We are all guilty of procrastinating over daily tasks that we don’t want to do. Whether it’s repetitive or something that we don’t feel is a good use of our time. There are several reasons for procrastination. These include:
- We already feel overwhelmed
- The task may seem too difficult
- We may simply not like the task we need to complete
- We might have set an unrealistic expectation of ourselves
- We may not be sufficiently focused
- We may not be motivated enough
A 2014 study of over 700 Marketing students found that, although given four weeks to complete an assignment, 86% left handing in their work until the last day. 669 of the students were procrastinators and left it until the last minute to finish and submit their work.
Whatever the reason for your procrastination, there’s a number of strategies you can easily employ to help reduce the time you spend doing anything but what you’re supposed to be doing.
1. Accept that you procrastinate
Accept the fact that you procrastinate and understand how this affects your time and productivity. The realisation of your own procrastination will help you to better understand its causes and enable you to combat it.
What causes you to procrastinate? Are there certain warning signs you can identify to alert you that you’re not getting on with what you’re supposed to be doing? If you’re aware of the problem then you can ask for help to beat it, whether that’s requesting flexible hours or simply asking for a quiet space to work on a particular project.
Your tasks are your responsibility and no one else’s. Know that it’s down to you to get them done and procrastinating won’t help you achieve anything.
2. Jump right in
Get the most important things done first – without delay – just do them.
Quite often, the most important things are the least pleasant to complete and take up the most time. By competing these ‘to-do’s’ first, you remove a larger chunk of work from your daily schedule, which is both motivational and satisfying.
Leaving the difficult or time-consuming tasks until the end of the day will always create an uphill struggle to get everything completed.
You’ll not only leave the hardest thing to the part of the day when you’re least likely to be motivated to complete it, you’ll also negatively impact your outlook on your day, due to the unpleasant task looming over you.
3. Organise your workspace
Some of us thrive in a busy office, some of us prefer to work in peace and quiet. We’re all different and, as such, each of us has our own individual optimal environment for getting things done.
Take some time to think about the environment(s) that you work in; this maybe the office, your home work space or even a coffee shop. What is it about these places that helps or hinders your productivity?
Once you’ve discovered which environmental elements help you to focus and work through tasks productively, you can ensure that they’re part of your normal work space moving forward – while eliminating negative influences.
4. Adopt 20-10
By keeping your focused sessions to 20 minutes, you can remain totally focused on the task in hand and not start to get distracted.
The 10 minute respite allows you to recharge and check on other things if needed, without affecting your productivity.
Just breaking your day into more manageable, bite-sized, sessions is known to reduce procrastination and improve your productivity.
5. Simply be realistic
If a task requires a large part of the day to complete, then assign it the time needed. Trying to fool yourself into thinking that you can finish something in half the time will result in disappointment or a rushed assignment, that isn’t the best that you can do and will reflect poorly on you.
Time management is all about realistic expectations and managing those expectations in others too.
6. Schedule your day effectively
Optimise your day by working those times that suit your productivity (if possible). Some people naturally work more efficiently during the morning and others in the afternoon.
Request flexible working from your employer and take advantage of it to improve your productivity and reduce procrastination. With the ability to work from anywhere, and at any time of day, now the norm, thanks to SaaS solutions and mobile devices, there’s no restrictions on when or where you can be working through your daily tasks.
7. Go ‘old school’
Mobile phones offer us the ability to do many things on the go, but there’s still merit in using the traditional pen and paper to help reduce procrastination and effectively work towards a productive day.
The advantage that pen and paper has over your all-singing phone is that if you use a note-taking or scheduling app, you’ll invariably be distracted by another app or notification trying to grab your attention.
With most of us spending over 20 hours per week online (4 hours per day!), it’s become normal and, as such, we don’t necessarily realise what an impact our browsing is having on other tasks that we’re trying to complete.
A quick search for a song you’ve heard, answering an email or text, or just running through app notifications, all add up to a large amount of time taken away from what we’re supposed to be doing.
8. Use breaks wisely
There’s no point in taking breaks from your workload if you spend it staring at the same screen you’re using during your productive stages.
Get up and go for a walk outside, make a cup of tea or read a good book. Whatever it is that you choose to do on a break, make sure it’s something that allows your mind to recharge and return to your task refreshed and ready to continue at 100%.
9. Recognise and concentrate on the benefits
Personal reward is a powerful motivator. How will completing the task benefit you personally?
Self-motivation is an essential part of being productive, especially when faced with difficult tasks or those that we’re not looking forward to. If we’re aware of how completing a task will directly benefit us, then we’ll be more inspired to make a focused effort to get it done.