Procrastination kills productivity. Whether you get lost in YouTube, scroll through Twitter, or tune into the news, all of these tasks stifle your productivity while you’re meant to be doing something else.
While occasional procrastination is nothing to worry about, finding that your days are often sidetracked by your wandering mind limits your potential.
Below, we introduce you to six methods for preventing procrastination that will help you to stay focused and remain on task during your working day.
Compartmentalize your work
One of the main causes of procrastination is the feeling of being overwhelmed. When you’re presented with a huge task by your boss, your heart may sink, and you imagine that you will never get it done by the stipulated deadline. Alternatively, you might be a freelancer and be planning to launch a huge project that you keep putting off.
For instance, let’s say you’re planning to write an e-book to sell on your website. You’ve wanted to do it for so long, but the thought of writing 50,000+ words, creating the artwork, formatting, and then publishing the book is nothing more than a pipe dream. When you think of it as one task, writing an e-book sounds incredibly daunting.
But when you compartmentalize it into chunks, it becomes much easier to process and add the tasks to your diary:
- Research the topic
- Create chapter outlines and sub-heading ideas
- Set a daily or weekly word target (5,000 words per week, for instance)
- Proofread and revise your manuscript
- Send the text for editing
- Prepare the graphics
- Format the e-book
Granted, these compartmentalized tasks are still challenging, but they’re no longer impossible. When you’re establishing your chunks of work like this, make sure you get SMART with the objectives. Knowing what’s realistic and how quickly you can deliver the work will keep you on task and ensure that you stay motivated throughout the entire project.
Although we’ve used an e-book project as an example, you can apply this tip to any type of work project that lands on your desk. If you make a task seem a lot more manageable from the outset, you are much less likely to procrastinate. So, while the planning phase takes a little more time, it’s undoubtedly worth it in the long run.
Vary your working environment
Procrastination often occurs when you’re all too familiar with your working environment. Equally, being too comfortable in your surroundings can make you lose sight of the task at hand, focusing instead on chilling out in front of Netflix or checking on your friends via social media.
With so many people working from home right now, the environment in which you work is so crucial to your productivity. If it is filled with distractions, procrastinating and putting off your tasks is far too easy.
Research shows that around 54% of Americans who work from home find it more distracting than going to the office. Still, both the home and traditional office present myriad distractions. Whether it’s impromptu chats over the office water cooler or the allure of your Xbox when working from home, it’s just as easy to get distracted and procrastinate in either setting.
It’s for this reason that variety is the spice of life when it comes to increasing your productivity. One of the best ways to avoid procrastinating is to hot-desk – the practice of working in different environments that stimulate productivity.
Sometimes, packing your laptop, phone, and diary into a bag and hopping on the bus to a co-working space in your city is just what you need to stave off procrastination. But wherever you work, you need to minimize your distractions, as we explain below.
Limit your access to distractions
Procrastination is made possible by distractions. When you’re faced with a task that you’re struggling to process, it’s so tempting to have a scroll through your favorite apps or strike up a conversation with your partner about this weekend’s plans to avoid getting to the job that requires your attention.
As mentioned, distractions abound in the office and at home, so procrastination is possible in both settings. While it’s impossible to eliminate all the distractions you are likely to face over the course of the day, here are some tips to minimize them:
- Use two phones – one for work and one for your personal life. Your work phone should be free from social media apps, games, streaming services, and any other distraction you can think of. During your workday, set your personal phone to ‘do not disturb’ and leave it in your bag when you’re working. You will see your procrastination opportunities greatly limited as a result.
- Optimize your workspace. It’s no surprise that people procrastinate when you take a look at their workspaces! Whether it’s reams of paper, various gimmicks, or tablets and other devices, the more cluttered your workspace is, the harder it is to stay focused on your task at hand. Optimizing your workspace will further limit your opportunities to divert your attention from the job you need to do.
- Stay away from email. Email is a killer of productivity and an easy way to procrastinate. You could spend an entire day working through your emails, but it will almost certainly do you no good! A good tactic is to dedicate a specific window during each day to respond to your emails. This will prevent you from logging in at all hours of the day to check your correspondence when you should be doing something else.
- Stop scheduling meetings. Meetings are often an enormous waste of time. Whether via Zoom or in person, calling your colleagues together to talk about something is just detracting your attention from your most pressing tasks. Before you schedule a meeting, make sure it’s absolutely necessary to get the job done. If you can get by with a quick phone call or text message, it will save you so much time and ensure you can remain focused on your tasks.
Ultimately, removing as many distractions as you can from your daily routine will make procrastination so much more difficult. While it won’t stop it completely, it will help you keep on task and ensure you have the best possible chance of getting the job done on time.
Turn to soothing music
Research indicates that calming background music can improve productivity and performance in adults. While scrolling endlessly through Spotify is just another way to procrastinate and distract you from your tasks, playing some gentle, uplifting background music may actually help to keep you on task.
If you can, play the music offline. If you head on to YouTube to find a playlist, you will soon find yourself down a black hole that you can’t escape from! So, when used the right way, soothing music can help to increase productivity and stave off procrastination.
Clarify your goals and objectives
Another reason that procrastination is so pronounced today is that many of us aren’t specific enough with our goals and objectives. If you can’t understand the why behind a project, it’s difficult to muster the required motivation to get the job done.
Just like compartmentalizing big tasks is transformative, clarifying the overarching goals and objectives of a project is a great way to channel your productivity. To return to the aforementioned e-book project, fully understanding why you’re writing it in the first place will help you stay on task.
Maybe it will help you attract new clients to your website, or perhaps it will serve as an additional source of passive income. Whatever your goals and objectives are, articulating them and always keeping them in mind will prevent procrastination and provide you with a much better chance of reaching your targets.
Reduce the need for decision making during your day
Did you know that adults typically make 35,000 decisions every single day? Granted, most of these don’t warrant any thought at all, but it still highlights just how hard your brain works throughout the day.
If you regularly procrastinate, you will find that decision-making takes up far too much of your time. Choosing which shoes to wear in the morning, deciding on where to go for lunch, thinking about how to respond to a customer query, etc., can all eat away at your productivity.
Wherever possible, try and reduce the need for decision-making during your day. In other words, stick to your gut instinct and proceed with things as planned. A great way to limit decision-making during working hours is to plan the night before. For instance:
- Lay your outfit out before you go to bed
- List the most important tasks you need to do the following day
- Plan your meals (and venues) and stick to them
- Set aside time for socializing and checking your social apps
You will be amazed at how effective planning in advance is when it comes to reducing procrastination. While the above tips won’t solve all of your issues, they will help to keep you focused as you try and keep on task during the day ahead.
While we all procrastinate from time to time, taking the necessary steps to do something about it will greatly help your productivity. We hope you now have all the information you need to improve your concentration and focus and can set about completing your tasks in a timely and effective manner.