As online entrepreneurs, we sit down every day to work in front of what I not-so-affectionately call a “Distraction Box.”
When else in human history have we been expected to do productive work by using the exact same device that also provides entertainment, connection with loved ones, and irresistible distractions at every turn?
Give yourself a break: it’s not easy! For any of us — me included.
But I’m here to report that:
Productive days and weeks are possible — even when your productive work happens on a “Distraction Box.”
With just a handful of simple new habits, you can stop procrastination in its tracks without needing to sign up for a new course or read a new book.
(That’s what “learning” often is — a noble pursuit that is procrastination in disguise. More on this later.)
The result from adopting these new productive habits?
You’ll find yourself hitting those elusive goals. You’ll step into a leadership role in your online business.
Each success will boost your confidence and your “distraction resistance” muscle will grow stronger.
Let’s get started.
My productivity obsession = your gain
I’ve been interested in productivity techniques for decades. It’s one of my favorite things to read about.
This article is the culmination of everything I’ve learned, tested, and shared for more than 30 years.
My favorite books on productivity can be found on my book recommendations page.
This article shares the results of the “field tests” I’ve conducted using different techniques to get things done.
I have recommended these techniques to colleagues and coaching clients alike.
But before we get to the solutions, let’s spend a few minutes on the problems.
Do any of the “techniques” below sound familiar to you?
“Noble” procrastination techniques used by online business owners
Because every one of the techniques here masquerades as something positive. Something that will contribute to your success.
That’s what makes them so nefarious.
When you do these activities, you feel a sense of accomplishment. You think you’re moving toward your goals.
But the truth is, you’re probably just procrastinating.
Let’s be clear:
I am assigning no blame here.
Guess why I can write about overcoming procrastination by avoiding the techniques below?
Because I have used every single one of them at one time or another!
But the good news is that I have also managed to conquer them pretty consistently.
(I’m not perfect and you shouldn’t expect to be perfect either.)
Let’s review this list of nefarious, time-sucking, soul-sucking procrastination techniques.
The 7 Sinister Procrastination Techniques That Seem “Noble”
1. Researching a new topic and reading lots of content about it
I am all about content marketing. It’s a beautiful thing. Use it to jumpstart your thinking.
But if you stay in “research mode,” you’ll never get anything accomplished. Your learning will feel like doing — but you won’t actually be doing anything. [click to tweet this]
2. Researching “the best” software tools
Online business runs on tools — lots of them. But your success doesn’t depend on them — even though the people who sell those tools would like you to think so.
3. “What’s happening?” — Checking social media nonstop
Social media is amazing — and incredibly distracting. With a few flicks of our fingertips we can be off in other worlds. Worlds where we’re not working. [click to tweet this]
4. “What’s happening?” part 2 — Reading the news all day
The world turns as we’re trying to be productive. News sites and apps are happy to serve up the latest geopolitical and entertainment disasters to keep you hooked and distract you from your important work.
5. “What’s happening?” part 3 — Checking your inbox
On the one hand, your inbox allows you to have instant connection with prospects, clients, and customers.
On the other hand …
If you don’t place boundaries around the time you spend interacting with it, it’ll eat up your whole day. [click to tweet this]
6. The “must master” myth: Taking a new course
This one probably sounds strange coming from a person who sells online education.
But the idea that you need to “master” a new technique before you start using it is just wrong.
Practice is what helps you achieve mastery. Buying a hot new course isn’t the answer.
Learning is a seemingly noble use of your time.
Don’t let it fool you into thinking you’re doing.
7. Tweaking your website design
I’ve seen it too often to not mention it.
It feels like important work!
But if you stay stuck in design mode, you’ll have beautiful pages — and no customers. [click to tweet this]
Any of these hit close to home?
If so, you might be asking:
“How can I stop procrastinating?”
First, a dose of radical empathy
Numerous articles I’ve read attribute procrastination to deep-seated anxiety.
This makes sense to me.
Here’s the thing:
If you become successful, scary things may happen.
If your online business starts doing well, you may have a whole new set of “problems” to deal with.
- What if you get too busy to enjoy your success — and your life?
- What if your workload gets so heavy you need to hire help?
