I wrote a post a while ago about the various ways procrastination can be good for you. The thing is, there are only certain circumstances where it can be helpful. The rest of the time, procrastination is a complete pain in the bum, a habit that can rob you of time, ruin your productivity and make you feel generally crappy about having achieved nothing.
The thing about procrastinating is, you’re probably doing it right now. You’re probably reading this post instead of writing a blog post or replying to a tricky email, or cleaning your kitchen. Or perhaps after reading this post, you will move on to cleaning the kitchen to avoid filling in your tax return.
Here are 5 clever tips to help you knock the procrastination on the head…
1. Set a Deadline
I mentioned this in last week’s post about things that can hinder your productivity. It’s taken me a long while to realise that in order to be more productive, I need a deadline. Without a deadline, I can put a task off almost indefinitely – even if it’s something I actually want to do. Even with a deadline, I can procrastinate until right before said deadline. Yesterday evening I was presenting a talk about how to use Facebook for business. I wrote the presentation a little while beforehand, so that my colleagues could check it over – but I didn’t even consider running through the talk itself until an hour before I was due to give it. I thrive on deadlines!
2. Use the Pomdoro Technique – or similar
The Pomodoro Technique is an approach where you set a timer for twenty-five minutes, with a short break before another twenty-five-minute stint. A lot of people swear by this as a way of getting things done – you commit to getting your head down for twenty-five minutes, with no interruptions, with the promise of a five minute break at the end. Even the most boring or irritating task in the world can be done for just twenty-five minutes, if you know an alarm will go off at the end. I’ve used this sort of thing for reading boring texts when I was studying, and it worked quite well.
3. Remove Yourself from Distractions
A lot of the time it’s hard to remove distractions from your immediate surroundings. I work from home, and the only way to remove the distraction of the never-ending washing pile or the clutter on the kitchen island is to sort them out – both of which would count as procrastinating. By removing myself from the distractions though – for example, spending an hour with my laptop in a coffee shop – I can get twice as much work done.
4. Build Momentum with Quick Wins
Quite often, once you get going with the work, you can build up enough momentum to keep going all day. It’s just the getting going that’s a problem! Take a look at your to-do list, and mark any task that will take you less than five minutes to complete. Then go through and get those done. Ticking a few things off your list will make it look better, and also make you feel better about getting the rest of the tasks done.
5. Break Down Your Big Tasks
When a task is really big, it’s hard to know where to start. And if you’re not sure where to start, you often just don’t bother, putting it off until later. I used to do this all the time as a teenager with a messy bedroom; with that much mess, it was hard to know where to start, so I just lay on the bed and read a book instead! As any terminally messy teenager with a nagging mother will tell you though, eventually you just have to make a start somewhere. With tidying my bedroom, that meant tackling the discarded clothing first, and then moving on to the cups and plates to be taken downstairs to be washed. With my work, it means breaking the great, big, nasty jobs into small, easy-to-complete, bite-sized chunks.
Jazzygal · 29/05/2015 at 07:26
This is so me. In fact I have a blog post about procrastinating in my head but it has never made it onto my blog, due to my procrastinating! I completely agree with nos 1 and 2. I cannot spend too long at a task. And I think I’m still that messy teenager when it comes to a very big task!
Thismummylark · 29/05/2015 at 10:30
Removing distractions is my biggest problem, my phone especially. I could spend hours flicking between facebook, instagram and blogs!
Jane · 29/05/2015 at 18:18
Amazingly it was only recently that I found out about procrastination (to give you an idea, the big 60 birthday party is looming nearer and nearer). I thought I basically had a lazy streak, it was suddenly so reassuring to think “no, I just suffer from procrastination”. Doesn’t solve the problem though – so your hints are very helpful!
IAmKat · 29/05/2015 at 20:40
A great post! I definitely need to give the Pomdoro technique a go on my next OU module. I am normally pretty good at getting stuff done but when it comes to assignments I am definitely the Queen of Procrastination.
Vicky Charles · 30/05/2015 at 09:52
Pomodoro works really well if you have really boring, dry text to read – because you can promise yourself only 25 minutes. Seems less daunting than constantly checking how many pages are left of the chapter!
Carol · 30/05/2015 at 02:15
This is a great list. I recently learned about the Pomodoro technique, and it really works. It just isn’t difficult to convince yourself to work on something for just 25 minutes. Breaking down tasks is also a good tactic. All good ways to beat procrastination.
Vicky Charles · 30/05/2015 at 13:56
I know what you mean Carol, I can usually convince my inner lazy so-and-so to only work for 25 minutes!
Chris Warren · 30/05/2015 at 15:23
My boss taught me a lot about deadlines. She will assign a task, including a specific time by which it is to be completed, and also expect that she be notified when it is done. She can at times be in-your-face, but I respect her for her backbone, clarity, and not leaving wiggle room. Nobody can say they didn’t know what she wanted.
As for my blogging, my self-imposed deadline is a new article posted every Friday night. I can stretch that as late as Saturday afternoon if needed. After I make a Friday post, I take a breather until Monday, when I start on my next article. My biggest problem is coming up with a topic. Most of my hours are not lost to procrastination, but to fussing over what I want to write about. Once I get over that hump, I can crank out an article fairly quickly.
Vicky Charles · 31/05/2015 at 17:20
Ah, I can relate to that too – I go through stages where I really struggle to think of something to write about! Have you seen my post about maintaining your blogging momentum? That approach has really helped me.