We all know the feeling, you’ve got a huge list of tasks to do and deadlines are looming, but you just can’t seem to get anything done because you find yourself dealing with insignificant tasks or scrolling social media. If this sounds like something that happens to you on a regular basis, you could probably do with a bit of help overcoming your procrastination tendencies (and don’t worry, we all have them).
Procrastination is one of the big killers of productivity, and it’s something that costs freelancers, businesses, and entrepreneurs huge chunks of their time every year. A 2008 study found that procrastination leads to a $650 billion loss in productivity and innovation each year, and email alone accounts for 70 of that $650 billion.
Thankfully, even though procrastination is one of the biggest workplace epidemics we are suffering from, there are several actionable tips that you can implement right now, that don’t require a complete lifestyle or routine change to get going, and can help to dramatically transform your productivity for good.
Check out our roundup of the top 6 techniques to put a halt to your procrastination right now.Beat procrastination right now with these 6 tips Click To Tweet
Tip 1: Break Up Your Workload
Studies and personal experience have shown that people procrastinate when they fear that the work they have to do is just too big to handle. There’s nothing worse than staring at a to-do list and thinking “I don’t know where to start”; because we all know that when that happens, all of the other unimportant tasks that we have lined up for later, start to take priority right now, and the work you should be doing takes a back seat.
To stop this from happening, make life easier by breaking down your work into smaller, more manageable segments. This means taking big projects (like a website redesign, or series of articles) and breaking them down into smaller chunks of key tasks.
For example, if one of your items on your to-do list is to redesign a client’s website, break this big project down into small chunks, and make a list of things to do: create a new site structure, design the nav bar, brainstorm a way to incorporate animations. Then, when you have separated out each individual task, start by completing 1% of the very first task, and move on from there.
Actually starting the work, even if it’s only by completing 1%, can be counted as making progress. This progress will then motivate you to march through your to-do list and prevent you from procrastinating.Breaking up a big project in small manageable tasks helps you overcome procrastination Click To Tweet
Tip 2: Track Your Time
Procrastination is a dangerous thing because quite often we don’t even realize that it’s happening. Think about all the times each day that you check your phone, scroll through Twitter, Facebook, or Reddit, look outside, get up for a cup of coffee, or start chatting to a co-worker. Even though each of these little things might seem insignificant, and might only take a few moments, they are all forms of procrastination that are deadly to productivity. Procrastination isn’t just watching 15 YouTube videos in a row, it’s every minute you spend away from your work that can’t be properly justified.
To combat this, start using powerful time tracking apps to help you gain a better understanding of where you spend your time each day. Downloading a time tracking app like Hubstaff, which has advanced application and URL tracking, can help you to identify just which sites and apps suck up your time each day and prevent you from getting things done.
Hubstaff does this by generating handy reports that show your activity levels (by measuring how much you use your keyboard and mouse) and your web and app usage. Both of these metrics can be really useful for telling you exactly where you are wasting your time, and can help you nip your procrastination problem in the bud.
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Tip 3: Stop Multitasking!
Multitasking isn’t only one of the biggest causes of procrastination, but it’s also something that is hugely damaging for your mind and your creative output. Studies have shown that multitasking leads to a noticeable decrease in a person’s IQ, and this then leads to poor work output and poor performance.Multitasking does not only make you less productive, it literally lowers your IQ! Click To Tweet
Multitasking also makes it really easy for you to get distracted and start to procrastinate your time away. We’ve all been there when we’re working on a few things at once, and we find ourselves drifting off until we’re working on something completely unrelated, or even worse, not working at all.
To put a stop to this, discipline yourself to focus on only one task at a time. Turn your phone off, make your apps fullscreen, mute notifications on your computer, and log out of Slack/Facebook/Twitter etc. Limiting the amount of potential distractions you have around you, by turning off your distracting devices or moving away from co-workers, is a very easy way to set yourself up for productivity and success.
Once you have turned off any potential distractions, focus on completing the first 1% of your segmented task, and get going on your workload.
