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Why Afternoon Procrastination Happens And How To Deal With It

Why Afternoon Procrastination Happens And How To Deal With It

It’s 2:30pm and I’m procrastinating. The project is due by 5 o’clock and I can’t seem the find the motivation to get it done. This is a common problem for everyone. Whether working from home or an office, creating the next big startup or pushing papers for a corporation, we all procrastinate.

Why Afternoon Procrastination Happens

Tired

The biggest reason you’re tired is because of physical or mental fatigue. When you’re tired you don’t have the motivation to work, so you end up procrastinating.

Foggy Mind

When your mind is in a foggy state, it prevents you from thinking straight. A foggy mind can be a headache or information overload. Whatever the form, it’s hard to get anything done when your mind isn’t working right.

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No Motivation

If you’re not moving toward a goal, you can excuse myself from getting work done. You can do it tomorrow, right? If nothing is due or your to-do list is full of meaningless work, you might procrastinate.

Interruptions

Phone calls, emails, meetings or text messages can turn a quick break into an afternoon. If something urgent gets put on your desk, it could ruin the rest of your afternoon — it’s easy to slip into “why start if I know I’m going to get interrupted” mentality.

Ways to deal with Afternoon Procrastination

Now you have some ideas why afternoon procrastination happens. Try these strategies to help deal with it and get more done.

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Prioritize tasks

The most common reason afternoon procrastination hits is because your tasks are not clear. Writing down what you have to do and which tasks are most important can help you refocus and get back to work.

Set a timer

beat afternoon procrastination by setting a timer

    Set a timer for 25 minutes and try your best to complete a single task in that time. If you fail to complete the task, write it down and set another 25-minute timer. The idea is that if you define how long a task will take, you will get it done in that amount of time (or close to it). I usually procrastinate in the afternoon because I don’t have any expectations how long it will take me to get my work done for the day, and because of that, I will end up working all afternoon and probably not get anything done.

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    Take a break

    Sometimes it’s easy not to stop and let your mind rest. When you choose to intentionally take a break and allow yourself to not focus on anything, it allows you to relax and prepare for the rest of the work day.

    Drink water

    According to my doctor, we’re supposed to drink like 8 glasses of water per day. Even if you can’t chug down 8 glasses of water, you sure can get a glass or two down after lunch. Staying hydrated helps keep the mind clear and focused. All too often, afternoon procrastination comes from a foggy head which can be fixed with a glass of water.

    Have a snack (the right kind)

    Seeing that bag of Doritos may get you hungry, but junk food is the worst thing you can eat when trying to fight afternoon procrastination. Instead, choose nuts, fruit, or crackers. A light, healthy, snack can be just as helpful as a glass of water. The food offers a boost of (healthy) energy and also fights against a foggy mind.

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    Exercise at lunch

    Often when you’re able to get up and move around, your day is always better. When you go for a walk, it allows your brain to process the morning’s information and think through what you need to do the rest of the day. Exercise also works out the body from sitting in a chair all morning. Be careful not to over due it, because you want to make sure you have enough energy for the rest of the work day.

    Take a nap

    There are some days you just can’t overcome afternoon procrastination. You’ll go through everything you know to do and your body still doesn’t want to keep working. When that happens, you know it’s time to take a nap. You usually can recognize the need for a nap if you’ve slept poorly the night before, or you’re going through a major life decision or big project that is taking a lot of mental energy. Whatever the reason, set a timer for 20 or 40 minutes (depending on the available time) and lie down. Some days it’s not possible, but when it is, taking a nap really helps refresh the mind and get back to work when you wake up.

    What’s your biggest tip for dealing with afternoon procrastination? Let us know in the comments!

    Featured photo credit: Ahmad Hashim via flickr.com

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    Last Updated on July 10, 2020

    The Power of Ritual: Conquer Procrastination, Time Wasters and Laziness

    The Power of Ritual: Conquer Procrastination, Time Wasters and Laziness

    Life is wasted in the in-between times. The time between when your alarm first rings and when you finally decide to get out of bed. The time between when you sit at your desk and when productive work begins. The time between making a decision and doing something about it.

    Slowly, your day is whittled away from all the unused in-between moments. Eventually, time wasters, laziness, and procrastination get the better of you.

