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Five Ways to Beat Your Procrastination Habit – Now!

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Five Ways to Beat Your Procrastination Habit – Now!

Procrastination. We all do it, and know the feeling of remorse after we set out do something but end up completely off-task. You would think we’d learn after the first – or at least the 5th – time of procrastinating that it’s not in our best interest. It’s a classic example of our impulses beating out forethought, like when you eat that whole bag of potato chips or skip the gym even though you know you’ll regret it later. We don’t usually learn from past detrimental behaviors when the immediate gratification precedes the distant, more favorable payoff.

The two key features that determine payoffs are the actual reward and the temporal contiguity. The temporal contiguity is how soon the payoff comes after a certain behavior is exhibited. For example, you eat a potato chip and feel pretty satisfied the moment the salt and oil touches your taste buds. These immediate payoffs are incredibly hard to resist. This is similar to choosing to get on Facebook instead of write that essay: you pretty much feel satisfied immediately after logging on, where as the essay may take hours to finish. But hopping on Facebook before chipping away at the essay means it will be even longer before you feel the satisfaction of having your work done, and why would you want to delay that satisfaction? Here are five concepts to help you stay on track and earn the greater yet often delayed reward.

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1. Pomodoro Technique

The Pomodoro Technique is great for people who like to work in short productive bursts. Usually you work in 25 minutes intervals with about 5 minutes breaks between each work session. Then after four work sessions, you get a longer 20 or 30 minute break. It’s a good idea to set out the tasks you need to accomplish and set goals for each 25 minute chunk of time: The limited amount of time in each interval can make you more productive.

2. Parkinson’s Law

The idea behind Parkinson’s Law is that work fills the amount of time you allow it to. Now, this idea may actually fuel procrastination if you think you can leave something to the last minute and get it done, but the idea is to use it in the reverse way. For example, give yourself a start and end time to work in a focused, rather than an ambiguous, time frame to avoid distractions from seeping in.

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3. Pareto Principle

According to the Pareto principle, 20% of your time is used to fill the majority of your important goals. If you can get the majority of your work done with only 20% of your time, this is incentive to structure your time so you don’t waste it. If you feel you won’t be productive, don’t force yourself to slug through a task you could do more efficiently in a better state. Efficiency should always be put first. If you’re feeling sick or hungover, use the first part of time to do less mentally draining yet necessary tasks like e-mails, scheduling and reading the news. Then use your most alert time to get through the most challenging tasks.

4. Quadrant Method

This is also known as the Eisenhower method. With the Quadrant Method, you categorize tasks into one of four quadrants. The top two columns are labeled “Urgent” and “Not Urgent,” and the first two rows are labeled “Important and “Not Important.” Once you have tasks categorized, focus all your energy on the Urgent and Important tasks. Then once those are, done focus on the not Urgent but Important tasks. Not Urgent and Not Important should really be avoided while the Not Important but Urgent should not be allowed to take up more than a small portion of your time.

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5. Time chunking

Time chunking is a more general concept, but can be useful if you want more flexibility with your work time. The idea is to dedicate certain times of the day or certain days of the week to different task categories. You can even add in “Waste Time” as a category so you can plan on doing all that would normally serve as distractions during work time. At least with this method you actively decide how you spend your time rather than getting sucked into unintentional behaviors.

While we cannot focus all of our mental energy 100% of the time, we can actively decide how our time is spent and ultimately maximize this limited time.

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Published on September 21, 2021

How Remote Work Affects Your Productivity And Wellbeing (Backed By Data)

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How Remote Work Affects Your Productivity And Wellbeing (Backed By Data)

The internet is flooded with articles about remote work and its benefits or drawbacks. But in reality, the remote work experience is so subjective that it’s impossible to draw general conclusions and issue one-size-fits-all advice about it. However, one thing that’s universal and rock-solid is data. Data-backed findings and research about remote work productivity give us a clear picture of how our workdays have changed and how work from home affects us—because data doesn’t lie.

In this article, we’ll look at three decisive findings from a recent data study and two survey reports concerning remote work productivity and worker well-being.

1. We Take Less Frequent Breaks

Your home can be a peaceful or a distracting place depending on your living and family conditions. While some of us might find it hard to focus amidst the sounds of our everyday life, other people will tell you that the peace and quiet while working from home (WFH) is a major productivity booster. Then there are those who find it hard to take proper breaks at home and switch off at the end of the workday.

But what does data say about remote work productivity? Do we work more or less in a remote setting?

