Time is passing. The clock is ticking… tic-tac-tic-tac. You have a deadline coming up! However, instead of focusing on your work, you are wasting your time with miscellaneous things like checking email, social media, watching videos, surfing blogs and forums. You know you should be working, but you just don’t feel like doing anything.
Procrastination is a bad habit that eats us away and prevents us from achieving greater results in life. Here are ten simple and effective ways to help you pull yourself out of this dead-end loop and fuel your life with motivation and productivity.
1. DON’T MISS OUT THE FIRST 30MINS RULE
Most of us start our days by intending to check our emails and social media accounts for 5 minutes, before starting to work. All of a sudden, those 5 minutes turns into 2 hours, and 2 hours doubles into 4, and you soon come to the painful conclusion that you have spent half of your doing absolutely nothing useful.
In fact the first 30 minutes of your day is the most important period of time to boost your productivity and daily motivation.
That’s why that period of time should be spent doing work. If you can’t focus for 30mins, try to start with 10mins intervals but first remove any kind of distractions; your phone, magazines, or even pictures of your significant other or family. You can even lock your door to stop your co-workers from coming in and then concentrate only on your work.
Try working with a timer. Most experts regard using timers as one of the best ways to develop self-discipline and stop procrastination.
Force yourself to work productively for ten minutes. That is usually all you need to start getting focused. If you feel the need to check your email or any social site, do so only once you have established a good workflow. Once you get the hang of things, try to block all distractions completely until the task you have at hand is completely.
2. BREAK WORK INTO LITTLE STEPS - PLAN IT UP/WELL
A common reason why we procrastinate is that we often find the work too overwhelming. Hence, breaking down a big task into little parts might help solve this problem.
If you still procrastinate on the task after breaking it down, then break it down even further. Think of smaller, more manageable tasks that do not contain any sub-tasks. For example; don’t say “I have to write a blog post,” but say “ I am going to research for a new topic for my blog”, or “ I am going to write only the introduction”, etc.…. Then, create an overall action plan with specific deadlines for each small task. This way, you know you have to finish each task by a certain date and you will be able to concentrate on one task at a time. The minute you realize how fast you are at finishing those small talks, you will b tempted to finish the rest of the tasks much faster.
To reduce the work anxiety, plan your to-do-lists beforehand, and do leave them to the last minute so you do not feel overwhelmed.
3. BARGAIN WITH YOURSELF
Humans are creatures who mostly function by motivations and rewards. So the next time you have a big task at hand, give yourself a treat to look forward to as a reward for buckling down on your to-do list. Make up your own awards for example; if you finish that business plan now, you can go to the movies later or you can buy that pair of shoes you have been eyeing for a while. Choose whatever reward you, just make sure you notice how good it feels to finish things.
While some are motivated by rewards, others are motivated by fear of punishment. If that is the case with you, then, you will need to come up with a consequence that will deter you from avoiding the task. Take away something good to work harder. For example, if you do not exercise twice a week, you will have to give up talking on the phone with friends; or not have any dessert all week or catch up on any of your readings.
4. FINISH THE HARD STUFF FIRST & DO ONE TASK AT A TIME
Most of the time, the thing that pushes you to procrastinate is the hardest task that you are always postponing. That is actually why finishing the largest or the hardest item on your list will make you feel extra productive and give you the boost to do other things you have been pushing to the side.
If the task is something that cannot be completed in one go, break it down into small parts that you can complete one day at a time.
Prioritize all items on your to-do-list so that you do not dismiss doing a task by assuming it is unimportant.
Focus at one task at a time. Select the task and forget about the rest of your to-do-list. Although the word ‘multitasking’ might sound like you are doing more work in a small amount of time, multi-taskers are often inefficient and do much less work. Instead, if you practice doing one thing at a time and do not overwhelm yourself with tasks, you will be more productive and you will actually save more time.
5. GET RID OF NOTIFICATIONS
For those of us who are a little too close to their smartphones but need to stay away from it for productivity reasons, we suggest you keep the phone away from you before starting to work. Turn on your airplane or sleep mode or just disable all applications notifications from your settings menu.
