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Last Updated on January 11, 2021

How to Avoid Procrastination and Get Your Work Done

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How to Avoid Procrastination and Get Your Work Done

Most of us procrastinate. Correction: ALL of us procrastinate. I even procrastinated writing this article.

We’ve all been there at some point. Here are 5 tips on how to avoid procrastination that can help you break out of paralysis and start producing at your peak.

1. Reduce the Number of Decisions You Need to Make Throughout the Day

Every decision we make has an energy consequence. If you wake up in the morning, and you need to ask yourself, “What do I need to do today?” — well, you’re about to procrastinate today.

If you approach each new day without having given thought to what you want it to look like ahead of time, then you’ll waste a large portion of your energy thinking about what to do and what not to do.

Should I hit the gym today, or go tomorrow?

Should I say Yes to lunch with Barry Boombatz from Accounting, or should I do a quick lunch solo so I can get back to the office and finish up this presentation?

Should I wear this or wear that?

Eat this or eat that?

Reply now or later?

We’re asking ourselves questions like this all day long.

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Problem is, questions compel us to respond with answers, which compel us to make decisions… This drains you of your self-control and makes you tired—which leads to you procrastinating on whatever matters most in your life.

Tip #1 for avoiding procrastination is to reduce the number of decisions you need to make during a given day by making those decisions ahead of time and/or creating habits around certain areas of your life to boost your effectiveness and prevent you from draining your energy by thinking about whether to do them or not.

Some examples:

  • Decide in advance exactly which days of the week you’ll exercise, instead of deciding the day-of;
  • Pick out your clothes the night before rather than the morning-of;
  • Choose the most important thing that needs to get done tomorrow, and schedule time to do it;

These are just a few simple examples, but it’s usually the simple things that matter most.

What are some examples you can think of to reduce the number of decisions you make in your own life? Doing this will free up the energy you’ll need in order to stay focused on doing the big and meaningful stuff, rather than procrastinating on it by doing the little and meaningless stuff.

2. Finish Your Day Before It Starts

This tip picks up where tip #1 leaves off. The best decision you can make towards avoiding procrastination is to plan your days in advance.

Rather than frantically figuring out what you’ll do on any given day, a better way to approach your day would be to take a few minutes at the end of each day to quickly map out the following day.

For example, every night, before bed, I write-down/review my plans for the next day, which includes:

  • My One BIG Thing (OBT)[1] that needs to get done that day. This could be a big task, a goal, or a project I need to make progress on.
  • My No Matter Whats (NMWs) — these are my non-negotiable daily habits: exercise, my nature walk/daily meditation, reading (30 minutes minimum), mastery-related work, and time spent with the people I love.

Whatever else needs to be done the following day. This way, my most important goals and projects are given ample time to be crushed—and to not be procrastinated on.

3. The Nothing Alternative

“The Nothing Alternative” is a tip for avoiding procrastination that was coined by an influential crime-fiction novelist named Raymond Chandler. He used it as a way to avoid procrastinating on his daily writing.

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Chandler had difficulty sitting down at the keyboard and cranking out a predetermined word-count every day like some successful writers. So, he developed another method for overcoming procrastination and getting himself to do the work—he would set aside 4 hours every morning and give himself an ultimatum:

“Write, or do nothing at all.”

And Chandler advises writers—and presumably people of all professions—who suffer from procrastination to do the same:

“He [the writer] doesn’t have to write, and if he doesn’t feel like it, he shouldn’t try. He can look out of the window or stand on his head or writhe on the floor, but he is not to do any other positive thing, not read, write letters, glance at a magazine, or write checks… Write or nothing.”

That was Chandler’s philosophy, and for him, it worked.

The rules are pretty straight-forward:

  • A) You don’t have to write, or work on whatever you need to work on.
  • B) But you can’t do anything else.

With these two options in mind, at some point, you’re going to start working—even if nothing else but to keep yourself from getting bored!

And although your own work might not be as simple and clearly defined as Chandler’s, you can certainly benefit from the clarity that comes from setting aside the time to either:

Do nothing, or focus on your ONE most important thing.

