7 Ways to Beat Procrastination and Ramp up the Productivity
Updated: Jun 8, 2020
It’s said that around 20% of us are chronic procrastinators. And guess what… it’s not our fault! Humans are actually built to procrastinate. Imagine living back in prehistoric times… the more we went out and hunted, the more chance something would eat us. So the natural ingrained human desire is to simply sit back and do nothing. It’s safer!
Of course, we don’t have woolly mammoths and cave lions strolling around now, but the ‘do nothing, it’s safer’ characteristic is something that many of us still possess. This means that it can sometimes be difficult to find motivation and ramp up the productivity, especially at work, but there are some easy ways to beat procrastination:
1. Make a Plan
It sounds so simple, but plans really can be massive motivators to get things done. By making a plan of action each morning, you’ll have a clear overview of what you absolutely must achieve, helping you to stay focused. Remember to schedule in short breaks and don’t go crazy with your to-do list… too many tasks can make you feel overwhelmed, and when we feel overwhelmed we’re more likely to put things off.
2. Eat the Biggest Frog First
Mark Twain once said, “If it's your job to eat a frog, it's best to do it first thing in the morning. And if it's your job to eat two frogs, it's best to eat the biggest one first”. A bit of a strange analogy there, but he has a point. If you’ve got a horrible task in your to-do list, get it out the way first, leaving you with the nicer things to do afterwards. If you leave the biggest frog until the end of the day, you’ll procrastinate to delay the deed.
3. Do Something… Anything!
When we’ve got a brand new task in front of us, it can sometimes be hard to get started. When I’m writing my blogs, for example, the most challenging part is always the first part. But then I create a title, and jot some ideas down, and it all begins to flow. Rather than procrastinating, just do something… anything! Any little thing you can do towards a project will make it easier to jump in and start ramping up the productivity.
4. Do Something Else
And if that fails, do something else! If you’re procrastinating over something that’s not urgent, switch to another task and come back to it at a later time. Or if you are up against a deadline, try going for a short walk or taking a coffee break. Researchers think that coffee breaks boost productivity by providing the brain with an opportunity to rest, and enabling workers to head back to their desks with a fresh pair of eyes.
5. Reorganise Your Workspace
I believe that the ‘startup culture’ concept has been both a blessing and a curse for employees. On the one hand, I think it’s fantastic that managers are placing as much importance on well being as they are on other areas. On the other hand, I think that the blurring of the work life/personal life boundary can be detrimental to productivity. I advise reorganising work spaces so that they facilitate productivity, not procrastination.
6. Minimise Distractions
Tip #5 should help to remove distractions from the work area itself, but we have to remember that there are many digital distractions, too. Unless required as part of your role, don’t keep your email, social media, or chat tabs open when you’re working. Try to get into the habit of checking communications and personal websites during breaks only. This can help you to stay focused on important work, and on the job at hand.
7. Practice Mindfulness
The great thing about mindfulness is that you don’t need to be spiritual to practice it. Mindfulness is simply about being aware of what you’re doing, and not letting your brain run away with your thoughts or take you down ‘what if’ rabbit holes. With mindfulness, it becomes increasingly easy to recognise early signs of procrastination and stop it in its tracks, bringing your mind back to exactly where it should be.