Let’s take a step back to pre-pandemic times (2014, to be exact) when a time tracking application called DeskTime discovered that 10% of most productive people work for 52 minutes and then take a break for 17 minutes.

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Recently, the same time tracking app repeated that study to reveal working and breaking patterns during the pandemic. They found that remote work has caused an increase in time worked, with the most productive people now working for 112 minutes and breaking for 26 minutes.[1]

Now, this may seem rather innocent at first—so what if we work for extended periods of time as long as we also take longer breaks? But let’s take a closer look at this proportion.

While breaks have become only nine minutes longer, work sprints have more than doubled. That’s nearly two hours of work, meaning that the most hard-working people only take three to four breaks per 8-hour workday. This discovery makes us question if working from home (WFH) really is as good a thing for our well-being as we thought it was. In addition, in the WFH format, breaks are no longer a treat but rather a time to squeeze in a chore or help children with schoolwork.

Online meetings are among the main reasons for less frequent breaks. Pre-pandemic meetings meant going to another room, stretching your legs, and giving your eyes a rest from the computer. In a remote setting, all meetings happen on screen, sometimes back-to-back, which could be one of the main factors explaining the longer work hours recorded.

2. We Face a Higher Risk of Burnout

At first, many were optimistic about remote work’s benefits in terms of work-life balance as we save time on commuting and have more time to spend with family—at least in theory. But for many people, this was quickly counterbalanced by a struggle to separate their work and personal lives. Buffer’s 2021 survey for the State of Remote Work report found that the biggest struggle of remote workers is not being able to unplug, with collaboration difficulties and loneliness sharing second place.[2]

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Buffer’s respondents were also asked if they are working more or less since their shift to remote work, and 45 percent admitted to working more. Forty-two percent said they are working the same amount, while 13 percent responded that they are working less.

Longer work hours and fewer quality breaks can dramatically affect our health, as long-term sitting and computer use can cause eye strain, mental fatigue, and other issues. These, in turn, can lead to more severe consequences, such as burnout and heart disease.

Let’s have a closer look at the connection between burnout and remote work.

McKinsey’s report about the Future of work states that 49% of people say they’re feeling some symptoms of burnout.[3] And that may be an understatement since employees experiencing burnout are less likely to respond to survey requests and may have even left the workforce.

From the viewpoint of the employer, remote workers may seem like they are more productive and working longer hours. However, managers must be aware of the risks associated with increased employee anxiety. Otherwise, the productivity gains won’t be long-lasting. It’s no secret that prolonged anxiety can reduce job satisfaction, decrease work performance, and negatively affect interpersonal relationships with colleagues.[4]

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3. Despite everything, We Love Remote Work

An overwhelming majority—97 percent—of Buffer report’s survey respondents say they would like to continue working remotely to some extent. The two main benefits mentioned by the respondents are the ability to have a flexible schedule and the flexibility to work from anywhere.

McKinsey’s report found that more than half of employees would like their workplace to adopt a more flexible hybrid virtual-working model, with some days of work on-premises and some days working remotely. To be more exact, more than half of employees report that they would like at least three work-from-home days a week once the pandemic is over.

Companies will increasingly be forced to find ways to satisfy these workforce demands while implementing policies to minimize the risks associated with overworking and burnout. Smart companies will embrace this new trend and realize that adopting hybrid models can also be a win for them—for example, for accessing talent in different locations and at a lower cost.

Remote Work: Blessing or Plight?

Understandably, workers worldwide are tempted to keep the good work-life aspects that have come out of the pandemic—professional flexibility, fewer commutes, and extra time with family. But with the once strict boundaries between work and life fading, we must remain cautious. We try to squeeze in house chores during breaks. We do online meetings from the kitchen or the same couch we watch TV shows from, and many of us report difficulties switching off after work.

So, how do we keep our private and professional lives from hopelessly blending together?

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The answer is that we try to replicate the physical and virtual boundaries that come naturally in an office setting. This doesn’t only mean having a dedicated workspace but also tracking your work time and stopping when your working hours are finished. In addition, it means working breaks into your schedule because watercooler chats don’t just naturally happen at home.

If necessary, we need to introduce new rituals that resemble a normal office day—for example, going for a walk around the block in the morning to simulate “arriving at work.” Remote work is here to stay. If we want to enjoy the advantages it offers, then we need to learn how to cope with the personal challenges that come with it.

Learn how to stay productive while working remotely with these tips: How to Work From Home: 10 Tips to Stay Productive

Featured photo credit: Jenny Ueberberg via unsplash.com

Reference

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