There are days when I am the absolute queen of procrastination. A task that should take 30 minutes can end up taking 1 hour 30 mins because I simply can’t focus on one thing at a time. We’ve all been there & when your mind is struggling to stay focused it can be so difficult to get yourself back in the zone.
Having been self-employed for the past year & a half, I’ve come to learn a few tricks that I’m forced to pull out of the bag when I’m struggling to get even the smallest of tasks done. Here are my top tips to stop yourself from procrastinating & to actually get sh*t done:
Make yourself a to-do list with small manageable tasks
If I feel like I have too many things to do I find myself procrastinating more. Ironic right? I feel overwhelmed & frantic so I end up trying to do too many things at once which means things are left half-finished and nothing actually gets completed. This can leave you with even more tasks to do the next day & so the viscous circle begins.
To avoid this evil procrastination circle it’s important to keep a to-do list. Work always seems less intimidating when it’s written down on paper. I always create little check boxes beside each task so that I can tick it off as I go along, but of course you don’t have to do this. Also, if I have any big tasks to do e.g. creating a marketing strategy for one of my clients, I like to break this down into smaller, more manageable tasks. As humans we tend to avoid the big tasks like the plague, but when it’s broken down into smaller tasks it becomes less intimidating and is much easier to complete.
Put your phone away!
I referred to social media as being the devil in my Top Tips for Working From Home post because it is so distracting if you’re trying to get work done. If I’m procrastinating you’ll find that at least 70% of the time it’s because of my phone. There’s times when I have to be on my phone for work but the rest of the time it’s just completely unnecessary. If you too are distracted by social media or your phone then you need to get it away from you. If you’re at home simply leave it in another room. Just make sure that it’s on silent so that you can’t reach for it or hear any notifications coming through. If you’re out of the house & it isn’t possible to leave your phone somewhere else, then you’re just going to have to exercise your own self-control (which is easier than it sounds!) Look at it this way, the more time you waste on your phone, (yes, I do mean waste) the longer it’s going to take to get your work done and you know what that means? You’re eating into your own free time later, when you could be doing more enjoyable things!
Take a break or take regular breaks between tasks
If you are really struggling to get into your work groove & nothing seems to working, it’s okay to take a break for a while. Go and watch an episode of your favourite show, go to the gym or just do what makes you happy for an hour. But just make sure you take a break that lasts no more than one hour otherwise you’ll find yourself not wanting to get back to work.
The other thing that you can do is make use of something called the Pomodoro Technique. The Pomodoro Technique uses evolutionary biology that is based around the length of time that our brains can fully concentrate on a task. It involves the use of a timer to break down work into intervals (usually 25 minutes long) before taking a short break. These working intervals are called Pomodoro’s. You can use this method by following the 6 steps below:
- Set a timer for 25 minutes & set to work on your first task
- Stop working on your task when the timer goes off
- Take short break of 3-5 minutes
- Repeat step 1 another two times
- On your fourth pomodoro take a longer break of 15-30 minutes
- Once your break is over go back to step 1 & repeat
Listen to music
Now this method may not work for everyone because I know my partner can’t work with music in the background. However I find that when I have music in the background or playing through my headphones, that I am so much more motivated. I find myself getting so absorbed in my work that I don’t notice the time passing. If you can’t listen to music with lyrics then you can also try listening to instrumental music instead. You can find one of my favourite instrumental playlists here on Youtube.
Get in your most productive environment
There will be days when you can work anywhere because you’re feeling super productive & nothing will stop you from banging out your work. But on the days when you’re feeling less productive it’s up to you to put yourself in your most productive environment. Don’t sit in a room with a TV or any unnecessary technological distractions. Your most productive environment is personal to you. I am most productive when I’m working in my office (as long as the house is quiet) or in a coffee shop filled with other people working. Take time to discover the environment in which you’re most productive & work the hardest, then make sure that you’re there as often as possible.
Give yourself rewards
Give yourself something to look forward to & make it good. The catch is that you don’t get to reward yourself unless you get through everything on your to do list or until you reach your goals for that day. It’s tough I know, but if it’s really good reward then you’re going to work extra hard so that you can treat yourself later.
I hope that these tips help you out if you’re feeling a little (or a lot) unproductive. If you have any additional tips I’d love to hear them!