- How can you keep your success going — and grow your business even more?
Take it easy on yourself if you fall into procrastination habits. Your brain may be trying to “protect you” from the scary, successful future that awaits.
Read on to discover my solution.
The “10/90 Technique” to overcome procrastination by building your distraction resistance muscle
Repeat after me:
“I will spend 10% of my time researching and learning. I will spend the other 90% implementing and practicing what I’ve learned.”
In a 40-hour workweek, that looks like this:
4 hours of learning and research each week. 36 hours of implementing.
When you schedule limited time for your distractions, you honor the fact that they contribute something to your work.
But you don’t let them run your day or ruin your chances of achieving your goals.
4 Ways to Kickstart Your Online Business Success (and kick distraction to the curb)
1. Let your purpose be your guide
Why do you do what you do?
Pinpoint your big vision. Know who you want to serve and how you’ll serve them. This will keep you motivated as you dodge distractions throughout the day.
Take an exercise from Ryan Holiday’s Perennial Seller. Grab a piece of paper and a pen and write out this sentence, filling in the blanks with your unique answers:
My business is a [KIND OF BUSINESS]
that does [SOLUTION YOU PROVIDE]
for [PEOPLE YOU SERVE].
In order to be that business and provide that solution and serve those people — you have to get things done.
So write this out and post it where you’ll see it every day.
Let your purpose guide how you spend your time. [click to tweet this]
2. Use these time-tested productivity strategies
If procrastination is born from anxiety, as stated earlier, that anxiety probably stems from the feeling of having way too much to do, not enough time to do it all, and no clue about where to start.
Here are my time-tested strategies for busting through this particular anxiety and making your to-do list manageable.
- The “Pick 3” technique: Pick three big projects to work on every day — and no more. Look at your to-do list and choose your three most important projects right now.
- Prioritize your list: List your three big projects in order of importance. Start with the project that will bring you revenue the fastest — because revenue should drive most business decisions.
- Estimate the time you’ll spend on each task: Decide how much time you’ll spend on each “Pick 3” project — anywhere from 30 minutes to 3 hours — and write that number by those tasks.
- Block out time on your calendar: Look at your daily calendar and block in work sessions for each “Pick 3” task. Take into account your ongoing appointments and admin tasks. Schedule with your energy levels in mind (more on this below).
3. Eliminate interruptions and create an environment that supports your work
Setting up a distraction-free environment will go a long way toward helping you accomplish more with your time. It sends a signal to your brain that you’re serious about getting things done! [click to tweet this]
A few ways to create a distraction-free workspace:
- Explore personal productivity tools that bolster your “distraction resistance muscle:” If you find yourself pulled in by the lure of social media and news sites, use productivity apps like ColdTurkey, StayFocsd (a free Chrome extension), and SelfControl (Mac only). These productivity boosters limit your access to sites that distract you from your important work.
- Create a new user on Macs: On Macs, you can create a new user that can access only a limited number of apps. (PC users: can you do this too?) Learn more about creating a distraction-free Mac environment.
- Use the willpower model: Close your email inbox and shut down the browser you use for social media. Shut the door of your office if you have one. Adjust the lighting and your location so you feel ready to work. Set a timer for a short time and promise yourself to work until it goes off.
4. Work with your natural energy levels to get things done
Most of us have variable energy levels during the day.
Not sure when yours are?
Over the next few weeks, pay attention. Ask yourself:
“When is my work easy and fast? When does it just flow out of me? And when does my energy start to lag?”
Be relentless about reserving your high-energy periods for your most-important work.
And reserve your low-energy time to tackle admin tasks that are necessary but don’t immediately produce revenue.
Stick to the “10/90 Technique”
Remember, block out time to do the research, reading, and learning needed to stay on top of your field.
But not too much time.
Make a tally of the average number of hours you work each week.
Devote 10% to learning. And devote the other 90% to implementing. [click to tweet this]
You’re not in this alone
Online business can be lonely. Even though you may feel like you’re in this alone, please know that there are hundreds of thousands of people just like you who are striving to build a meaningful online business.
The BIG League community is one place where we gather. Learn more about the BIG League here.