If you have a problem of browsing the Internet while working on your computer, try using a specialized computer application that limits your Internet use. There is a range of available applications that block off certain (or all) websites for a particular amount of time that you set, and can only be voided if your computer is turned off. Get rid of the distractions around you. We often hear of people who delete or deactivate their social media accounts in preparation for an important business pitch or in order to write their dissertation, etc..
6. GET A BUDDY
If you can’t seem to work on your own, find a friend or a family member who can join you. Most of the times having a companion makes the whole process more fun and puts you in work or study mode.
Also try making your intentions public, this will add pressure on you to finish that task at hand as you claimed earlier. Do not estimate how hard people work to avoid embarrassment—which might prove the mightiest of all motivators. You can also ask someone else to check up on you and make sure you have completed a certain task because believe it or not, peer pressure actually works!
7. CHANGE ENVIRONMENT
Different environments have different impact on our productivity and procrastination habits may vary from one person to another. For some people this may result in working in a quiet library and avoid working in coffee shops or crowded places, while for others this scenario is quite the opposite.
Therefore, choose a workspace that you are most comfortable working in to avoid procrastination. This may take some time to figure out. Try working in different environments and keep switching it up until you find the place where you work best. Then, set not only one, but also three to five different places so you can avoid the routine and boredom that might also be the reason why you are procrastinating.
8. CREATE A TO-DO LIST & A "LATER" TO-DO-LIST
List everything that you have to do for your entire day. Rank your items based on highest priority. Then, tackle the most important ones before looking back at the smaller tasks.
If you think including smaller points will stop you from doing the most important ones then make a smarter list by including only the items that you are avoiding. As you work through your day, check off each task you complete. You will be surprise at the growing sense of pride that you will get from visually monitoring your ever-diminishing list of projects. You can break down your goals into monthly, weekly, and daily tasks, and add them to your personal calendar as a reminder to accomplish them by a specified date. Creating a love-hate task chain is another useful method that might work. Here you can start your day with a task you “love” and once you complete it you can proceed to tackle the task you “hate” without any breaks.
You can take a break only after you have made enough progress on your 'hate’ task. This love-hate task chain will ensure you get into the work mode, and carry that momentum into finishing a task you would normally procrastinate.
Also it is advisable you keep a notebook by your side prior to working on your task. This way you ensure that every time your mind wanders somewhere else, you can always write down your thoughts. This prevents you from getting into the procrastination zone.
9. GIVE 1OMINS BREAKS EVERY 1HOUR
Breaks are crucial if you want to provide quality work. They are motivational boosts to make you feel more comfortable. If you cannot seem to focus and you realize you are working half-heartedly at your tasks, give yourself a brief break. Set a timer for ten minutes; stand up from your sticky chair and take several steps away: take a nap, do small exercises, read a book, or call a friend. Do whatever you feel like doing, so you can get it out of your system and go back to work.
Breaks can also cure certain health issues such as; xerophthalmia, numbing, and backaches due to sitting at the computer for long continuous hours. There are several applications that might help you with this, such as those that blur your computer’s screen for 10mins every hour or reminders that send out notifications to drink water, or do a small exercise every hour.
10. FIND YOUR OWN RHYTHM
People have different needs that help them their most productive state. Find out what makes you the most productive and roll with it. Do you do your work better after a cup of coffee? What about when you are listening to music? How about working in a public space? It is important you define that need in order to understand what gets you in a study or work mode and stick to it every time to nail that task ahead of time.
BONUS TIP: KEEP A PROCRASTINATING JOURNAL
This weird method is very useful, if you are an over-thinker like me: as soon as you wake up from bed every morning, take a white sheet of paper and start writing whatever comes to your mind. The text does not have to be rational. It does not have to consist of meaningful sentences. It does not have to make sense at all. When you are done, do not read it and throw directly into the garbage bin. By clearing your mind from random thoughts and clutter, you will be left with a sharp mind and you will be ready to a fresh start ever day.
You can apply the same method if you are having difficulties on starting your action plan on time. Write down how you feel about it, and the reason why you find it difficult to start working, and what is holding you back? You will be surprise to see how relieved you will feel after writing all your feelings down and acknowledging them.
This been said, enough procrastination. Now it is time you went back to work and apply what you just read! Or, if you feel you are not yet ready to go back to work, read my fellow Blue Hatter's blog and discover which type of procrastinator you are on this link.