Procrastination and productivity are inextricably – and inversely – linked. Unfortunately, while you’d prefer less of the former and more of the latter, if you are like most of us, your day-to-day is probably too often touched by a dose of the “P”. Here’s how to beat the procrastination blues and get productive.
7 Steps to Eradicate Procrastination
Procrastination is the little devil on your professional shoulder: it’s the website that reels you in for minutes or hours delaying the start of what you really need to do; it’s the nagging fear which you avoid by distracting yourself with something else; it’s the belief that if you delay the “pain” of starting till later you’ll feel better. Here’s how to decimate those excuses and say goodbye to procrastination.
1. Break Your Work into Stages
The looming deadline of a big project or presentation can be overwhelming – a mental roadblock that makes you want to run for the hills of procrastination. Instead of letting your work feel like a mountain, conquer it piece-by-piece: break it down into its individual parts, and tackle each as if it were its own, easily managed project. If your first project slice is still overwhelming, break it down further. The sum of even the tiniest tasks still adds up to a whole project.
2. Stage Your Deadlines
Speaking of project stages, it’s not enough to simply break down your tasks into their smallest parts: you have to create the accompanying deadlines, too. Procrastination is easy when we see a distant deadline – oh, I have ages to get that done! – but by the time you get around to the project, it’s too late and you’re immediately stressed. Avoid the vicious cycle by assigning deadlines to each work phase.
3. Change Your View
It’s no surprise that boredom is a common element to procrastination: when you lack stimuli and pine for engagement, your mind tunes out. Take a look around: does your home office inspire productivity? Even if your office is completely ergonomic and totally inspiring, you still need to take breaks throughout the day. Even five minutes to play with the dog can recharge your spirits and get your productivity back on track.
4. Embrace Technology
Misery loves company, so here’s a little something to boost your spirits: you’re not the only entrepreneur to suffer from procrastination. In fact, this office malady is so common that tech companies have invested billions in creating apps, plugins, widgets and other doodads that make it easier to get things done. From keyboard shortcuts that auto-add events to your calendar, to handy apps that force you to focus and concentrate, there’s a solution to almost any office distraction. You just have to learn to use them.
5. Be Accountable to Someone
Whether it’s a fellow entrepreneur, your spouse, or an online accountability buddy, hold yourself responsible to someone. Check in at regular intervals (but not too often, you procrastinator you!) and share your tasks, goals and looming deadlines. You’ll be amazed by how motivated you are to work your way through each to-do, when you know someone will soon ask how many items you’ve managed to check off your list.
6. There Is No Perfect Time
If you’re always waiting for the perfect time to do X, Y or Z, you’ll soon realize that X, Y and Z never, ever get done. Don’t overcomplicate your to-do list: there is never a perfect time to do anything. Make it simple – commit to a task and ignore the extenuating circumstances.
This is hardly a novel concept, but getting the ball rolling is often the hardest part. Chalk it up to inertia, but once you’ve actually begun your work, it’s a lot easier than you imagined it to be. You’ll get in the zone and the productivity will flow. Before you know it, you’ve completed your task. All you have to do is start.
8. Reward Yourself!
Make it worthwhile by rewarding yourself when you complete your task or reach an important milestone. This not only makes you feel good but can act as an incentive. “OK, if I can just do this for the next hour, I can stop and do…”
4 Tips to Supercharge Productivity
There are two basic ways to improve your productivity: the easy way, which is to eliminate excuses, distractions and other pretexts for procrastination (check!); and the make-a-constant-and-concerted-effort way, which focuses on your ongoing work/life balance, mental health and emotional wellbeing. This is about that second way.
1. Make Time for Play
Nursery rhymes are wise: All work and no play makes anyone dull. (And sad. And unproductive.) Whether it’s a mid-day break to read a magazine with your lunch, a fixed work schedule to ensure you get adequate family time, or several guaranteed weeks a year to take a vacation, you absolutely, positively must schedule in play time.
2. Do Things that Make You Happy
Happiness boosts productivity by 10 percent. And experts are quick to qualify that it’s not professional success that makes you happy, thus improving your productivity. Rather, actual, tangible life happiness makes you more successful in the office. So do something (or many things) that makes you happy.
3. Realize You Are Not Superhuman
Entrepreneurs, and especially solopreneurs, often suffer from the Superman complex – the idea that they, and only they are capable of fulfilling certain [all] tasks. That’s just not true: dedicated, talented virtual assistants will save you time and help earn you heaps of money. Forget Superman; be a super entrepreneur and learn to delegate.
4. Be Flexible
Routine is good, but it shouldn’t be forged from iron: learn how to roll with the flowing tides of professional life. When factors out of your control postpone or derail a project; when the Internet goes down; when your kids beg to go on a hike with family friends; when you snag an incredible deal on a weekday getaway… when life happens, flexibility is your saving grace.
You’ve heard our list, now tell us yours: what are your favorite tips for eliminating distractions and boosting your productivity?
Updated on June 2nd, 2014