To procrastinate is to “voluntarily delay an intended course of action despite expecting to be worse off for the delay” (Steel, 2007).
No matter how many inspiring quotes we read and how hard we try to be focused, there are always certain days when your mind is just not listening. Maybe something’s happening in your life that distracts you from work, maybe you’re going through something or maybe it’s one of those days where everything seems to be piling up and you don’t even know where to get started!
Whatever the reason, you find yourself procrastinating at the workplace and at the end of the day, you look back on what you did, start thinking about what you could have accomplished and immediately feel both frustrated and disappointed.
This is a very common phenomenon though, there’s absolutely no reason to feel ashamed! While your colleagues may look like they’re powering through their work, their minds could be struggling just as much as yours. So, without further ado, let’s go through 8 ways to stop procrastinating at work.
A routine is paramount
The easiest way to avoid getting distracted is to have a well-established, reliable routine. When one starts the day, one may be full of energy, well-rested and ready to take on the day. A routine will enhance this morning’s energy by turning good habits such as eating a hearty breakfast and doing some morning yoga, into second nature customs.
As the day progresses, energy levels may fall, and your mind may start to get a little bored and wander. This is when the routine process showcases its benefits. By introducing ways to get your mind back on track in your daily routine, you can see your progress throughout the day. Feeling a bit down? Check the time! It might be time for lunch or an afternoon coffee or a 5-minute breathing exercise.
It’s important to remember that, while reinforcing good habits with a routine works well, you must also leave room for flexibility so as not to forget why you’re doing these actions and how they benefit you. Don’t be afraid to introduce changes too whenever something starts getting a bit dull. While it’s important to keep a relative structure consistent, the content of the routine can vary. Bottom line – don’t have smoothies for breakfast EVERY morning!
Prioritize your goals
Making to-do lists can be fun. But it can also be terrifying – seeing all the things you must do on one long piece of paper can make you more anxious and stressed instead of helping to clear your mind. Especially if you have included things due for next week, next month or even next year on the same list!
The best way to focus is to jot down your tasks by order of importance – whether that be because of a deadline or a time limit or because you know you’ve put it off long enough and it’s time it disappeared from the list!
Break down the tasks
Let’s face it – sometimes we expect a lot of ourselves and choose to add to a to-do list something that we know could take a matter of hours, days, weeks or even months and that task will hover over us the entire time, looming like a shadow.
Why put that kind of pressure on your shoulders? Instead, break down the larger or more complex tasks on your list into smaller and quicker tasks that can be done during the day. This way, your progress will be twice as effective, and you won’t see the task as such a major workload!
Need to finish a report by the end of the week? Split the work into 5 to allow for a more flexible, easier way to accomplish this task. Start with the title and introduction on the first day. Move on to the next paragraph the next day and before you know it, your work will be done right on time when you need it to be done. All it took was pacing yourself a little!
Shawn Achor, author of “The Happiness Advantage”, calls the 20-Second Rule. The rule suggests that we are much more likely to choose a task that takes less than twenty seconds to start that one that takes longer. This presents an exciting opportunity to battle procrastination: we need to make a good habit easy to start and replace pointless and unproductive one.
Reward your steps
Breaks are crucial when being productive. Working 24/7 is the least healthy thing you can do and the results will pale in comparison to the work you would produce with a balanced work style! That’s why it’s important to cut yourself some slack occasionally and let your mind switch off momentarily throughout the day.
Rewards can be a great way of encouraging yourself to get that annoying task out of the way or finally have that conversation with that lazy co-worker that you’ve been meaning to have for the past month! The best thing is YOU choose your reward – and who better to choose a prize that will invigorate and motivate you than the person who knows you best?
Just be careful not to reward yourself too often or make the reward greater than the effort!
One of the most powerful ways to motivate yourself is music. Whether you like hard rock or gentle piano while rain falls, if it helps you focus, have it in the background as you work!
Not only can music help your mind relax and concentrate on the task before you, but this is also a great way of blocking out other distractions and training your mind to know that, when you’re listening to this in the background, it’s time to get some work done.
Find music a little distracting? No problem! Listen to your favourite podcast or that new audiobook that your friends suggested as you grind through the day.
