Stop Procrastinating by Creating An Unschedule

by Marelisa

"The Now Habit" by Neil Fiore is a classic book on procrastination. One of the tools which the author recommends for those struggling with procrastination is the Unschedule.

Procrastination is the Thief of Time

You've probably heard the saying that procrastination is the thief of time. In a nutshell, procrastination is when you put off doing the things that are most important to you, and you fill your time with low priority tasks. For example, suppose that you have an important report due for work, and you've set aside a large chunk of time, from 8:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., to work on it.

But then the following happens:

  • You sit down at your desk and decide to take a quick look at your email. As you scan the subject headings you notice a couple of emails that you can respond to right away, so you go ahead and do so.
  • A colleague walks into your office and asks about your weekend. You spend a few minutes chit-chatting with them.
  • You decide to go get a cup of coffee.
  • When you get back to your office, warm cup of java in hand, you spill some coffee on your desk.
  • As you're wiping off the coffee you decide that now would be a good time to straighten up your desk. Then you decide you might as well file the pile of papers that's accumulated on the cabinet behind your desk.

Soon, the entire morning has gone by, and you haven't worked on your report. You've put off the important task of working on your report, yet again, and you've used up your morning on low priority tasks and time-wasters. You may be asking yourself why you do this.


(Image: Gary Asleep at the Wheel)

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Why We Procrastinate

Here's why we procrastinate:

  • Fear of failure
  • Fear of imperfection
  • Fear of success
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Boredom
  • Work-Play Imbalance
  • Low self-esteem

 

Tales of Mere Existence

Work-Play Imbalance

You can see above that one of the reasons why we procrastinate is when there's a Work-Play Imbalance in our life.

Neil Fiore, Ph.D., explains in his book "The Now Habit", that when we don't give ourselves time to play, we begin to resent our work. And this leads to procrastination.

That's where the Unschedule comes in.

Procrastination on Wikipedia

In psychology, procrastination refers to the act of replacing high-priority actions with tasks of low-priority, and thus putting off important tasks to a later time. Psychologists often cite such behavior as a mechanism for coping with the ...

Do you procrastinate?

How to Create an Unschedule - 11 Guidelines

Fiore explains that after reading that B. F. Skinner had a time clock connected to his chair, and that he would "punch in" when he sat down to work, and would "punch out" whenever he got up from his desk, he decided to start recording how much quality time he spent working. In addition, he decided to reward himself with activities that he enjoyed after he had spent a certain amount of time working.

This inspired Fiore to create a system that consists of 11 guidelines. Each of these guidelines is explained below.

Guideline #1

Schedule only the following:

  • Previously committed time, such as sleep, meals, and meetings.
  • Free time and recreation.
  • Health activities, such as going to the gym.
  • Routine structured events, such as going to class, commuting time, and so on.
  • Social activities.
Schedule Guilt-Free Play
Schedule Guilt-Free Play

Why This Works

  • By scheduling all of the non-work activities that you have, you overcome the false notion that you have 24 hours a day to work. In fact, you'll probably be surprised by how little time you have left over for work.
  • You're scheduling guilt-free play; that is, you're giving yourself permission to allocate some of your time to simply enjoying yourself.
  • The idea is to create excitement by asking yourself how much you can get done in a short amount of time, instead of feeling anxiety about how much more there is to do.

Guideline #2

Once you have your schedule filled in with all of the things indicated in Guideline #1, you're going to find an empty spot on the first day and work for half an hour on your project.

Don't write down "work" in your schedule until you've actually completed at least half an hour of uninterrupted work.

Instead of writing down in your schedule when you plan to work, you're keeping track of how much work you're actually doing.

Guideline #3

Only take credit if you work for thirty minutes straight, without interruptions. If you stop working before the thirty minutes are up, you can't take credit for it, so don't write it down.

Guideline # 4

After each period of half an hour worked, reward yourself with a break or change to a more enjoyable activity. This creates positive associations with your work.

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Guideline # 5

Keep track of the number of quality hours worked each day and each week. This will alert you to any problems that may exist.

Guideline # 6

Always leave at least one day a week for recreation and small chores. This day is essential for relaxation and rejuvenation, and so that you feel like you're living your life now, instead of putting it off for later because of work.

Guideline # 7

Before you decide to participate in a recreational activity or social commitment, work on your project for half an hour. That way, you can enjoy the activity without feeling guilty--since you got some work done--and your subconscious mind will be busy finding creative ways to deal with your project while you're at play.

Guideline # 8

Instead of focusing on finishing a project, focus on starting it. Ask yourself: "When can I start?"

Guideline # 9

Keep thinking small. Remind yourself to ask how to start, instead of asking yourself how you can get it all done.

Guideline # 10

Keep starting. Keep working in thirty minute increments.

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Guideline # 11

Don't stop working if you're stuck. Stay with it until you have at least some idea of how to resolve the problem, or what you're going to do next. This will create positive momentum, so that it will be much easier for you to get started the next time.

How to Stop Procrastinating

How to Stop Procrastinating
This site is filled with articles, exercises, tips, and tools to help you overcome procrastination.

Stop Procrastinating and Write Your Ebook
Use the advice contained in "The Procrastination Equation" to stop procrastinating and get to work on your ebook.

Conquering Procrastination: The Now Habit
A summary of the "The Now Habit" on "Abundance Blog by Marelisa Online".

Sample Unschedule

Here's a Sample
Here's a Sample

The Importance of Play

We need regular physical and mental renewal in order to do our best work. And the way to recharge our batteries is by taking a break after every half hour of work, and by scheduling guilt-free play.

  • Devote at least one hour a day to exercise, socializing, or a leisure activity.
  • Devote one day a week for relaxation and small chores.

When you know that work will not deprive you of enjoying the good things in life you can more easily tackle a large task without fear that it will leave no room for doing anything else. Giving yourself permission to play will keep you motivated and interested in returning to your work projects.

Updated: on 06/01/2011, Marelisa
 
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jptanabe on 06/25/2013

Lots of great tips here. I do reward myself for work done, often by one of those distraction activities (check email, play game on computer). But I have to admit my "to do" lists usually make me feel I have so much to get done, have to change that!

sheilamarie on 08/21/2011

Good tips! Time to get my stuff done . . . .

LeanneChesser on 07/16/2011

I love the video and I really like the concept of focusing on what I can get done in a short time, rather than on how much more there is to do. The reward of play is awesome too :). I do schedule in my regular activities, and I get a lot done most days, but I think this change of mindset will be really useful for times when I feel stuck or overwhelmed (that's when I procrastinate and go down 16 rabbit trails).

Holistic_Health on 07/05/2011

I'm not the worst procrastinator, but I have room for improvement. Your unschedule may do the trick!

poutine on 06/23/2011

I am a terrible procrastinator. Hope this will help me.

Marelisa on 05/30/2011

Ah, but hopping off on bunny trails is a form of procrastination. That's why Fiore says that if you don't work for thirty uninterrupted minutes on the project you're working on (which means concentrating 100% on the task at hand) you can't log that in as having worked for half an hour.

thelesleyshow on 05/30/2011

I'm not a procrastinate so much as I am "distracted easily" ... I hop off on bunny trails often. Great information.

JoyfulPamela on 05/29/2011

What wonderful ideas to keep on schedule!

petunia on 05/29/2011

Wow! this would be a whole new way for me to think! I automatically think in terms of "to do" lists! Your timing is perfect since next week is a new month and a new quarter for me -- always a review and goal setting time. hmmmmm I gotta ponder this!

tandemonimom on 05/29/2011

Very helpful!




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