    The solution to reclaim these lost middle moments is by creating rituals. Every culture on earth uses rituals to transfer information and encode behaviors that are deemed important. Personal rituals can help you build a better pattern for handling everything from how you wake up to how you work.

    Unfortunately, when most people see rituals, they see pointless superstitions. Indeed, many rituals are based on a primitive understanding of the world. But by building personal rituals, you get to encode the behaviors you feel are important and cut out the wasted middle moments.

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    Program Your Own Algorithms

    Another way of viewing rituals is by seeing them as computer algorithms. An algorithm is a set of instructions that is repeated to get a result.

    Some algorithms are highly efficient, sorting or searching millions of pieces of data in a few seconds. Other algorithms are bulky and awkward, taking hours to do the same task.

    By forming rituals, you are building algorithms for your behavior. Take the delayed and painful pattern of waking up, debating whether to sleep in for another two minutes, hitting the snooze button, repeat until almost late for work. This could be reprogrammed to get out of bed immediately, without debating your decision.

    How to Form a Ritual

    I’ve set up personal rituals for myself for handling e-mail, waking up each morning, writing articles, and reading books. Far from making me inflexible, these rituals give me a useful default pattern that works best 99% of the time. Whenever my current ritual won’t work, I’m always free to stop using it.

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    Forming a ritual isn’t too difficult, and the same principles for changing habits apply:

    1. Write out your sequence of behavior. I suggest starting with a simple ritual of only 3-4 steps maximum. Wait until you’ve established a ritual before you try to add new steps.
    2. Commit to following your ritual for thirty days. This step will take the idea and condition it into your nervous system as a habit.
    3. Define a clear trigger. When does your ritual start? A ritual to wake up is easy—the sound of your alarm clock will work. As for what triggers you to go to the gym, read a book or answer e-mail—you’ll have to decide.
    4. Tweak the Pattern. Your algorithm probably won’t be perfectly efficient the first time. Making a few tweaks after the first 30-day trial can make your ritual more useful.

    Ways to Use a Ritual

    Based on the above ideas, here are some ways you could implement your own rituals:

    1. Waking Up

    Set up a morning ritual for when you wake up and the next few things you do immediately afterward. To combat the grogginess after immediately waking up, my solution is to do a few pushups right after getting out of bed. After that, I sneak in ninety minutes of reading before getting ready for morning classes.

    2. Web Usage

    How often do you answer e-mail, look at Google Reader, or check Facebook each day? I found by taking all my daily internet needs and compressing them into one, highly-efficient ritual, I was able to cut off 75% of my web time without losing any communication.

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    3. Reading

    How much time do you get to read books? If your library isn’t as large as you’d like, you might want to consider the rituals you use for reading. Programming a few steps to trigger yourself to read instead of watching television or during a break in your day can chew through dozens of books each year.

    4. Friendliness

    Rituals can also help with communication. Set up a ritual of starting a conversation when you have opportunities to meet people.

    5. Working

    One of the hardest barriers when overcoming procrastination is building up a concentrated flow. Building those steps into a ritual can allow you to quickly start working or continue working after an interruption.

    6. Going to the gym

    If exercising is a struggle, encoding a ritual can remove a lot of the difficulty. Set up a quick ritual for going to exercise right after work or when you wake up.

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    7. Exercise

    Even within your workouts, you can have rituals. Spacing the time between runs or reps with a certain number of breaths can remove the guesswork. Forming a ritual of doing certain exercises in a particular order can save time.

    8. Sleeping

    Form a calming ritual in the last 30-60 minutes of your day before you go to bed. This will help slow yourself down and make falling asleep much easier. Especially if you plan to get up full of energy in the morning, it will help if you remove insomnia.

    8. Weekly Reviews

    The weekly review is a big part of the GTD system. By making a simple ritual checklist for my weekly review, I can get the most out of this exercise in less time. Originally, I did holistic reviews where I wrote my thoughts on the week and progress as a whole. Now, I narrow my focus toward specific plans, ideas, and measurements.

    Final Thoughts

    We all want to be productive. But time wasters, procrastination, and laziness sometimes get the better of us. If you’re facing such difficulties, don’t be afraid to make use of these rituals to help you conquer them.

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    Featured photo credit: RODOLFO BARRETO via unsplash.com

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