Contributed by Ashley Andrews
A colleague of mine at our office told me about a breakthrough he had made years ago when he worked from home.
He used to procrastinate a lot during the work day. He’d say, “I’ll just watch the cricket on TV today, and catch up tomorrow”. Then, the next day, there would be another excuse.
Eventually, after a warning from his boss, he reined this in, and stopped procrastinating. Not surprisingly, he saw a corresponding rise in his productivity. This got him thinking about his productivity. Now that he was changing habits, he decided to try to become even more productive. He realized that the less he procrastinated, the more time he gained back and so he started working on better utilizing that time he was gaining.
Ultimately, he found that he made two separate gains. One was from not procrastinating, and working through that corresponding time gained, and the second was from using that time in a better fashion.
So, like him, you could do one, but not the other, and make certain gains, or you can do both, and turbo-boost your productivity.
Let’s start by looking at how to reduce procrastination.
Many people struggle to find workable solutions for procrastination and counteract its impact on productivity. This is a remarkably common problem. Almost everyone dithers to some extent but, for some, procrastination bad becomes a habit. Here are some tips to help break it:
1. Determine why you’re procrastinating
If you don’t identify the underlying problem, you won’t be able to break it; so take time to understand exactly why you procrastinate. Different people have different reasons and here are some of the more common ones to consider:
- You want to avoid a particular task and consider it boring and unpleasant.
- You haven’t organized your schedule and you don’t know what to work on first.
- You feel overwhelmed by the task and fear that you will fail to get it done properly.
- You are a perfectionist and have a hard time getting started since your results are less than perfect.
Prolonged procrastination can also be a sign of underlying mental health problems such as OCD, ADHD, depression, and or anxiety. It is also a known cause of depression or anxiety; so if you can’t discard this habit regardless of all efforts, it might be time to seek professional assistance to help you overcome it.
2. Strategies to eliminate procrastination
Breaking the habit can be very difficult. You need to actively try to avoid procrastinating and consciously change your behavior pattern in order to get rid of the habit entirely. This requires time, focus, patience, and commitment. Here are some tips that can help you stop procrastinating and help you manage your time better:
- Get into a positive mindset regarding your past procrastination and focus on improving in the present.
- Focus on the task you need to do instead of avoiding it. A to-do list can help you keep things organized.
- Prioritize tasks on your to-do list and get the most important ones out of the way first.
- Tackle the most difficult and demanding tasks when you have the energy to do so.
- Assign a specific time to your task and make it a point to complete it within that time-frame.
- Reward yourself every time you accomplish something and complete a task on time.
- Don’t delay tasks if you have time on hand. For example, there are times when you may have something to do but don’t need to do it immediately; its best to complete even the non-urgent tasks now and take a break later.
- Eliminate distractions by placing your phone on silent and shutting off all social media alerts.
Now let’s move on to how to improve productivity.
1. Take breaks
Your mind isn’t capable of staying focused on a particular task for an extended period of time; so take a short 2 to 5-minute break after every hour of work to walk around, listen to music, or to simply close your eyes and relax. You can also try to work in 90-minute intervals and take a 10-minute long break. Research suggests this is one of the best ways to improve overall productivity.
2. Don’t multitask
Multitasking might sound impressive but it does nothing for productivity. Instead of trying to multitask, focus on one project at a time, complete it and then move on to the next. You’ll get the work done at a faster pace and make fewer mistakes.
Don’t fall for the illusion of multitasking. People talk about doing multiple jobs at once, like changing gears, looking in mirrors and steering while driving a car. The fact is, though, that’s all part of one job. Multi-tasking would include doing all the separate tasks of driving while also checking your email on your phone, which you definitely should not be doing!
3. Incorporate exercise
Exercise will get your blood pumping and revitalize your mind. to boost productivity, it’s important to incorporate exercise into your schedule. This serves a dual purpose of keeping you healthy and ensuring you can focus better on your tasks. Exercise doesn’t have to be physically intensive or time-consuming. Just take a jog or a brisk walk before or after work to ensure you’re healthy and your mind is in a good position to work.
4. Make better use of your commute time
Instead of browsing through your social media accounts, take time to deal with emails, messages, make notes around your projects, and jot down any ideas you might have. This allows your mind to switch to work mode so that when you enter the work-space, you’re primed and ready to focus on the project immediately.
5. Take ownership of your time
Realize that only you has a right to your time. Take ownership of that. Let people know you don’t want any distractions and that you’re focusing on work. Don’t promise to answer emails immediately and set time aside to reply to messages after you’ve completed your assigned task.
6. Create the right environment
A messy or disorganized environment can have an impact on your productivity and mood. Make sure your office is pleasant, well-lit, and clean. This will reduce the number of distractions and help you focus better on your work.
And finally, let’s develop an overall strategy.
There’s a lot to work with here. Break it into the two respective components, so that you may improve in each.
What in the procrastination section makes sense to you? Work on that, and come up with a plan for that.
And separately, what in the productivity section makes sense? Work that that, and come up with a separate plan for that.
You will then get the benefits from improving in each, and your productivity will soar!
Ashley Andrews is an Inbound Marketing Strategist at Activia Training, a UK-based training provider specialising in improving delegates’ workplace performance in business skills, management development and IT applications. Ashley is passionate about sales and management issues, and regularly blogs about these – and many other topics – on the Activia blog.