A reliable system for overcoming procrastination and achieving more.
Note: This is a 3000+ word guide with theory, actionable advice, exercises, and videos. Sign up below to get a free PDF version so you can always refer to it.
Do you know that feeling? You have to do something, but somehow you just don’t do it? That’s procrastination. We all do it.
And the funny thing is, we often procrastinate tasks that benefit us in the long-term.
For years, I wanted to write a book. But I never started. For years, I wanted to run every day. But I didn’t. And to be honest, I can go on for a few hours about the stuff I always wanted to do, but never did.
I was a true procrastinate hero.
And if you look at the world today, it’s not a surprise most of us procrastinate.
We’re flooded with information, distractions, opportunities, etc. All that stuff causes a lack of clarity. There’s just too much stress on our attention.
And that makes it impossible to get work done.
And if you want to achieve anything in life, there’s only one thing that can make that happen: WORK.
We’re so distracted with useless tasks, that we live truly unproductive lives.
And that’s stupid, right? Why would you sabotage yourself? Why would you start things but never finish them? Why would you not get the most out of life?
Well, I have good news: It’s not your fault.
Well, it is, but it also isn’t. It’s complicated.
It’s not your fault because procrastination is as old as modern civilization.
Hesiod, a Greek poet who lived in the 8th century B.C., put it best:
“Do not put off your work until tomorrow and the day after. For the sluggish worker does not fill his barn, nor the one who puts off his work; industry aids work, but the man who puts off work always wrestles with disaster.”
You see? That quote is from centuries ago. Our behavior hasn’t changed much. It doesn’t take a scientist to observe that.
I’ve written about why we procrastinate, and how the only solution is to rely on a system. Otherwise, you get disaster, like Hesiod said.
Therefore, it is your fault because you don’t have a system in place to beat procrastination.
And a system is nothing more than a vehicle that will bring you to your goals. It will not do the work for you, but it will give the structure you need to be consistently productive. Every day.
This guide is also available as a beaituful eBook, designed by Marko Vuletič. If you want to get the eBook for future reference, sign up to my newsletter and I will send you a PDF of this guide for free.
I have created a system. Feel free to copy it.
I call it Procrastinate Zero. And it looks like this:
- Step 1 Brain: Fix your mindset and train your brain.
- Step 2 Body: Improve your health. Without it, you don’t even have the energy to be productive.
- Step 3 Procrastination: Apply tactics to overcome procrastination and improve focus.
- Step 4 Productivity: Only when you have improved your focus, it’s time to improve your hourly output.
- Step 5 Persuasion: It’s great that you are good at what you do, but without persuasion skills, no one will ever know about it. Persuasion skills will help you to actually achieve things.
This system only works in that order.
For example, if you start with Step 4, applying productivity hacks to improve your hourly output, you won’t be successful in the long-term.
Because, what good are hacks for if you’re always tired, distracted, and completely lost? Exactly.
Finally, living a productive life only makes sense if you’re able to get what you want. You can be an awesome person with great qualities, but if you can’t communicate that to others, nothing will ever happen in your life.
In this guide, I will give you an example of how you can improve every single step of the Procrastinate Zero framework. And every step is structured as follows:
- Explanation of why it matters. For example, in Step 1, we first discuss why a strong mind matters in achievement.
- Actionable advice that you can immediately apply to your life.
- I’ve also added videos to some of the steps in case you like to get more in-depth information and tools.
Technology has made our lives easier. But it has also made it difficult to get things done. Distractions are everywhere. And they keep you from doing your work.
Doing focused work is a rarity today. And it’s not easy. Otherwise, everybody would be successful.
The tips and strategies that you will find in this book will make you more effective.
I’ve not only tested it on myself. It also works for the almost 5,000 people who took some form of my online courses.
Let’s get started.
Step 1: Brain
“If you spend too much time thinking about a thing, you’ll never get it done.”
― Bruce Lee
The first step to living a productive life is training your brain. Without the right mindset and self-awareness, it’s impossible to do anything in life.
You might want to achieve all kinds of things in life, but what do you do when your brain doesn’t cooperate?
You know that you’re your own worst enemy, right? But that doesn’t have to be that way.
You have to learn how to use your brain. Otherwise, your brain will use you.
ACTIONABLE ADVICE: Keep An Activity Log To Become More Effective
I often hear people saying: “I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I keep procrastinating.”
That’s not a surprise to me. Most people don’t know what they do with their time, and therefore, their life.
If you don’t know where your time goes, you don’t know yourself. And if you don’t know yourself, you can never stop procrastination or improve your productivity.
How do you keep an activity log? Watch this video to learn how I do it.
This simple exercise will improve the quality of your brain. Give it a try and get to know yourself better. Understand how you operate in daily life.
Step 2: Body
“To keep the body in good health is a duty, otherwise we shall not be able to keep our mind strong and clear.”
This one is very simple.
You can set goals in your life. You can create systems. You can even live without goals at all. Maybe you want to be a good parent. Maybe you want to make enough money to live a comfortable life.
