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5 Simple Techniques You Need to Learn to Stop Procrastinating

5 Simple Techniques You Need to Learn to Stop Procrastinating

Do you want to learn how to stop putting things aside and just get things done sooner rather than later?

Here are five simple techniques you can make use of right away to help you kick your procrastination habits to the wayside.

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5 Simple Techniques You Need to Learn to Stop Procrastinating

1. Explore and map out the task at hand.

Sometimes procrastination sneaks up on us because we haven’t properly addressed just what it is we should be doing in the first place. A task always seems larger or more complicated when you don’t know the specific details! Think about what you’re trying to accomplish. Do you know what your desired goal or end result is? Consider making a list or mind-mapping all of the pieces involved in this larger task. What small steps can you take now to get there? Does your task only involve yourself or does it involve others? If you’re working with other people, you may find you need to collect more information or conduct more research before you can begin your work in earnest.

2. Identify and take action for the first small step.

Instead of tackling the whole entirety of your task (which can be an exhausting an intimidating experience), simply start with the basics and take one single solitary step toward your goal. You’ll break through the ice of inaction and will have the momentum to continue on with the rest of your work.

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Remember, sometimes the only step you need to take is a small one in order to get the ball rolling. For example, if you are looking to book a special party for your family at a new restaurant, but are dragging your feet on the task, just pick up the phone to find out the restaurant’s hours or visit their website to see what their menu is like to get the momentum going. Problem solved and procrastination averted.

3. Schedule time for fun—and limit your work.

It might seem odd to schedule an enjoyable reward in advance of doing your work, but this can actually be quite useful in helping you to get things done. You’ll have an enjoyable activity waiting for you after a job well done. You could plan to grab a latte with your friend at the local coffee shop, or see that new action flick at the movies. Once you’ve scheduled your fun, the next step is to set a limit on your work time. Whether it’s a specific amount of time spent working or certain amount of work to be completed, you give yourself no other option but to get the work done instead of needlessly dragging it out over many days, weeks or even months. Sit down, get to work, and then enjoy your well-deserved reward!

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4. Go through the motions.

Okay, so you don’t feel like going to the gym or writing up that email report at work. Instead of getting mentally weighing yourself down with a mountain of excuses or reasons to not do something, switch your focus into the physical world. All you have to do is go through the motions to get you on your way to completing your task. Pack up your workout gear, grab your car keys and head out the door or open up your email program and report materials and start typing. You’ll be one step closer to doing what it is you have to do. It would be silly for you to stop now that things are in motion, so why not just keep on going?

5. Eliminate distractions.

Are you easily distracted while you work? If you know you are prone to distractions in your environment, be it a an impromptu conversation with a co-worker to constantly checking your cell phone or email, it’s time to eliminate those distractions. Turn off your cell phone, log off of Google+ or Pinterest, go to a quiet meeting room or area of your office, study in the library, sit in a coffee shop, use a pair of noise canceling headphones, or hire babysitter to watch your kids while you finish your freelancing job at home. Take care to remove any distractions in your environment. There’ll be nothing left to do but to sit down and get to work.

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What anti-procrastination tool will you choose to help you get your work done? Leave a comment below.

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Rashelle Isip

Blogger, Consultant, and Author

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Last Updated on April 19, 2021

The Art of Taking a Break So You Will Be Productive Again

The Art of Taking a Break So You Will Be Productive Again

Think of yourself as a cup. Each day, you wake up full. But as you go about your day—getting tasks done and interacting with people—the amount in your cup gradually gets lower. And as such, you get less and less effective at whatever it is you’re supposed to be doing. You’re running out of steam.

The solution is obvious: if you don’t have anything left to pour out, then you need to find a way to fill yourself up again. In work terms, that means you should take a break—an essential form of revitalizing your motivation and focus.

Taking a break may get a bad rap in hustle culture, but it’s an essential, science-based way to ensure you have the capacity to live your life the way you want to live it.

In the 1980s, when scientists began researching burnout, they described this inner capacity as “resources.” We all need to replenish our resources to cope with stress, work effectively, and avoid burnout.[1]

When the goal is to get things done, it may sound counterproductive to stop what you’re doing. But if you embrace the art of taking a break, you can be more efficient and effective at work.

Here are five ways on how you can take a break and boost your productivity.

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1. Break for the Right Amount of Time, at the Right Time

When I started my first job out of college, I was bent on pleasing my boss as most entry-level employees do. So, every day, I punched in at 9 AM on the dot, took a 60-minute lunch break at noon, and left no earlier than 5 PM.

As I’ve logged more hours in my career, I’ve realized the average, eight-hour workday with an hour lunch break simply isn’t realistic—especially if your goal is to put your best foot forward at work.

