- Elon Musk, Investor & Entrepreneur
One of the biggest threats to workplace productivity is procrastination. But while procrastination is well known as an issue, far too many of us fall back into procrastinating habits too easily. Most of us pick up procrastination as a trait or habit when we’re teenagers and never learn quite how to get it under control.
But if you’re a manager or if you just want to do your best to work, you have to learn how to stop procrastinating. Here are the top ways you can do so.
WHY PROCRASTINATION IS HARD TO STOP
At its core, procrastination is dangerous and difficult to stop because it:
- can start almost without you noticing
- becomes harder to stop the longer it goes on
Most people will be able to empathize with this example: you start procrastinating when you should be completing a big assignment because said assignment carries a lot of stress. As you procrastinate for the first hour, it becomes easier to procrastinate for another two hours since you’ve already wasted the first chunk of time you had previously reserved for a project.
The more time passes, the easier it is to procrastinate and just pass off the assignment as a total wash. Of course, most people eventually get past procrastination when panic sets in – say, the hour before an assignment is due.
Procrastination is also quite hard to stop because many people become adept at completing their tasks even while “feeding the procrastination beast”, so to speak. Still, learning how to stop procrastinating is a much better strategy in the long run and will boost your self-confidence.
TIPS TO STOP PROCRASTINATING
STICK TO A ROUTINE
First and most important is building and sticking to a routine. Humans are particularly good at coming up with habits, either good or bad. But the important thing to recognize is that you can harness this habit-building potential to tackle your procrastination problem.
If you turn a behavior into a habit, you won’t even think about doing that behavior; you’ll just start completing that task or assignment without giving procrastination a chance to set in. For instance, if you’re a college student and have a hard time starting your homework, it would be to your benefit to start a habit where you begin homework at a certain time of the afternoon or evening every day no matter what.
This way, you always start and complete your homework even if you don’t feel like it because you automatically begin due to the habit. You never get the chance to procrastinate on your homework.
Of course, you can extend this to the business arena just as easily. If there’s a particular part of your job that you hate, make it a habit to do it at the same time every day or even in the same environment. Doing this is much easier said than done, but here are some other ways you can tackle procrastination to build these positive habits in the first place.
DEVELOP A TIMELINE
It often helps to develop a timeline when you’re worrying about procrastination. For longer tasks or assignments, try to break things down into different steps or stages. This gives you shorter timelines or deadlines that you need to cross without giving you a lot of time with which to procrastinate… at least without failing outright.
Say that you need to draw up a business plan for a new branch of your company. Break down this task into smaller component pieces and give yourself a deadline of one hour for each piece. Chances are you’ll start almost right away to make sure you hit all those shorter deadlines.
This is much more effective than setting a long-term deadline, which opens up the opportunity for procrastination. As you can see, many of the best techniques for dealing with procrastination are about not letting it begin in the first place.
REMOVE DISTRACTIONS FROM YOUR ENVIRONMENT
But what about when you want to stop procrastinating? Too many of us get into the habit of leaving distracting devices or entertainment around our workspace, making it all too easy for our attention to flit away into procrastination-land. Nowhere is this more apparent than with our smartphones.
If you want to stop procrastination from dominating your work time, you need to remove all the distractions from your environment that you can. This may include your mobile device; stick it into a drawer and lock it away until your work is done to prevent you from idly surfing the Internet when you should be doing work.
Similarly, use apps that help you boost productivity that can lock away unhelpful Internet pages or prevent you from even surfing the Internet until your work is completed. Don’t have a TV running in your office background, and don’t do your work at the same place where you spend your leisure time.
Incentives are arguably the cornerstone of human economic activity; everyone works for a paycheck or some other type of reward. You can use incentives to motivate you to do excellent work instead of procrastinating as well.
For instance, if you have a sweet tooth, it might help to give yourself a small reward at the end of each bit of work you do. It sounds a little Pavlovian, and it is – but it’s also quite effective because our brains are, at the end of the day, simple, incentive-motivated machines.
TIME YOURSELF WHILE DOING TASKS
One last thing you can do to stop procrastinating is time yourself while you do your tasks. This is somewhat similar to setting shorter deadlines, so you complete your work on time by breaking it up into manageable chunks.
You can also set time limits or windows where the goal is to do as much work as possible before you give yourself a break. For instance, set a time limit of one hour and do as much work as you can before relaxing for 15 minutes.
You can alternatively set yourself a specific time limit; for instance, you can give yourself only a half hour to complete a part of an assignment. This super-short deadline will likely kick your brain into gear and prevent it from sliding into procrastination mode in the first place.
Stay up to date
Want to know anything else?
We’re an open book so hit us up if we’ve missed anything here or if there’s something else you’d like to know.
Thought leaders & celebrities share their tactics for success on the Lisnic podcast by Lisa Teh & Nick Bell