Everybody procrastinates at some point in their work week, even those who we look up to as productivity gurus or the hardest working person in the office.
Knowing that procrastination is a natural part of life is the first step in understanding that there are strategies that can help you stop procrastinating and get back to you. We will be covering these strategies in this article and show how you can get the most out of each day.
But first, what exactly is procrastination? Put simply, procrastination is the act of putting things off and failing to do the task that needs to be carried out within the set timeframe. There are many reasons why people procrastinate and look at avoiding starting or completing a certain task. These include:
- A lack of motivation
- A gap in their knowledge on how to start or complete the task
- Fear of failing at the task
- A desire to rebel purposely show disinterest in the work
- A general lack of interest in the task or area of work
Procrastination in your daily life may not have as much an impact, but at work and in a corporate setting procrastination can be a major source of conflict. If your procrastination leads to missed deadlines or a sub-standard level of work this can cause friction amongst workers and management, as well as between an organization and its clients.
Therefore, although there may be times where we wished we could work on a more interesting project, we need to find a way to stop procrastination at work. Here are the top strategies that can help you move past these internal roadblocks, stop procrastinating and get back to work.
Start & Complete Mudance Tasks First
One of the key sources of procrastination is a lack of interest in the task at hand. You just spare at your computer screen, to-do list or what needs to be done and can’t find the energy to start due to a lack of interest.
To overcome this challenge a common strategy productive people employee is to start their day with the most mundane tasks first. As you are likely to be fresh and focused at the start of the workday adopting this strategy lets you get the mundane tasks out of the way quickly.
In fact, simply completing a series of tasks can break procrastination at work as you very quickly find yourself on a roll, completing task after task. Once these mundane tasks have been completed you can then move on to the tasks that you find more interesting or challenging, all while knowing that you don’t need to go back and find time in your day to complete that task that you really don’t like doing.
Just Get Started
Most of the time, people delay starting a task and come up with many excuses, and this can lead to procrastination and many hours wasted staring at your computer screen.
To overcome this you just need to snap your figures and get started on the task immediately. You need to start making progress, no matter how minimal it may seem. If you commit to this process you will very quickly find yourself halfway through the task and well on the way to completing it.
This can stop procrastination in its tracks and remove the unnecessary stress you face knowing that there is still so much left to do in the day. Essentially, changing your mindset and having a positive attitude towards the task can help break procrastination in the workplace.
If avoiding starting a task at all is the number one productivity killer, then distractions in the workplace are likely number two. Not only do distractions make a person less focused on the tasks at hand, but it is easy to lose motivation and clarity of thought if you are constantly interrupted throughout the day.
Therefore removing distractions in the workplace goes a long way in stopping procrastination at work and letting you get on with the task at hand. Some common causes of distraction, whether at home or work, include:
- Access to social media on your computer or smartphone
- Background noise from TV’s, construction work or your colleague’s conversations
- Colleagues who want to talk or engage about non-work related issues
To stop distractions having an impact on your productivity you should try and place yourself in a quiet part of the office. If you don’t have the freedom or flexibility of “hot desks” in your office then booking a meeting room for a couple of hours can be a great “retreat” and place where you can focus on your tasks in solitude.
In addition to that to stop your own mind wandering you should log out of social media applications online or put your phone away and in a draw. That way you can still hear it if it rings but won’t constantly have it by your side, tempting you to pick it up and see what the latest updates are.
Finally, when it comes to colleagues who constantly break your chain of thought and want to chat you can either politely respond with “I’m really sorry but I need to get this task done by x”, or if you prefer a more subtle approach put some headphones in. Even if they aren’t playing any music it gives the impression that you are focused and not to be disturbed.
Say “No” To Multitasking
Despite what you may think, multitasking doesn’t make you more productive. In fact, all your are doing is spreading your own processing power across multiple tasks. And every time you switch between tasks opens up the risk of procrastination and distractions.
So while we sometimes need to juggle multiple things at a time, one of the best strategies to stop procrastination at work is to focus on one task at a time. Doing so lets you get “in the flow” with that task and very quickly see your productivity spike.
If you find you often get caught up switching between multiple tasks, or even switching between tasks and your inbox as notifications ping to let you know you have a new email, its best to eliminate these distractions. For example, you can turn off notifications or commit to completing a specific task before you allow yourself the opportunity to see what new emails may have come in.
Use Time Management Methods
There are some time management methods that one can adapt to avoid being overwhelmed by various tasks and hence avoid procrastination.
One of the common methods is called the Pomodoro technique, where a person uses a timer to organize their work schedule. With this method a person allocated 25 minutes to focused work, followed by a five minute break. This is repeated over and over again until 4 cycles or two hours of work are complete. At this point you take a slightly longer break before starting the process over again.
While the Pomodoro Technique is one method, it is not the only one. To avoid procrastination you need to find a method that works for you. This might be working for an hour at a time. Or instead, focus on completing one task before taking a break for 5 minutes and then starting on the next one.
Plan Out Your Day And Assign Deadlines
One sure fire way to stop procrastinating is to hold yourself accountable for your work. Setting deadlines for each task can reduce the probability of procrastination, especially when you have someone to hold you to account to that deadline.
By setting deadlines you are essentially putting a hard stop on when a task needs to be completed by. The trick here though is to ensure that deadlines are sufficiently challenging to meet. There is no point in setting a deadline a week away for a task that should only take an hour or two. Instead set a deadline to have that task completed by the end of the day.
With numerous tasks, it can, however, become a challenge to track and manage what you are working on and when a task is due. That’s why adopting a task management tool that allows you to set and track deadlines can be beneficial.
An alternative to setting deadlines for specific tasks is to use the timeboxing method to break procrastination at work. Timeboxing is a way of allocating each activity that a person plans to carry out a specific time known as a time box. For example you from 9am to 10am each day you respond to customer emails. From 10am to 11am you process invoices.
Timeboxing helps in two ways. First of all, it removes any question over what tasks you should work on and when. Secondly, t also provides a dedicated period of time which forces you to ignore distractions if you are going to stand any chance of completing all of the work in the time period you provided.
As we have shown procrastination may not be an easy thing to avoid every day, but being aware of your potential to procrastinate and the strategies to break the cycle can help get you back on track quicker. Overall the core message is to just start. It is the process of starting that breaks procrastination initially. Each of the other strategies can help maintain that focus and ensure the ability for distractions to creep in is greatly reduced.