Great. But here’s the thing: If you don’t have the energy to make those things happen, nothing will happen.
That’s why Brain + Body are the foundation of Procrastinate Zero. It’s a strategy for life.
Common sense, right? Look, it’s not rocket science. You just have to act on your common sense. But most people never do that. No matter how easy it is.
It’s about living a conscious life.
Also, the brain and body support each other. When you exercise, you produce new blood vessels in your brain. That makes it easier for your brain to do its job.
Exercise stimulates the production of hormones called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). That’s literally a growth hormone for your brain. BDNF helps your brain to create new cells, and it improves the connections between your brain’s neurons.
ACTIONABLE ADVICE: Get enough sleep, eat healthy food, and exercise daily.
Building a healthy body is not complicated. Why do people pretend it is? Money. The fitness and health industry is a billion-dollar industry.
Think about it, have you ever seen a commercial on TV about getting enough sleep? How about a commercial that says you should eat healthy if you want to improve your immune system?
Instead, we see ads for products, supplements, and diets that promise the same things that sleep, diet and exercise will give you.
The only difference is that NO ONE makes money when they say you should get 7–9 hours of sleep.
Want to get fit? Do these five things.
1. Walk as much as you can
We often take the car or public transportation when we could easily walk. But going from A to B is not the only reason to walk.
You can also just go for a walk, without any reason but to get moving. Your lunch break is a perfect time for a walk. It doesn’t matter how you do it, as long as you commit to daily walking. Aim for 30 minutes a day.
2. Move every 30 minutes
You can combine this with the Pomodoro method. When your timer goes off, walk around, or do stretches during your 5-minute break.
3. Track your movements and diet
Do you know how many calories you eat during your work-week? How many calories do you burn? How many calories does your body need? Use apps like Myfitnesspal or step counters to measure yourself.
Once you start using these apps, you will get a clear picture of how much you walk and how much you eat on an average day.
4. Create a daily exercise habit
It’s easier to do something every day instead of 2–3 times a week. This is also true for working out. When you create the habit of going to the gym every day at the same time, you will act on autopilot after a while.
When you are used to going to the gym every day after work for 45 minutes, you will also plan for it. Try to aim for daily exercise during the workweek. Weekends are optional.
5. Design an exercise routine that you enjoy
Doing the same thing every day is boring and also not productive. The ideal weekly exercise program has three types of movement.
So switch things up with these types of exercise:
- Strength — think of weight lifting, rowing, rock climbing or anything else that requires strength.
- Interval Training — high-intensity interval training improves your overall condition and your body’s metabolism.
- Mobility — something like yoga or just a good old-fashioned stretching session.
Finally, make it fun to exercise. Otherwise, it will never last. Pick out something that you love to do. Challenge yourself to improve every day.
Step 3: Procrastination
“A man who procrastinates in his choosing will inevitably have his choice made for him by circumstance.”
— Hunter S. Thompson
Once you’re in good shape, mentally and physically, it’s time to improve your focus and get rid of distractions.
Modern life is pretty rich. You literally have the world at your fingertips. You can:
- Read any book you want.
- Send a message to anyone you know.
- Listen to your favorite artist.
- Watch funny cat videos.
All of these things are nice and all. But there’s one problem: Every time you do something without purpose, you‘re distracted. And willpower can’t help you to stop doing these things.
We all know how it feels. One minute you’re opening Facebook and the other minute you’re in bed, crying, with an empty bag of potato chips on your lap.
We procrastinate when we don’t know what to do. Or when we’re afraid. But when we exactly know what we have to do, we do it. Right?
That’s why most of us are good at working with deadlines or doing work when someone asks us to do it. But when it comes to our personal life, those aspects are lacking.
“We have seas of time. There’s always tomorrow.”
Nope. That’s not true. One day you will die. Don’t pretend you’re immortal.
ACTIONABLE ADVICE: Create A Morning Ritual
A morning ritual is important because it sets the tone of your day. It really improves your focus because you take time to think about what you’re going to do.
When you have a good morning ritual, you improve your focus, and that will help you to get more things done throughout the day. And by the end of it, you will feel more accomplished.
Watch the video below to learn how I do it.
Step 4: Productivity
“Productivity is being able to do things that you were never able to do before.”
— Franz Kafka
Productivity is about effectiveness.
Answering 100 emails per hour is not productivity. That’s efficiency. And most of us still don’t see the difference.
Productivity doesn’t necessarily mean that you get the right things done. You might be super busy. But where is your life, career, business going?
That’s more important. It’s about results.
The PZ definition of productivity is: Getting the right things done in the least amount of time.
You might work for 50 hours a week, but if you don’t experience any growth personally, emotionally, financially, you’re not being productive at all.
ACTIONABLE ADVICE: Use The PZ 1 Page Productivity Sheet
How do we know that we’re doing the right things? Firstly, we need self-awareness (Step 1).
