How to overcome procrastination

Just another day at work

Imagine your common day at work. You just came to the office, made your coffee and turned on a computer. First, you check your emails, go quickly through the most urgent ones, next you check your notes from the previous day and you have some general vision of tasks for today. You will start by answering the client’s e-mail, but… Let’s start with a quick glance at Facebook. Some feed scrolling… Oh, what a cute, little kitty! Okay, 2 more posts and I will get back to work. 'What the heck — the new iPhone was announced? Hm… Let’s check this article. Done! Oh, I’ve forgotten to invite Alex on LinkedIn! And Mike has changed his job…’

After half an hour, you see that you have done nothing. So you mobilize yourself and write to a client, in the meantime, you realize that you need additional information from your coworker. You write to him on a company chat, but he is not responding. Impulsively, you turn on Facebook, start reading the feed... And so on. Sounds familiar?

What is procrastination and why should we care?

According to the Oxford dictionary:

The action of delaying or postponing something.

Basically, it is not doing what you have to do and postponing it for later, looking for excuses, doing unnecessary stuff. All of those things which interrupt your everyday work ( Facebook, constant email checking, reading news ), not finishing tasks, jumping between them.

And it affects not only your professional life. I am certain that you can remember many situations when instead of tidying up or cooking a meal for the next day you have spent hours on the Internet - scrolling through various pages, watching sitcoms, etc.

Cheer up! You are not alone — according to the RateSetter’s report, based on a YouGov survey of over 2000 adults, the average Brit spends incredible 218 minutes procrastinating per day, adding up to 55 days of lost time each year. British businesses lost every year equivalent of £76 billion because of the procrastinating employees.

How to overbear it?

Make a to-do list

How are you going to finish your tasks if you don’t know what is left? One of the simplest solutions is making a to-do list. Start at the end of a working day — think a while and note all of the tasks for the next day (you may also want to sort them by projects). Check your email, both inbox and sent messages (people often read/write an email and forget about it).

Fill the missing tasks and update the list in the morning. During the day, you will be able to check what’s left and cross out finished ones (what a great feeling).

Eat this frog

Mark Twain once said: “Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day". Of course, it’s a metaphor and interference in your diet is not my intention, but it is a good habit to do the worst things at the beginning. Why? Because pending hard tasks are leading you to a dog’s life.

Check your list and start from the hardest, awful tasks. You will feel much better knowing that you don’t have to worry about them anymore.

Get rid off distractions, private email and Facebook

Don’t log-in to your private email, Facebook and other social media. If you really need to check it at work, do it on your smartphone or at least in the web browser incognito mode. If it’s too easy to check it, you are deluded to feel that it will take just a few seconds.

There are two main issues with that:

  • It is usually longer.
  • You lose your focus — it takes, on average, 25 minutes to resume a task after being interrupted. Which leads us to the next point:

Stop multitasking

You’re bad at that. Really. How do I know? Because we all are. Multitasking is the ability to perform more than one task or activity over a short period (1 hour) of time. Many studies show that it is decreasing your productivity drastically and even makes you unhappy.

You probably think that you’re the exception, but trust me — you’re not. As it is a topic for another article, I will not elaborate further now.

Try Pomodoro technique

It is hard to constantly focus, you just have to make some breaks. So how does it work? You need a to-do list, a pen and a timer:

  • Pick a task.
  • Set the timer for 25 minutes (this period is called 1 pomodoro).
  • Perform this and only this task. Don’t let anyone and anything to distract you. You should see the timer to know how much time has left. If you have finished it earlier, pick another one.
  • Mark a task as done. If it’s longer than 25 minutes, feel the relief that part of it is behind you.
  • Make a 5-minute break. It is compulsory! It is good to take a break from the computer also.
  • After the fourth pomodoro make a longer break - you deserve it! 20-30 minutes would be fine.
  • Repeat!

Pomodoro Timer

If you see that task will need more than 5 pomodoros, divide it into smaller tasks.
More information you can find at http://www.pomodorotechnique.com/.

Start using those methods

Reading isn’t enough, use it! Let us know in the comments how it has improved your work and share the other techniques which may be helpful.