A rather new method of aiding your focus, CBT is believed by many to greatly increase your ability to concentrate by engaging your emotions, values and the behaviours directly linked to these.
Taking care of your mind plays an increasingly relevant role in how you work done and sometimes it’s hard to change behaviours we don’t know the reason behind. CBT helps people deal with underlying emotional and psychological conditions which may be at the root of high levels of anxiety or even depression-like symptoms.
Sometimes all it takes to better a situation is to gain a greater understanding of its occurrence!
Website blocking extensions
Certain extensions like Focusd powered by Google, for example, take blocking out distractions a step further.
Instead of simply telling yourself you won’t online shop at work or go into YouTube and lose track of time watching cat videos, why not choose an application that prevents you from even having the option to do so?
Extensions like these monitor your actions online and prevent you from accessing sites that you yourself deem as distracting! You may be surprised and how many times you absent-mindedly try to access said sites at first! As time passes, you’ll notice you get the urge less and less often and thus, get more work done and feel better at the end of the day! Hooray!
Mindfulness and mediation
Need we say more? The benefits of mindfulness and meditation have been presented and exalted by many health practitioners and have had such a powerful impact that many companies now hold seminars and team sessions as part of the employee advantages offered.
Clearing your mind and bringing it to a state of greater awareness and positivity will greatly increase your levels of motivation and will be reflected in your work as it will be infused with confidence and aspirations!
There is always room to grow, learn and be happier. That is why mindfulness and meditation will never cease to be effective as they help us navigate through our messy lives with less anxiety and more courage and validation!
A well-designed workspace
The physical work environment can play a significant role in increasing productivity and finishing tasks on time. Below are few ideas on how to use the place you work to stay focused:
- The workspace set up should allow you to switch body posture or even switch the work area when required. When we get stuck on a task or can’t find a solution to a problem, we start to look for new ways to move forward. The easy way out is to switch to another task and leave the difficult one for later. Sometimes we give up too easily. Instead of switching task a good way to regain focus and stay on track is changing the body posture or moving to another spot to continue work. It is a more productive way to respond. Different body posture, a new space can activate a fresh perspective, a new angle to look at the task on hand.
- Choose the space best suited for different work tasks you must complete. Time to focus and analyse a problem or understand the data – go for a quiet, secluded workspace arrangement. Brainstorming and creative work will be most effective and rewarding in a buzzing workspace, with other people around – a business lounge for instance. Video meeting will be most effective in a private meeting room. Clearing your email can be done using a dedicated desk for a few hours. Getting access to various workspace arrangements is accessible in coworking spaces. At Anytime Offices we provide access on pay as you use basis and have membership plans designed to provide on demand access to workspaces you need.
- Technology solutions – Technology is extremely important to retain focus and stay on track with work. Fast, reliable internet is a key. Unified communication tools are also extremely important. At Anytime Offices we have all tools required to enable you to do your best work (and to do it fast).
- Reduce distraction – Stress and overwhelm are amongst the greatest triggers of unproductive habits. Best way to reduce these triggers is to simply walk away from the source – find a new spot and resume your work.
- Breakout space – Breaks are essential to recharge at retain work productivity and focus. They are a great for expanding your professional network and collaborate. A good strong coffee is a must.
While for most of us having a versatile workspace set up at home may not be possible, there is a way to get access to one. Check out your local coworking space and see if you can find the workspace setup that works for you. There is no better place to re-focus and concentrate than coworking space, where everyone else around is working hard, where people celebrate successes and brainstorm ideas together. A space purpose-built to do your best work, efficiently. Fast internet, printer/copier/scanner, videoconferencing, business support, tea/coffee and snacks available, and most importantly – a community of like-minded professionals. Striving to achieve their goals and make their projects a success.
Being part of a business community at the coworking centre can be extremely rewarding. Seeing other people working can be motivating and energising. It can give you a boost you need to put your head down and deliver you best work yet.
There’s also the accountability factor – when you pay for the desk space or rent an office you will feel motivated to show up on the day and utilise the space you are paying for to it’s best potential. It is astonishing how many members agree that working from a coworking space increased their productivity drastically. They can accomplish more in a shorter amount of time.