Procrastination kills your productivity and, in high doses, it can hold you back from achieving your true potential. It’s a nasty habit that can affect your work performance and prevent you from accomplishing your goals and dreams. Unfortunately, we all resort to it every now and then, in several areas of our lives. If you are overly familiar with statements like “I will get this task done tomorrow” and “I will start my diet on Monday”, it’s time to take a few proactive steps to beat productivity once and for all.
At work in particular, procrastination can seriously damage your reputation. Constantly putting things off and finally getting to them at the last minute makes you more stressed and anxious. Consequently, you have a higher chance of making mistakes and not delivering your best work. If you work with a team, it’s even worse – your bad habit can affect your teammates’ workflow as well. They could end up resenting you and blaming you in case anything goes wrong with the project you are all working on.
Fortunately, there are a few things you can try in order to overcome procrastination and become a more productive and diligent individual. Here are some tips that will surely help.
Admit you have a problem
Chronic procrastinators tend to live under the impression that they do their best work under extreme pressure – that’s why they keep putting tasks off until the last minute. In some rare cases, this might be true. In others, however, we tend to mistake the simple relief of finally getting something off our plate with the rush we get from actually doing a good job.
You see, relief is the release of adrenaline and cortisol (the negative stressor hormone). Doing a good job causes our bodies to release dopamine, which is a pleasure hormone. As time goes by, some people are tempted to build anxiety in order to relieve it, because they mistakenly believe that what they feel in that moment is pleasure. It’s not – and cortisol will ultimately affect your health in a negative way.
The first step towards fixing your problem is admitting that you have one. You can start by asking your supervisors or colleagues to assess the quality of your work. Listen to their input carefully; if the consensus is that you haven’t done a stellar job, it’s a clear sign that procrastination is holding you back.
Keep yourself accountable
If you are a chronic procrastinator, you won’t be able to change overnight. Asking for help might go a long way in keeping you accountable in your path to complete all of your assignments in a timely manner. You can ask a colleague to tell you whenever they feel like you are drifting off, or reach out to a friend to call your or text you during the workday to check on your progress. Having someone keeping a close eye on will improve your chances of succeeding.
In the same note, you can ask an assistant (if you have one) or an office manager to “nag” you about your tasks on a regular basis. They could send you a list of all your assignments at the beginning of every work week or even work day and see how you are doing from time to time. Another good idea is to choose someone you look up to track your progress. This way, you will be more motivated to get the job done and look better in their eyes.
Break down the task
We often put off tasks that seem too time-consuming or difficult because we are afraid we won’t be able to handle them. Here’s the trick: every time you receive a big and seemingly unmanageable task, break it down in smaller increments. For instance, let’s say that you are expected to come up the design of a new web page from scratch. Start by designing the homepage, the move on to perfecting the menu, and then proceed to second-level pages. This way, you only tackle one simpler task at the time.
A good idea would be to set a designated time-frame for each one of those smaller increments and respect it. If possible, break the smaller increments in other tiny assignments as well. Say you have two days to complete the design for the home-page. Allow yourself to work three hours on the header, four on the menu and so on. By having a clear plan on what you need to accomplish and setting deadlines for yourself you will be more likely to stay on track and slowly, but steadily make progress.
Rewards are the simplest way to motivate yourself and beat procrastination. When you know that you will receive something you look forward to at the end of the line, you are more likely to work harder to get there.
To maximize your results, you can write down the rewards on your to-do lists, next to your tasks. For example, try something like this: after you are done responding to all your e-mails, you are allowed to check Facebook for a couple of minutes. When that complex task is out of your hands, you can stretch your legs for a while and grab a snack. You surely got the idea.
Do it for five minutes
Here’s the truth – if you can’t find a way to push yourself and get started on the task at hand, procrastination will get the best of you. Try this trick: commit to doing the job for merely five minutes. If you don’t feel like continuing after those five minutes are up, you can abandon in and focus your attention on something more enjoyable.
You will notice that, surprisingly, even after your five minutes are up, you won’t feel like abandoning your work anymore. You will gain momentum. Getting started is the hardest part. What follows is usually a piece of cake. That’s why writers are advised to free write whenever they experience the dreaded writer’s block. Even if their compositions don’t make much sense at first, they can be transformed into something special as long as the writer they persevere.
Procrastination is an evil we all face from time to time. In small doses, it’s usually harmless. In large ones, however, it’s more difficult to overcome. “The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing,” Walt Disney once said. Take his advice. The man knew what he was talking about.