In life, you have to be your own worst critic. Don’t wait for others to give you feedback. By training your brain, investing in your education, and by experience, you learn how to analyze yourself.
And that’s the most important skill for understanding whether you’re doing the right things.
One simple tool that you can use to get clear on your priorities is explained in the following video.
Step 5: Persuasion
“To be persuasive we must be believable;
to be believable we must be creditable;
to be credible we must be truthful.”
― Edward R. Murrow
People play a big role in our lives. But have you ever had a class on how to effectively communicate with others?
It’s not common to teach people about people. We just assume that we know everything. Because we‘re people, right?
Understanding people is way more difficult than it seems, and it is impossible to fully understand people.
However, if we want to get anywhere in life, we have to understand the basics of how to communicate with people.
One of the best books about this subject is How To Win Friends And Influence People by Dale Carnegie. That book was written in 1937 but it’s timeless. And I think it’s mandatory reading for every human being.
Here are few things I’ve learned from that book:
- Don’t blatantly criticize or condemn people.
- Give honest appreciation.
- Think about what the other person wants and combine that with your own desire.
What are some good characteristics in people? What traits do other people like about us?
- Interest: Be genuinely interested in people.
- Positive mindset: Smile, make people feel good, be merry.
- Listening: Don’t interrupt people.
- Appreciation: Treat people like you want to be treated.
Also, influence is not something evil. Influence is nothing more than communicating your message to the right people, in the right way.
Let me be clear that you can’t, under any circumstance, actually influence people like a magician. We don’t live in a fairytale world.
It’s not like you study the science of influence and all of a sudden you become an evil millionaire who controls the world.
No matter how many times you read Influence by Robert Cialdini, if you’re an idiot, you will remain an idiot.
Just be transparent with what you do and why you do it. But at the same time understand how you should get your product, yourself, or services out there.
This guide is also available as a beautifully designed eBook by Marko Vuletič. If you want to get the eBook for future reference, sign up to my newsletter and I will send you a PDF of this guide for free.
ACTIONABLE ADVICE: Start Your Email Subject Lines With “Your”
Did you know that 200 billion emails are sent daily? That’s crazy. What’s even more crazy: 55% of all people don’t open emails regularly.
It happens to all of us. We send an email, wait for a response… But nothing happens.
Through more than 10 years of experience in sales, I’ve learned one simple tactic that massively improved the response rates of my emails.
Always start your subject line with “Your.”
That’s the #1 tip that will improve your emails. I use it all the time. The reason is that people love themselves and when you send an email about them, they feel an urge to open it.
- If you’re emailing to ask someone for feedback you can say: “Your feedback on X.”
- If you want to make an appointment to talk about someone’s company: “Your company’s exponential growth.”
- Want to ask your friend to give you a ride? Say: “Your awesome car.”
- Don’t talk about yourself, even though you’re emailing someone because you want something. So always make the subject about them.
Here are two other tips to improve your email response rate.
1. Keep it short and cut the chit chat.
- People are less likely to respond to long emails.
- As a rule of thumb, always delete your first sentence. It’s probably something like this: “How are you? I hope everything is well.” Just say why you’re emailing.
2. Have a clear Call To Action.
- Don’t use open-ended questions like: “Let me know what you think.” If I ask you that, what would you say? Nothing, right? Or “How is your schedule?” That’s also terrible.
- You want to minimize the email thread. Want to meet someone? Propose 2 dates and let them pick. Want feedback? Ask a specific question.
- The last thing you want is to send 20 emails to clear up something or to make an appointment.
There you go. You can apply this to everything: emailing friends, selling stuff, asking for informational interviews. Send emails with these tips, sit back, and watch people respond to your emails.
I’m often asked, “why productivity?”
I believe that a productive life equals a useful life. And that a useful life equals a happy life.
And because we have limited time, I prefer to optimize the way I function as a human being.
Life is pretty long. Just think about it. Let’s say that you retire at 65. And if you’re lucky, you might live until your eighties.
That’s a long time.
But there’s one condition. Don’t waste your time now. Because the decisions you make today determine the outcome of your life in the future.
That doesn’t mean you should live in the future. No, it means you have to be a realist.
If you hate your job, and don’t have the courage to quit, you become a cynical person. That destroys your relationships. And ultimately, you might end up alone. And studies show that lonely people die earlier than people who are surrounded by others.
You see? You might think that what you do today doesn’t affect your life in 10, 20, or maybe even 50 years from now. But it does.
As the Stoic philosopher Seneca once said:
“It is not that we have so little time but that we lose so much. The life we receive is not short but we make it so; we are not ill provided but use what we have wastefully.”
Life is only short if you waste it.
Bleh, bleh, bleh.
We’ve heard it a million times.
But here comes the essence of this guide, and one of the main messages I communicate in Procrastinate Zero: Common sense is not common action.
That’s why we need systems and strategies in our life that help us to execute on the things we know.
We don’t do the things we know.
Change that. Change your life.