle-to-vehicle capability, and self-driving cars could be preventing a lot of accidents and saving a lot of lives," Dr. Canton said — perhaps as many as 30,000 a year.

This vehicle-to-vehicle capability, technology that lets cars monitor and communicate with each other, would track the speed of each car and facilitate and ease road congestion, making commutes more efficient and headache-free.

But these technological advancements aren't an excuse for humans to grow complacent and expect computers or artificial intelligence to do all the work — on the road, or in the office.

"The preferred future is not one where machines run everything and we just go on vacation," said Dr. Canton, but rather one where human lives and jobs are made easier by the aid and advance of technology. "Our jobs are being changed because computers and networks can do [some] jobs more efficiently than humans can. That doesn't mean eliminating humans, but it means retraining humans to keep pace with it all."

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