To try this out for yourself, figure out your most important goal for tomorrow morning and set aside 90 minutes of totally un-interrupted time to focus on that goal.

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No email. No smart phone. No facebook. No non-sense. Shut-down your wifi if you need to. This is your time to turn it up to high gear and focus.

4. The Next Action Habit—Focus on Something Do-Able

In his book, Getting Things Done, David Allen discusses the power of intelligently “dumbing down your brain” by figuring out your very NEXT ACTION for any given thing you’re working on. It’s one of the most powerful ideas in the book — just figure out the next specific action you need to take in order to move yourself closer to completion, then DO IT…

Now, it’s no secret that procrastination causes lots of stress and pressure… but the way in which we relieve this pressure is where the secret comes in.

The key to this tip for avoiding procrastination is to figure out the very next physical action—no matter how small—you need to take to move something forward; be it a task, a project, a phone call, or whatever else.

Want to learn how to stop procrastinating? Learn how to shift your focus. Shifting your focus to something your mind perceives as do-able makes the difference that makes a difference. Let me explain:

Think about something you’ve been procrastinating on; like, finishing a presentation for work. Now FOCUS on how it makes you FEEL whenever you think about how you have to do that presentation. Think about all the work involved. Sucks right? How’s it make you feel? Overwhelmed?

Now shift your FOCUS to ONE SIMPLE THING you can do right now to move this presentation even the tiniest bit closer to ‘done.’ Maybe you need to google some images to include in the presentation. That’s do-able, right?

Make that you’re NEXT ACTION. Do it.

The rationale behind this Next Action method is simple: when you do something your mind perceives as do-able, your energy will go up, your sense of direction and drive will increase dramatically; and you’ll be able to motivate yourself to get whatever you need to get done—DONE!

Actionable insight: Anytime you feel the procrastination creeping back up again, you should take it as a trigger to CHUNK down whatever you feel like procrastinating on into something simple and do-able… Even if it’s something as small as opening KeyNote and naming your presentation…

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One small step leads to another… and another… and another… and before you know it, you’ve got momentum.

5. Adjust Your Environment

If you’re an alcoholic, you don’t keep booze in the house and you stay away from bars and people who can’t respect your decision to lay off the whiskey.

In similar vein, my final tip to avoid procrastinating all over yourself is to remove the cues that trigger your procrastination-habits in the first place.

If you can’t work in public places because of the constant movement and noise, then find a quiet place to sit down and focus.

For me to be able to avoid procrastinating and focus on what I’ve decided to focus on, I need to remove every possible distraction from my work environment—both physical and digital…

I used to switch my iPhone to ‘Do Not Disturb’ and put it on my desk while I worked, but the temptation to glance over and check it led me towards the path of procrastination more often than the path of productivity.

Now, I take my iPhone, put it on ‘Do Not Disturb’, and then put it in a drawer that requires me to physically get up in order to check it… This keeps me focused. My notifications and alerts are also disabled on all my computers, too. I’ve also stopped wearing my Apple Watch any time other than when I workout.

Basically, I need to un-plug before I can plug-in and focus.

If you want to avoid procrastination, pick what works best for you and make that your next action!

More About Overcoming Procrastination

Featured photo credit: Kelly Sikkema via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] Dean Bokhari: The One Thing Book Summary

More by this author

Dean Bokhari

Author, Entrepreneur, Podcast & TV Host

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Last Updated on September 9, 2021

15 Easy Ways to Avoid Procrastination When Working from Home

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15 Easy Ways to Avoid Procrastination When Working from Home

Freelancing and working from home are becoming more and more common, especially in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. Many assume that working from home can only bring positive change. Who wouldn’t want to work on their own schedule, get up later, and avoid the heavy traffic of a commute? However, once people begin to work from home, they see that it’s a bit different than they thought it would be and that procrastination at work can easily take over.[1]

It’s not that people lack enthusiasm or motivation. It’s simply that the pull of distractions is quite strong, and many aren’t prepared to face them immediately. They find themselves postponing tasks until they absolutely have to be done, hunting for snacks in the kitchen, dropping onto the couch “just for a second” to see what’s going on with their favorite TV show, etc. After just a few months, many feel that they are working all day and having almost less free time than before.