Tip 4: Set Deadlines and Incentivise Yourself With Penalties
For many of us, procrastination starts because of a lack of structure or incentive. Without deadlines or incentives, we find that the motivation to start and complete work just drifts away. This means that even though we know we should do some work, we start putting things off until ‘tomorrow’, or ‘when we’re not tired’. Sound familiar?
To stop this from happening, and make sure you actually get work done, set yourself strict, manageable deadlines that are before actual due dates and will help to push you to get work done. Deadlines can be great incentives in their own right because missing each one is a small failure and few people like failing on a regular basis.
But, if you find that deadlines alone aren’t enough of an incentive to get you to work, start to implement penalties that come into force when you miss your deadlines or when you aren’t productive.
These penalties can be anything from not allowing yourself a slice of chocolate in the evening, to small financial penalties that hurt your wallet rather than your stomach. A great service to help you avoid penalties, and actually get stuff done, is stickK, a web app that fines you a small amount of money when you don’t stick to your goals. This means that whenever you don’t sit down to complete that website redesign for your client, or write those articles on your to-do list, you will actually get charged for failing.
Many people find that once their procrastination starts to hurt their wallet, they start to take notice.To overcome procrastination: set a goal and a financial penalty for missing it Click To Tweet
Tip 5: Get a Work Buddy
For those of you who work at home, or remotely from your team, you can find that the temptation to procrastinate is just too strong when you don’t have someone else there providing a little dose of peer-pressure to help you get stuff done. This means that when you’re sat at home by yourself, things like the washing-up, laundry, and other household tasks suddenly slip to the top of your to-do list because you just don’t have anyone there to help prevent you from doing them.
To get around this, find yourself a work buddy who lives near you, and is willing to work with you each day to help you (and them) get stuff done. Work buddies can help and motivate each other to be productive, and even to get through tough and challenging workloads.
The benefit of having someone with you each day, who is willing to help you stop procrastinating and get stuff done, is that the temptation to slip away from work and watch internet videos or do household chores is completely removed. Having someone sat opposite you provides a good dose of social stigma that can help stop any potential procrastinator.
An alternative to this is finding a productive environment to work in. If you find that working from home leads to distraction and procrastination, consider finding an alternative place to work that is close to your home. Taking your productivity out of the home, and into a new environment, can help to transform your mindset and help put you in ‘work mode’. If you do do this, be sure to bring your work buddy along with you to give yourself an extra productivity boost.
Tip 6: Structure Your Days
We all know what it’s like when a day lacks structure and foresight; you wake up, ask yourself “what do I have to do today?”, and then find that you slip from hour to hour without actually getting anything done. The best way to combat this is to meticulously plan out your day beforehand, so that as soon as you wake up, you know exactly what you have to do and can get started right away.
Before you go to bed, or when you finish work each day, make a list of the tasks you need to get done the next day, ranked in order of priority, and keep this list by wherever you work. Then, when it comes to sitting down at your desk and starting work, you already have a firm roadmap for what your day will look like, and your chances of drifting around aimlessly are dramatically reduced.Planning from the previous night is one of the easiest ways to guarantee a productive day Click To Tweet
When you’re planning your days, remember to schedule your work in set time increments, of 20, 40, 60, or even 90, minutes, and to include short breaks after each block of work. Evidence shows that taking regular breaks helps us to retain information, give us time to reevaluate our goals, and helps prevent us from getting bored.
If you find yourself getting into a state of flow, and overrunning your time blocks, that’s more than ok, but it is important to remember to take regular breaks so that your mind has the chance to pause and recover: doing so will help you to be far more productive in the long run.
Have you found a solution to your procrastination problems?
Procrastinating is a tricky thing to stop, but once you build processes, incentives, and deadlines into your daily life, you can find that your motivation to work becomes greater than ever before, and you just start getting stuff done.
Finding out which solution works best for you can be a bit of trial and error, but if you try out each of the steps above, you’re sure to find one that works well for you.
Are we missing anything important? Please share your favorite tips for overcoming procrastination in the comments section below.