Book Summary

The Anti-Procrastination Habit – S.J. Scott


The author defines procrastination as putting off an activity, particularly one that requires immediate action. The author has a number of theories of why people procrastinate and asks you to identify your reasons. I doubt his techniques will mean I will not procrastinate, but it’s worth a try.

Identify what’s important to you
Identify your core values (30-60 min).

Based on your core values, identify 25 projects that you could or want to work on. Areas include education (formal or informal), career, health and fitness, recreation, relationships, spirituality, finances, and public service. Eliminate 20. Yes, toss and forget those 20.

Identify the outcomes you seek on the remaining 5 (30-60 min). The goal is to focus your efforts on your top 5 projects that are really important to you.

Ensure your current commitments are already in your calendar.

Create SMART goals for your top 5 projects every 3 months
Goals should be based on your performance, not the outcome (which you cannot control). You should still identify the outcomes you seek on the top 5.

Review your goals at least twice a day — remind yourself of what your goals are and what activities are required to support them.

Specific: who, what, where, when, which, and why.

Measurable: define when you will reach the goal. Inherently, you have to track your progress. [The author finds tracking motivational, but I’d argue this isn’t true for everyone.]

Attainable: ensure your goal is achievable.

Relevant: ensure your goal is something you want.

Time: ensure your goal has a specific time frame.

Use the 80/20 rule to your advantage

The Pareto principle is that you get 80% of your results from 20% of your efforts. Focus on the actions the generate significant results and ignore the rest.

Identify your really important activities and spend more time on them.

Apply this rule to work and your personal life.

For every new activity, ask whether it hurts or helps your 80%.

Say no to activities that don’t produce your 80% results. This may be more difficult at work; talk to your boss about how the time spent on your 80% activities increases productivity and decreases the amount of time you should spend on the other 20%.

Your to do list shouldn’t be filled with things that don’t matter. Time is limited.

Eliminate, delegate, substitute, and procrastinate on the other 20%.

Review your to do list or daily activities at least once every month to identify the 80%.

Schedule a weekly review
Plan out your week.

What personal obligations will interfere with your goals? How can you minimize the interference?

List your current priorities and focus on one thing at a time.

Identify where you have time and can schedule bigger projects.

Process the ideas you captured.

If you can deal with in two minutes, do it now.

Schedule commitments, high priority projections, projects requiring concentration, hobbies, time to deal with the emergencies that always happen, and time to process new ideas.

Schedule a monthly review
Review your 80/20 activities.

Review your SMART goals.

Identify potential new projects.

Create new project lists as needed.

Schedule a quarterly review
Have you achieved your goals?

What ideas and activities were successful? What wasn’t?

Have you put sufficient effort towards your goal? If not, what were the obstacles?

What should the next quarter’s goal be?

Start each day with your most important tasks (MITs)
Every morning (or the night before), identify three activities that must be completed that day.

Prioritize your 3 MITs.

Two should move a current project forward and one should be part of a long-term goal. One should be something you do daily. [To me, that’s a lot of rules for something that was supposed to be simple.]

Start with the first one, finish it, move on to the second one, finish it, and then work on the third one.

Or, start each day with prioritizing your activities with the ABCDE method or Franklin Covey’s 4 quadrants
Every morning (or the night before), review your to do list and prioritize them.

A: must be completed every day.
B: important, but not quite A’s.
C: nice to complete, but no deadline
D: delegate to someone else
E: eliminate them

Create project lists for your top 5 projects
For each project, break it down into smaller, bite-size pieces. [The authors theory is that procrastination is a result of not clearly defining each task within a project. I disagree and blame Netflix.]

Have a separate piece of paper [or electronic note] for each project, brainstorm the steps needed, and write them down. [Hilariously, the author provides an example for starting an exercise routine and one item is follow this new exercise routine daily.]

Identify obstacles. For example, if you need education to complete a project, add that list

[The author uses a 3-ring notebook and paper for this, it gets a little harder to implement if you’re looking for project management to-do list apps, particularly for something cheap. ]

Create checklists for everything
[Read the self help book report on the Checklist Manifesto.]

Identify all of the activities you do a weekly basis.

For activities that require multiple pieces, identify all the pieces.

Create systems there can be reused every time you do activity.

Batch similar routine activities
[Read the self help book report on Habit Stacking.]

Identify activities that are single actions, important, and completed regularly.

Activities may be batched by time (like everything you do before work) or that are similar (e-mails and social media messages).

Create checklists for your batched activities.

Consider theme days (like writing on Tuesdays and administrative tasks on Fridays).

Touch it once
Take immediate action on every activity, whenever possible. For example, if you can’t take action when you read emails on your phone, don’t ever read emails on your phone.

Multi-tasking effectively is a myth.

You are better off working on one project at a time than on many projects at one time.

Create self-imposed deadlines and use time block techniques
Work takes as much time as you have, so create shorter deadlines for yourself.

Set up your day with small blocks of time where you can work on a single task without interruption. Consider using a Pomodoro timer (just search for one), which gives you 25 minutes of work and a five minute break.

Capture ideas
Create a habit of writing down thoughts and filing them away for future reference — this will allow you to focus on what you’re currently doing. You can look at the file later.

Carry a tool like a notebook or Evernote to capture ideas wherever you are.

Use only one tool as your central location.

Review your notes once a week.

Plan to do something with your ideas.

Be accountable publicly
Although it can be a bit embarrassing if you fail, you are more likely to succeed if you feel like your actions are being observed by others.

You can use apps, rely on friends and family, report to social media sites, or blog about it. Apps include, beeminder,

Start small. Really small.
Commit to do a daily habit everyday, no matter what.

Consider committing to 5-15 minutes of effort.

Make the habit really small and quantifiable.

At first, just focus on the really small and quantifiable habit.

Each week, make the habit bigger but still quantifiable.

Be patient with the process of not procrastinating. Enjoy the little wins. Forget about quick success.

Rewards, TED Talks, & Visualization
Promise yourself the reward for each major goal you achieve. Just make sure the reward doesn’t counteract your efforts.

Combine rewards with activities. For example, only watch your favorite show while exercising.

Use motivational speakers (like TED Talks and podcasts) when you need an extra boost in motivation.

Practice visualization techniques when you need extra motivation.

Become more comfortable with discomfort.