Fortunately, most of the major problems with productivity while working from home have to do with procrastination and distractions, which have some simple remedies if you’re willing to work on them. Here are some tips to help you stay on track and become more efficient.

Examples of Procrastination When Working from Home

Well, people who prefer working from home believe is a way of spending more time with family and escape the hell of having a boss breathing down their neck. However, what happens when you find yourself flipping from site to site, one YouTube video to another, changing your music, and watching countless movies that end up wasting hours of your time and affecting your productivity level.

Procrastination is a major cause of concern for everyone who works from home as they find themselves pushing deadlines backward. Learning to “eat that frog” isn’t easy after all. Getting stuck in that circle might cost the individual their job.

However, there are ways to solve procrastinating when you work from home. The solution starts with knowing why you procrastinate in the first place and we’ve outlined some of reasons in this guide.

Why do People Procrastinate While Working

No Clear Goal

A wise man once said – ” Procrastination is the grave in which opportunities are buried”. We couldn’t agree less but sometimes procrastination goes beyond self-control and willpower. Experts have proposed that one of the reasons people procrastinate is when there’s no clear goal in mind.

Trying to Move Mountains

People are likely to focus more when they have concrete goals in mind. For instance, it’s easier to procrastinate when we set goals such as “I want to write a book” or “I want to earn more money”. Having realistic options such as “I want to make $100k in August” or “I want to write 1000 words daily for the next 30 days” forces us to take actionable steps to make that a reality

No Shortage of Time

There are other reasons people are likely to procrastinate when they work for home and a few of these people have clear goals. And it happens when we feel there’s enough time to complete the task. For example, it’s easier to put off a task whose deadline is in a month than those that have to be submitted in a week.

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Accordingly, such people always have a thought of “I have enough time” hence they never get started. The problem with this approach is that the deadline slowly creeps in and they suddenly realize that they haven’t gotten started.

This is more reason why it’s better to handle tasks as they come rather than waiting till you’re motivated to take action.

Dangers of Procrastination at Work

Unfortunately, the habit of procrastination doesn’t go unpunished. You could have more tasks piled up which results in stress. This could have been avoided if the tasks were attended to as soon as they came.

Most bosses have labelled freelancers who procrastinate as “incompetent” which results in job loss and a long time search in finding a new one. If you own an online business, procrastination might affect your profit and a lot of opportunities pass by due to your inability to act immediately.

If you want to take control of your time, the tips mentioned here will help you do so. You will begin to priorities your goals more and act accordingly. Let’s jump right in

15 Easy Ways to Avoid Procrastination When Working From Home

1. Create Daily Goals

A survey conducted reported that people who set daily goals are likely to be more productive than those who don’t. For instance, rather than taking each day as it comes, it pays to write down the task you want to accomplish the minute you rise from bed.

There are several benefits of doing this. First, it’s registered in the brain and secondly, you will be willing to push yourself to achieve what you’ve written down on paper.

2. Break Tasks into Tiny Bits

Taking things one step at a time reduces procrastination. For instance, if you dream of writing 10,000 words eBook, putting down 1,000 pieces of words on paper for the next 10 days will bring the book to life. When you do this daily, you realize that the task doesn’t feel overwhelming and you can break free from procrastination.

3. Take Breaks in Between Tasks

Breaks are a way to keep you energized. It’s difficult to work 10 hours daily on a stretch without feeling overwhelmed. Breaks allow your brain to refresh and come back stronger. If you plan on working for 6 hours daily, it pays to take a short break after every 3 hours interval.

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There are times when a break can improve the quality of your thinking and speeds up the creative process.

4. Create a Home Office

Start by limiting the comforts of home[2] by turning a spare room into a small office. If you don’t have one, don’t worry. Just use a corner of the living or bedroom that has enough light during the day. In case you are a night owl, make sure to have appropriate lighting so that you don’t fatigue your eyes.

Before heading into your home office for the day, imagine what you may need for the next couple of hours. For example, put a bottle of water and a small snack on the desk so you won’t have to get up when you get hungry. Also, make sure you have a charger for both your computer and cell phone so you won’t have to go searching for them later. These can all cause distractions that can set you on a path toward procrastination.