That’s why popular productivity techniques like the Pomodoro advocate for the “sprint” principle. Basically, you work for a short burst, then stop for a short, five-minute break. While the Pomodoro technique is a step forward, more recent research shows a shorter burst of working followed by a longer pause from work might actually be a more effective way to get the most out of stepping away from your desk.

The team at DeskTime analyzed more than 5 million records of how workers used their computers on the job. They found that the most productive people worked an average of 52 minutes, then took a 17-minute break afterward.[2]

What’s so special about those numbers? Leave it to neuroscience. According to researchers, the human brain naturally works in spurts of activity that last an hour. Then, it toggles to “low-activity mode.”[3]

Even so, keep in mind that whatever motivates you is the most effective method. It’s more about the premise—when you know you have a “finish line” approaching, you can stay focused on the task or project at hand.

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There are many applications and tools that can help you block distracting websites and apps (such as social media) for specific periods of the day. Similarly, you can also use some mailing apps like Mailbrew to receive all the social media content or newsletters you don’t want to miss in your inbox at a time you decide.

So, no matter how long you work, take a break when you sense you’re losing steam or getting bored with the task. Generally, a 10-15 minute break should reinvigorate you for whatever’s coming next.

2. Get a Change of Scenery—Ideally, Outdoors

When it comes to increasing a person’s overall mental health, there’s no better balm than nature. Research has found that simply being outside can restore a person’s mind from mental fatigue related to work or studying, ultimately contributing to improved work performance (and even improved work satisfaction).[4]

No lush forest around? Urban nature can be just as effective to get the most out of your break-taking. Scientists Stephen R. Kellert and Edward O. Wilson, in their book The Biophilia Hypothesis, claimed that even parks, outdoor paths, and building designs that embrace “urban nature” can lend a sense of calm and inspiration, encouraging learning and alertness for workers.

3. Move Your Body

A change of scenery can do wonders for your attention span and ability to focus, but it’s even more beneficial if you pair it with physical movement to pump up that adrenaline of yours. Simply put, your body wasn’t designed to be seated the entire day. In fact, scientists now believe that extended periods of sitting are just as dangerous to health as smoking.[5]

It’s not always feasible to enjoy the benefits of a 30-minute brisk walk during your workday, especially since you’ll most likely have less energy during workdays. But the good news is, for productivity purposes, you don’t have to. Researchers found that just 10 minutes of exercise can boost your memory and attention span throughout the entire day.[6]

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So, instead of using your break to sit and read the news or scroll your social media account, get out of your chair and move your body. Take a quick walk around the block. Do some jumping jacks in your home office. Whatever you choose, you’ll likely find yourself with a sharper focus—and more drive to get things done.

4. Connect With Another Person

Social connection is one of the most important factors for resilience. When we’re in a relationship with other people, it’s easier to cope with stress—and in my experience, getting social can also help to improve focus after a work break.

One of my favorite ways to break after a 30-or-so minute sprint is to hang out with my family. And once a week, I carve out time to Skype my relatives back in Turkey. It’s amazing how a bit of levity and emotional connection can rev me up for the next work sprint.

Now that most of us are working from home, getting some face-to-face time with a loved one isn’t as hard as it once was. So, take the time to chat with your partner. Take your kids outside to run around the backyard. If you live alone, call a friend or relative. Either way, coming up for air to chat with someone who knows and cares about you will leave you feeling invigorated and inspired.

5. Use Your Imagination

When you’re working with your head down, your brain has an ongoing agenda: get things done, and do it well. That can be an effective method for productivity, but it only lasts so long—especially because checking things off your to-do list isn’t the only ingredient to success at work. You also need innovation.

That’s why I prioritize a “brain break” every day. When I feel my “cup” getting empty, I usually choose another creative activity to exercise my brain, like a Crossword puzzle, Sudoku, or an unrelated, creative project in my house.

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And when I’m really struggling to focus, I don’t do anything at all. Instead, I let my brain roam free for a bit, following my thoughts down whatever trail they lead me. As it turns out, there’s a scientific benefit to daydreaming. It reinforces creativity and helps you feel more engaged with the world, which will only benefit you in your work.[7]

Whether you help your kids with their distance learning homework, read an inspiring book, or just sit quietly to enjoy some fresh air, your brain will benefit from an opportunity to think and feel without an agenda. And, if you’re anything like me, you might just come up with your next great idea when you aren’t even trying.

Final Thoughts

Most of us have to work hard for our families and ourselves. And the current world we live in demands the highest level of productivity that we can offer. However, we also have to take a break once in a while. We are humans, after all.

Learning the art of properly taking a break will not only give you the rest you need but also increase your productivity in the long run.

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Featured photo credit: Helena Lopes via unsplash.com

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