5 practical tips to prevent procrastination
You know the feeling – something’s been on your to-do list for ages. You’ll have to get it done soon… but whoops, now it’s the end of the workday. Guess you’ll have to put it off until tomorrow!
Unless you’re Leslie Knope, from the TV show Parks & Recreation, you’ve probably procrastinated more than a few times. Putting off personal tasks is one thing, but procrastinate too long at work, and there could be serious consequences. So how do you avoid this tempting time-stealer?
Here are some practical tips to prevent procrastination.
Figure out your procrastination pattern
Take a look at some of the tasks you’ve been putting off, and think about why you’re doing it. No, I don’t mean “sit in the corner and think about what you’ve done” – this is about figuring out the root cause of your hesitation. Are you a perfectionist? Do you have too much to do? Do you have things you don’t really want to do?
If your workload is a little high, take some time to prioritize, and make sure you’re keeping productive all day.
If, on the other hand, you’re putting off an unpleasant task, try to understand why you’re avoiding it. Is it client calls? Invoices? What is it about this task that’s turning you off? Once you know what you’re really avoiding, look for some relevant advice online, or talk to your manager and ask if there’s any support you can receive. Perhaps they can point you to some resources on taking the stress out of phone calls (or invoicing). Everyone has things they don’t like to do, and your manager will surely appreciate your initiative.
But what if there’s nothing on your to-do list you want to do? If this is a regular occurrence, maybe your current role isn’t the one for you. When every day feels like a slog, it may be time to consider making a career change.
Don’t wait for inspiration
It’s a sad truth, but one we eventually learn as adults: Sometimes a task just needs to be done, even if we don’t want to do it. It might be tempting to wait until you’re actually in the mood to, say, fill out your own performance review, but that mood might come later than you think. There will be times when you have to drag your feet through it – just don’t let that be an excuse for producing sub-par work.
…But you can help it along
A little motivation can go a long way. Pick some inspiring quotes that mean something to you, and post them around your desk. If you’re allowed to change your computer or phone background, pick a nice picture with a quote, or maybe something that reminds you of why you want to get the tasks done. Want to earn that bonus and take your friend out for a birthday lunch? Use a fun photo of the two of you!
On the audio side, some upbeat music may be just the thing to get you into your working groove. It could even be a team effort – I’m pretty sure I’ve heard some “Eye of the Tiger” coming from the sales department in our office more than once.
Are you more motivated by external rewards? Work a break, snack, or video into your day as a treat for finishing your next task (or the next step, if it’s a bigger project).
Get yourself ready first
It’s easy to talk yourself out of doing something when you know it’ll take a lot of steps just to prepare. So why not remove that barrier? Before you leave for lunch, open the files you need on your computer, or set the paperwork in the middle of your desk. When you come back, all you have to do is the actual grunt work – and it’ll be over before you know it.
There’s another bonus here: for the moment, you’re restricting yourself to the first step. You can momentarily put off the rest of the task, because all you’re doing right now is the setup!
If you can’t beat it, plan your procrastination
Okay, so you’ve tried the other methods, and yet you can’t bring yourself to start on that presentation deck. If you know you’re going to put it off (and you can afford to do so), make your procrastination work for you. Set a timer for fifteen minutes, and do something productive: check your email, or give that motivation a boost by watching some Ted Talks. When the timer goes off, no more excuses, it’s time to get the job done… but you’ve also made a little part of your brain happy by putting it off just a bit longer.
Procrastination is a very human thing to do, and is something that nearly everyone does. Using these tips, though, you can reduce the effect procrastination has on your work habits and stop those incomplete tasks from hanging over your head, which is sure to make both you and your boss happy.
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