Procrastination is something that’s easy to be guilty of, and not so easy to avoid. But it can be avoided successfully, with these effective measures.
Never do today what you can put off for tomorrow.
That doesn’t quite sound right, does it? It sounds very wrong in fact, but that’s exactly the principle behind procrastination. It’s something that most of us have probably been guilty of at some point, and it’s especially easy to turn it into a bad habit.
Leaving things off until the last minute doesn’t make sense. There’s always the very real risk that you don’t meet your deadline. And even if you do get things done by the deadline, you don’t produce your best results because you hurried as fast as you can to get it done. When you’re worried about finishing something on time, the quality of the project won’t be your first priority.
Most of us do realize that procrastination is a rather self-destructive habit, but it’s hard to shed. But it can be done, and you can do it today. Don’t even think about putting it off for tomorrow.
1. Set Yourself Deadlines in Advance
Let’s say you have a project to finish in a month. If you’re a procrastinator, it won’t be surprising if you suddenly work around the clock on the last weekend just to finish it on time.
Perhaps you’re used to this habit of rushing the work against a deadline. If that’s the case, then maybe you can give yourself weekly deadlines instead. Break down the project into 4 major parts, and schedule a week to finish each section.
You can even divide each section into 5 parts, so you have deadlines to finish each day. If you’re really determined to get everything done on time, you can even divide the work for the day into several sections, so you can have something finished by lunchtime and another section done by the end of the day.
2. Create a Schedule
Get a timer to use, and a list of your schedule to glance at constantly. By giving yourself daily and weekly deadlines, you shouldn’t be too far behind as the month ends.
However, the realities of life can intrude a bit. Plans change and things happen that can change your schedule. The problem when you miss a deadline at some point during the middle of the project is that you start to disregard the schedule and calendar entirely.
You can find apps that can transfer uncompleted tasks from one day to the next. That should help motivate you to get to work because you will have a very long list of tasks to complete if you procrastinate.
3. Avoid Distractions
Just what is it in your office that are catching your attention? If you’re distracted by office chatter, maybe you can use headphones to listen to music. There are even apps and websites that offer background sounds to boost creativity and block office noise. They also add some ambiance to your workplace if your office is too quiet.
Plenty of people who work online are distracted by various websites or by computer games. You may want to remove the shortcuts to these sites and programs to at least make it harder for you to distract yourself from your work.
4. Reward Yourself After Each Completed Task
This can be anything, such as a favorite snack or a terrific cup of coffee afterward. The anticipation of receiving that reward can spur you to move. This will work if you deny yourself this reward until you actually finish a task.
5. Take a Break (and Use an Alarm)
Sometimes you get into a great workflow and you get things done for an extended period of time. That’s great, but then fatigue sets in. You get tired and you rest, and then suddenly that rest period continues for so long because you’re no longer in the mood to work.
It’s best if you take a break every now and then, even when you’re in a nice workflow. You can try to simulate a school schedule mentality, by scheduling chunks of work periods broken off by 5-minute or 10-minute breaks. You can also pencil in 30-minute breaks in the morning and the afternoon.
So perhaps you can work from 8:30 AM to 9:10 AM. After a 10-minute break, you can resume work from 9:20 to 10 AM. “Recess” ends at 10:30 AM, and then you have another 90 work session with a 10-minute break right in the middle. Break for lunch, and then schedule your afternoon in the same way.
This works very well with an alarm. Get an app that sounds an alarm for rest and then for work resumption. You may have to train your brain to start working whenever the alarm sounds, but that’s easy enough. It worked for Pavlov’s dogs after all!
6. Schedule More Important Tasks at the Start of the Day
One of the reasons why it’s hard to start working right away is the feeling that the task you’re supposed to do isn’t all that important. Or maybe it’s very easy to do, so you think you can read another article online about your favorite football team.
But you can change this when you schedule a hard task right at the beginning of the workday. That means you can’t tell yourself that there’s no harm putting things off. You know you have to start working. It’s similar to the feeling you get when you procrastinate and then realize you really need to start working.
When you do finish that important task right at the start of the workday, it gives you a very satisfying feeling. It’s a feeling that you can get used to, and that can help to motivate you to start working on the other tasks scheduled for the day.
7. You Can’t Be Perfect All the Time
If you tend to procrastinate, then you know for a fact that you’re not perfect. Ironically, some people put off completing a task because they’re perfectionists. If this description fits you as well, then you may need to follow the clock instead of your sense of perfectionism. In some cases, you can still go back to some parts of your work so you can improve them.
Lots of procrastinators are actually great workers. They can work under pressure, show some flexibility, and know how to improvise. But procrastination is simply not good for anyone. It’s too stressful, and too often the quality of the work suffers. Stop procrastinating today—it’s for your own good!
Check out these 9 Simple Productivity Hacks for New Digital Nomads