Imagine it’s another Friday working on your computer, only to find that you’ve only got 45 minutes to finish up all your tasks. You start working on your report, but your eyes keep glancing at the clock.
Midway through the report, you check your email. There, you see that you have 15 new messages waiting for you. You immediately open the messages, read them all, and then continue working on your report.
Before long, you realize you’ve spent 30 minutes on nothing. You may not need to imagine this scenario if you’ve experienced this at work, school, or even at home. You may have also felt how hard it is to be productive when everything gets in your way.
The harder you try to have a large project done, the more distractions you encounter. Procrastination is a big issue.
So, what can you do to avoid procrastinating and get more done in less time? Consider these tips:
Start with smaller goals. Studies show that we procrastinate the most when we have significant goals. When you start with a large project, you feel overwhelmed, and your initiative starts to wane.
● If you start with a smaller goal, say a 10-minute task, you feel more confident that you can accomplish it, thus increasing your productivity.
Try to utilize “activation energy.” One way to avoid procrastinating on essential tasks is setting a timer for a set period that might appear short to you. But don’t set the timer so short that you can’t get through it.
● Instead, set the timer for 15-20 minutes, and let yourself get through the tasks. Setting a timer for a brief period like this — and shutting all distractions for that period — forces you to stay focused while knowing that you have a deadline.
Arrange your tasks. If you tend to get easily distracted, try to arrange your tasks so that they interact with each other. For example, you might put tasks next to each other on a piece of paper. This activity helps you avoid wasting time going back and forth between jobs.
● Arranging the things that you need to accomplish in an orderly way motivates you and makes you more likely to complete them quickly, even if your tasks are not that exciting.
Incorporate rewards into your goals. Research has shown that rewards help motivate us to follow through on our goals. For example, you might set a goal to complete a task in a specified period. If you can accomplish the plan, you reward yourself with a prize — perhaps a hobby you enjoy doing.
● Incorporating rewards not only motivates you but also sets you up for long-term success. It also causes your brain to associate the rewards to accomplishing the task, which helps make it more likely that you will complete a similar job in the future.
Get help. One of the biggest reasons for procrastination is feeling overwhelmed. But sometimes, not all the tasks on your list need you to handle them. You can enlist the help of others by delegating some of your tasks.
● For example, you might want to write a book, but you might feel intimidated by the writing process. You could ask someone more experienced to help you draft the book’s outline. You can then work on that outline and finish writing the book.
● Getting help doesn’t mean you’re weak. It simply means that you want to take action.
Procrastination is one of the biggest obstacles to productivity, even for the most successful people. But when you take action and turn procrastination into productive work, you’ll find that your goals are possible and that you’re able to achieve them.