Career Advice Tips to be more productive

Time Management Tricks for Procrastinators

The procrastination club is well-populated with smart and talented people who sometimes struggle to get things done. People tend to procrastinate for one or several of the following reasons: you are frequently distracted, the task seems unpleasant, overwhelming, or too difficult, priorities are out of order, or there is a general lack of motivation for action. The good news is that there are strategies to combat each of these problems. 

Problem: You keep getting distracted. In the age of 24-hour access to news, entertainment, and stimulation of every kind, it is increasingly challenging to maintain focus on one thing at a time. An effective first step is to change your environment into a more productive one. Remove distractions like your phone (put it out of sight or turn it off), close unnecessary webpages, and separate yourself from the TV and fridge. Set yourself up in a location that promotes focus and progress. This typically means that it is a pleasant spot, fairly uncluttered, with ideal lighting, and your preferred music or white noise.

Problem: The task is unpleasant. Some tasks are unavoidable and have aspects to them that are absolutely unpleasant. Very few people like filing taxes, yet they typically get filed because people fear the consequences of fines or jail time. Sometimes simply reminding yourself of the potential negative outcome can kick you into action. Other times, it works to set up a reward system for yourself to make the unpleasant task more worthwhile to complete. Completing a report doesn’t feel so painful if there is a big glass of wine waiting at the end. If the task is both large and unpleasant, you may need to give yourself several small rewards along the way to keep your momentum going. 

Problem: The task feels overwhelming. Break it down into smaller pieces, identify the parts that seem the easiest and start with those to increase your feelings of accomplishment. Ask others for perspective on ways to break it down or even if they can help out in areas that seem especially overwhelming to you. Change your personal goal from “completion of task” to “completion of 30 minutes working on the task.” This way, you score a win for reaching your goal of working for 30 minutes and whatever you accomplish in that 30 minutes moves you closer to completion of the whole task. 

Problem: The task seems too difficult. It’s common to imagine the task will be too challenging if you think you may not have the skills needed for the task. This is especially true if you have not attempted anything similar in the past. Reach out for guidance, support, or tips from someone who is skilled in the area or can point you to resources. You may also be overestimating the difficulty of getting the task done if it is new to you. Write out each step of the job and determine what you will need to know or do for each independent step.

Problem: You have trouble prioritising. Possibly you struggle to decide which of the several high-priority tasks on your list to do first. Or possibly you feel pushed to work on someone else’s high-priority task when you have one of your own that is more pressing. If the decision-making step is where you get stuck, then make the decisions easier. Assuming you have several tasks that seem equally important, assign each of them a number 1 through 6. Roll dice (or a pair if you’ve got many tasks) and whatever number you roll is the task you do first. If you’re just caught between two tasks, flipping a coin works great too. 

Problem: General lack of motivation. Maybe you are just having a lazy day or feeling drained. If the timing of this is smack in the middle of your task deadline, you need a quick remedy. Hop in the shower and make it on the cold side. This will give you a quick boost of energy and awareness. Or you can engage in some quick high-intensity exercise like jump rope, running, squats, or push-ups to increase adrenaline and the flow of oxygen to your brain for enhanced concentration. Try engaging a buddy: commit to a friend that you will work on the task and ask them to check back in on you after a certain period of time. Reflect on your basic self -care and assess if you are lacking in the areas of nutrition, sleep, hydration, or exercise. Attend to these as needed if they are negatively impacting your energy. 

If procrastination is a lifestyle habit for you, it may take some effort to turn that around. Be patient and encourage yourself as you make positive efforts. To shift your patterns for the long-term, strive to increase the amount of time you spend with non-procrastinators; there is evidence that their habits can rub off on you and help propel you forward.