6 tips to avoid procrastination at work

You’re about to tackle a task that’s due in two weeks, yet just as you’re about to begin, you become preoccupied by emails in your inbox. The two weeks is then nearly over, and you start to panic thinking to yourself… why didn’t I just get going on it two weeks ago? 

A definition of procrastination is the putting off of activities that were planned or scheduled, for activities that are of lesser importance. Procrastination is something we have all experienced at some point in our lives and it can not only be frustrating but end up impacting us more than the task in hand in the first instance. Statistics recently have shown that procrastination impacts over 20% of the population and that it has more than quadrupled in the last 30 years.

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But why do we procrastinate?

Psychologists have been eagerly trying to work out the reasoning for procrastination for over 20 years and are still continuing to work it out. Tim Pychyl a procrastination researcher discovered that we tend to procrastinate when we put pressure on ourselves to complete particular tasks. He also discovered these tasks generally had specific characteristics to them which makes you more likely to procrastinate, for example if it’s difficult or has a lack of personal meaning. 

In addition to this, over the past decade we have seen a dramatic increase in technology. This has played a huge part in the rise of procrastination as we are continually surrounded by social media and struggle to live without our smartphones. Technology is beginning to dominate lives and cause negative impacts such as procrastination, rather than assisting and making lives easier.

Whether you want to use procrastination week to put off an important goal or use it to get that project done we thought it would be the perfect time to run through 6 tips to help avoid procrastination at work.

1. Get organised and create a timeline with set deadlines 

Creating a timeline is a great first step when we think about avoiding procrastination. A timeline with specific deadlines will create a sense of urgency that you may not have previously felt and will allow you to keep track on your tasks and goals.

When creating this timeline, it is paramount to figure out what is best for you. Would you work best dividing various tasks into days or weeks? Or would it be more effective to break certain tasks down into sections such as researching, writing and proof reading then setting them across your timeline with deadlines. Both of these strategies can help to avoid that ‘overwhelming’ feeling and enable you to complete tasks more productively.

A planner or an app on your phone can help by forcing you to be organised and write everything down. Don’t give yourself any reason to forget and stray away from your timeline and deadlines.

2. Set SMART goals

We have all set goals before but how often do they get achieved? SMART is an acronym for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely and setting SMART goals allow you to have deadlines and clarity, enabling you to prioritise tasks and achieve your goals.

Procrastination often comes from goals that are either vague or completely unachievable, for example ‘get work done’ or ‘complete 5 projects in one day’. These may as well have not been set in the first place and will in the long turn demotivate you all the more.

Grab a pen, add your goals to the timeline and most importantly make sure they are SMART. 

3. Take productive breaks 

Taking breaks may be the route of your procrastination, however, this could be because you are trying to concentrate on specific tasks for too long or not using your breaks productively. Instead of flicking through social media endlessly or gossiping with a colleague, use the time for yourself and boost your energy.

The ‘Pomodoro Technique’ is a helpful example of how to manage your time and breaks productively. It is a time management technique that Francesco Cirillo developed in the late 1980s. The technique enables you to break down your work into intervals, separated by short breaks.

4. Start today

We can talk about planning, tips and tactics all day, but if you don’t take an action then nothing will happen.

No more of “I’ll start it tomorrow” or “something came up”, start today!

5. Get rid of distractions 

Perhaps you are making it too easy for yourself to procrastinate. Do you have a desk phone that rings continually? Or email notifications set to pop up?

Consider disabling notifications and putting your phone on ‘busy’ or ‘in a meeting’ whilst you try to complete challenging tasks. With the latest technologies available to businesses doing this couldn’t be easier- you can even set it to only ring for certain numbers!

Furthermore, getting rid of distractions also means thinking about your environment. Do you become distracted easily by colleagues around you?

Working from home is a privilege and if you have the ability to, is worth considering to help you stay focused and complete tasks. Hosted Workspaces are a great example of how many businesses enable their employees to work from home. This is done by users being able to access their personal desktop through the internet (or ‘cloud’). It’s encrypted so it’s secure but authorised users can work from anywhere with an internet connection, making them much more mobile and productive. 

6. Don’t beat yourself up

Everyone is bound to slip up once in a while and you can’t expect to get it right first time. It’s important to persevere even if you feel like you are stuck in a repetitive loop of procrastination.

Research has proven that people who procrastinate have high stress levels and although there is no cure to procrastination, there are lots of tactics to help prevent it.

Do you have any additional tips that have helped you overcome procrastination? Let us know in the comments or on our Social Media platforms!

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