You can also take a look at these 20 Easy Home Office Organization Ideas to Boost Your Productivity.

5. Use Productivity Software Apps

Since most work done from home involves using a computer or other piece of technology, getting distracted by unrelated sites throughout the day can be a huge barrier to productivity. There are now several extensions and apps you can use to limit time spent on specific websites, so if you find you often get distracted by YouTube, for example, put a limit of 30 minutes to keep yourself focused.

Also, consider creating a user account on your computer that’s going to be used only for work and delegate a specific browser for when you’re working in order to see all job-related bookmarks and tabs.

If you still have trouble staying on track, try to use time-tracking tools, such as Toggl, Tick and RescueTime. Many of them will generate a report so that you can easily track your work and how you use your time. If these don’t work, take a look at this article to find some other time management tools that may work for you.

6. Prioritize Your Tasks

Prioritization is essential when fighting procrastination. Most freelance work won’t have deadlines, so staying on task can be even more difficult. Therefore, figuring out which things are most important throughout the day is key.

Prioritization looks different for everyone. It can include a board with notes and stickers, a timetable in Excel, or a list in one of the various productivity apps out there. Once you’re able to prioritize your tasks, you’ll see how effectively things get done.

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7. Stop Comparing Your Results

Most often, when people work from home, it’s easy to compare your result to others. When your results don’t match up, it’s easy to feel disappointed and put off a lot of work. This is very common in sales.

Well, if you suffer from this, it’s important to appreciate every little step you take daily and stop beating yourself over other people’s results. This will limit your ability to get things done.

8. Read Books on Time Management

When you feel like every second is slipping away, it pays to read books on time management and habit formation. Books such as eat that frog, atomic habits, and the 5-seconds rule will arm you with strategies on how to eliminate procrastination and live a productive lifestyle. If those options feel out of reach, we have a number of useful tips that will help you with goal setting.

All the books were hand-picked because they contain actionable plans that can transform your life by a whole 360. The most successful people read 20 pages of a book daily and you can also do the same.

9. Turn off Social Media Notification

If you are like most people, a little beep sound from your smartphone can catch your attention and force you to look at notifications. When you set out to work, ensure your smartphone is set to “do not disturb” mode so those distracting beeps don’t steal your attention when you’re engrossed in your task.

Even better, you can keep your cell phone distances away when you’re working

10. Block out Nearby Noise

The notification sound from your mobile phone isn’t the only distraction to fight against. Distraction might come in the form of noises such as traffic sounds, the sound of running water, or loud laughter from your living room.

You can block out this noise by using noise-cancellation earbuds or cell phones.

11. Learn to Eat Your Frog

The first few hours you rise from bed are your “hour of power”. It’s easier to get things done during the early hours of the day. As we’ve found out, the hardest tasks are the most difficult to get started with.

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During your ” hour of power” ensure you address the difficult tasks first before moving to the simplest ones.

12. Learn to Forgive Yourself

It’s difficult to let go of the hurts and pain the habit of procrastination has caused. Do not expect perfection from yourself, rather try to be a better version of yourself.

13. Reward Yourself

Reward and punishment is an essential part of human psychology when it comes to motivation.[3] Rewards play an important role in forming good habits. Different rewards will work for different people, so identifying what you want as a reward is the first step. Are you motivated by money? Recognition? Free time? Snacks? Write these down and assign a reward to each task.

14. Avoid Multi-Tasking

Doing several things at the same time might result to a shift in attention. Hence, learn to finish up one task before jumping to another

15. Apply Consistency

Making positive changes is difficult, there’s always a temptation to go back to the old way things were done. It’s important to employ these tips for several days to see how it changes your productivity level. We recommend sticking to this routine for at least 30 days, to stand a chance of killing off procrastination

Final Thoughts

As you can see, you are in charge! Going from working in an office to work from home is a big change, and adjusting won’t happen overnight. It’s important to get started with some of these tips to keep you on track, and after a bit of time, you’ll find that you’re able to be more productive.

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Featured photo credit: Progressive Insurance via unsplash.com

Reference

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