Picture this: you’re sat in the office with a massive to-do list but you can’t stop:
- Staring blankly at your screen or out the window
- Scrolling mindlessly through social media and pretending that you’re doing some personal online banking stuff
- Window shopping (oh hello ASOS!)
- Going through YouTube or whatever podcast channel you use to find the best ‘motivational’ video or podcast to listen to (but let’s be honest, you’re just trying to kill time).
Unless you’re an incredibly disciplined person (which if you are, congratulations, I can only dream of being you) then this must be quite familiar right?
Don’t get me wrong; procrastination doesn’t only happen at work. Putting off the gym, putting off paying the bills or researching energy companies to make sure you’re on the right plan… there are so many things we put off doing. And as a result of procrastinating, sometimes the costs can be financial e.g. putting off paying a parking fine resulting in late penalty fee. However, most of the time the costs are emotional – we’re left feeling inadequate, guilty, embarrassed and frustrated. It can also add to stress or anxiety (and for those of us who are very familiar with these emotions, we definitely don’t want to be adding to it!).
So… how do we get out of it?
How I overcome procrastination
I’m gonna start by saying, pe-lease don’t beat yourself up about it. I admit that I’m not very good at keeping procrastination at bay. It creeps up when I least expect it to but I’ve learnt that there’s no point in beating myself up about it. I accept that sometimes my mind wanders and I get easily distracted or I deliberately put things off but I’ve tried lots of different ways to get around it and I’ve now got a handy bag of tips to keep myself focused – especially when I really need it.
- Schedule difficult tasks first. This is something that I do especially when it comes to tasks at work. If there’s a report or a presentation I’ve been putting off doing and the deadline is fast approaching, I schedule in time to do in the morning when I’m more likely to be focussed and the reward is the completed task and the rest of to do more enjoyable tasks.
- Block out your calendar. I tend to add tasks to my calendars so I know what I need to do and it really helps my structure my workflow and my day. I’m not bound to my calendar though, it’s quite flexible but by putting in time in my calendar to complete the task, I’m putting a bit of pressure on myself to get it done.
- Plug in them headphones. Sometimes, just being in the office is distracting. Just to make sure that I’m concentrating and blocking out the outside world, I just put on my headphones and play either some soothing tunes (think José Gonzalez) or play a podcast. I know that it sounds distracting and counterproductive but it really does work for me. I used to get so distracted by podcasts especially and found I couldn’t concentrate but after a while of doing it, it’s helped with multitasking and also blocking out the outside world.
- Reward yourself. Ah I sound like a little kid that needs an incentive to do anything but I don’t think it’s a bad thing and your rewards don’t have to be ridiculous or unhealthy! I give myself little rewards – for example, if I go to the gym and spend 30 minutes working out, I’ll stop by the shop on the way home and get myself a coconut water. If I finish a report, I’ll get to go on a lunch break and read my book.
- Just start. Sometimes we put things off because we just don’t know where to start. As the poet William Wordsworth once said: “To begin, just begin” and I agree. If you’re stuck on a writing assignment, just start typing whatever comes to mind. If you don’t want to finish an analysis, just start pulling the data together anyways because that’s a start. If you’ve been putting off your smear test – call your GP surgery to make an appointment and block in out in your calendar. Great work comes from just starting, no matter how you choose to do it (and yes I consider going for a smear test great work!).
I hope these tips are helpful. The irony of the post is that it’s taken me three days to write it… because procrastination.
I’d love to know what you do to get out of the procrastination slump! Please share them below!