As his publisher, I have been lucky enough to work with Dr. Neil Fiore, one of the nation's foremost experts in productivity, for the last three years. In this time, my partner and I have created a publishing company that now has over 20 titles, brings in 7 figures a year, and that has a worldwide following. We have done this with only three employees and little to no outsourcing.
People ask me how I was able to get so much done in such a short period of time, and I can honestly say a lot of it had to do with Dr. Fiore and what he has taught me about productivity. Don't get me wrong: I still procrastinate sometimes, get behind on projects, and have a hard time meeting some obligations. But overall, I get a lot done and also have quite a bit of time to enjoy myself and hang out with my family and my friends.
Dr. Fiore has a lot more to offer than this, but I thought I would share the principles that have helped me personally to become a more productive person.
A short synopsis is that procrastination isn't the problem — it is a symptom of other problems. When people tell you to "Get Organized," "Just Do It," "Think Big," or "Never Say Can't," they are thinking at the surface level. They simply will not help you at all. Instead of yelling back at them, just send them to this article.
TAKE HOME PRINCIPLES I LEARNED FROM NEIL FIORE:
1. Ending procrastination and being more productive is not about tactics. Most experts on the subject give you how-tos like: "break it up into small chunks" or "set priorities." We all know this! This kind of advice misses the point — you would do these things if you could. This has helped me focus less on techniques and more on underlying causes.
2. "Procrastination is a mechanism for coping with the anxiety associated with starting or completing any task or decision." I can't tell you how valuable this definition is. When you aren't doing what you know you need to do, explore the anxiety and fear you are avoiding. For example, when I have a big joint venture, I sometimes find myself dragging my feet. I have found that it is not because I can't do the work, but because I am afraid it will bomb!
3. You have to get rid of your procrastination addiction. OK, what does this mean? Just like any other addiction, procrastination has its underlying rewards.
a. It can be a way to express resentment. You can get even with authorities (your boss, your partner, your spouse, your parents) by not doing what you say you will do. Instead of directly saying "no," you just drag your feet. Here you are playing the powerless victim, and procrastination is a way of expressing the little power you think you have.
b. It defends you against fear of failure. This results when you over-identify with your work. If you never get a project done, it can't fail, and neither can you.
c. It defends against fear of success. Getting projects done can lead to promotion, loss of friends, judgment from others as a brown nose, etc. This is a hard one to identify for yourself, but it is more common than you think and resides pretty deep.
4. The first step towards productivity and away from procrastination is creating safety. You delay the project because of fear and anxiety, then you use the deadline as your fuel. If the result of the project is less than it could be, you can always tell yourself that it wasn't you — it was the "time pressure." If you are able to create a sense of safety (protection from rejection, that no matter what happens you will be OK) you will be less likely to delay for reasons of safety. This is about developing a sense of self worth.
5. Play with your internal dialogue, especially when it comes to things you "should," "must," or "have" to do. If your attitude is that you have to do something, then you are taking away your power. Replace these with "choose." Try this exercise:
Say to yourself, "I have to get (think of a project) done." Notice how it makes you feel about yourself, and about actually getting to work on the project. Now say to yourself, "I choose to get (think of project) done." Notice how you feel about yourself and the project. If you are like most people, you will find you are more motivated to start. So start replacing all your "have-tos" with "I choose to."
6. Get yourself in the right frame of mind when working on all projects. This is the most important, and most difficult to remember. You have probably heard of the "flow state." Research at the University of Chicago demonstrate that productivity and creativity flourish when this state is reached. This state can be achieved with practice. In layman's terms, it can be defined as being totally absorbed in what you are doing without critical thought. I started practicing this and find that I can get a lot more done in a shorter period of time by taking a couple of minutes to relax and focus BEFORE working on a project.
We have a free download on our site where Dr. Fiore guides you to this state:
I hope these productivity ideas have helped you. Whole books have been written on the subject. (I recommend Dr. Fiore's The Now Habit: A Strategic Program for Overcoming Procrastination and Enjoying Guilt-Free Play.) As you can see, it is really about how you think about things.