No matter how motivated you feel to complete a task, sometimes ‘tomorrow’ seems like a more appealing option than ‘today’…
Whether you’re putting it off because you know it’s going to take a lot of time to complete, you’re not interested enough in the topic to research it, or there’s something far more ‘urgent’ taking up your time – we’re all guilty of procrastination.
But, what if we told you that you can beat procrastination, just by making a few simple alterations? Here’s how to make productivity come first over procrastination:
- Be honest about your distractions
First things first, you need to figure out what the main culprits of your procrastination actually are.
It could be that you’re prone to excessive workplace chatting, you can’t resist checking your phone every five minutes, or you always manage to find a series of other ‘incredibly important’ jobs to do to avoid your main task (e.g. emailing, desk cleaning, making tea, deciding to feng shui your entire workspace because you’ve decided your office isn’t quite ‘Zen’ enough, etc.)
Once you’ve figured out what distracts you most, you need to cut them out from your day-to-day as much as possible.
Try working with headphones in, for example, or, you know, actually turning your phone off. And if you can’t handle surrounding mess – clean before you start working.
Everyone’s idea of a perfect working environment is totally different, and doing your best to make yours work for you is absolutely vital to adopting an efficient work ethic.
- Identify your productivity triggers
Let’s face it, all of us have been given a task we’re just not in the mood for. You want to do it, but your brain just doesn’t quite feel like cooperating on that particular day.
To tackle your potentially fickle moods, use them to your advantage. Because if you’re selective with the tasks you choose to do (and pick them accordingly), you might find your work gets done quicker as a result.
For example, if you’re not feeling particularly creative, choose an admin-based task. That way, you’re avoiding wasting time and effort on something you probably won’t even manage to start – and your work could be done to a better standard as a result.
Figure out when you’re at your most productive, and you’ll start using your time more effectively.
- Make a deadline diary
Having a lot of deadlines loomingover you at once can make it even more difficult to tackle them.
To avoid confusion or stress-induced procrastination, always organise your tasks and deadlines into a succinct and doable list. Categorise them according to level of importance, estimated amount of time they’ll take, and the type of task they are.
Depending on your working style, you might find it easier to do certain tasks before others. Leaving the more time-consuming ones till last could ensure they get (and maintain) your full concentration. Additionally, grouping similar tasks together might make them easier to complete
By adopting a more streamlined way of working, procrastination won’t seem as tempting.
- Break tasks down
When your tasks are seemingly too big to even imagine completing, breaking them up into individual components could help – not to mention make starting them much less overwhelming.
With more manageable projects, you’ll be able to track your progress as you go, giving yourself a boost of motivation each time you tick a box – instead of potentially getting halfway through a huge piece of work, and feeling like you’ve gotten nowhere.
Not only will this make you feel more productive, you’ll also be able to better visualise your end goal. Just remember: never bite off more than you can chew, and be realistic with your expectations.
Ambition is good, but trying to tackle a week’s worth of jobs in one day is not.
- Give yourself consequences (and rewards)
Giving yourself something to work towards could be exactly what you need to boost your motivation and actually get things done.
Trial working on a reward and consequence basis, and make sure the ones you set yourself are something you’re actually likely to enforce.
For example, allowing yourself to have a quick coffee break after finishing a task is a realistic and achievable incentive. But rewarding yourself with the afternoon off probably falls into the unobtainable field.
The same goes for consequences. Setting up a system that you’ll actually follow through with will provide you with a real incentive to get things done.
- Don’t beat yourself up
For reasons out of your control, sometimes you just won’t be able to get everything done.
But pushing yourself too hard or stressing too much over deadlines will only make you less likely to achieve them.
After all, procrastination is often caused by being too overwhelmed to tackle a task, or from fear that you won’t be able to do it – causing you to give up all together.
So, instead of simply powering through with no end, give yourself the occasional break. This will avoid burnouts, and make you even more productive when you get back to work.