I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a huge procrastinator. I have been all my life. That said, I’ve always been a disciplined student and a conscientious worker, someone who understands the importance of meeting deadlines. I’ve never allowed my procrastination habits to hinder my success in work or school. Sure, when I was in college, I’d waste hours perusing the web when I should’ve been working on a paper, but I’d always get my work done on time. Now that I’ve been in the working world over the past three years, I’ve learned to tone down those natural procrastinating habits of mine by managing my time more efficiently. Here are some tips to help you be productive even if you can’t help procrastinating every now and then:
1. Get easy tasks out of the way first. A big work project can be extremely overwhelming, so if you have smaller tasks on your to-do list that can be quickly taken care of, it’s wise to get them out of the way first. In doing so, you’ll be able to fully focus on the more difficult stuff without having to worry about completing any of those more menial tasks later on.
2. Prioritize. Figure out which tasks are more important and give them top priority. Obviously, if you’ve got a deadline, make sure you meet it. Some people (myself included) work better when deadlines are involved because those dates put a time limit on whatever it is you need to get done. Be mindful of deadlines and the repercussions you’ll face if you miss them, and make sure you always know which projects you’ll need to spend more time on in order to reach those deadlines.
3. Set realistic time goals. Say you don’t have a deadline, but you’re trying to accomplish a big goal, such as writing a novel or finally getting around to cleaning your ginormous mess of a room (and, I must admit, I’m guilty of putting off the latter). Again, a huge project is daunting, which is why creating a timeline for yourself can be all the more beneficial in actually finishing it. Figure out what works best for you, whether it’s setting aside twenty minutes at the same time every day, or deciding to write one page or a certain amount of words each day, or cleaning only your desk, then moving to another part of your room, etc. It’s great to push yourself to achieve big goals, but taking on more than you can handle can often lead to frustration, so be sure to take things one step at a time.
4. Take small breaks. Yes, I’m giving you tips on how to avoid procrastination, and taking a break can be misconstrued as procrastinating. If you’re working on something and you’re in the zone, by all means, keep going and avoid any interruptions. However, if you’ve been writing or studying or cleaning for a long time and find yourself losing steam, it’s important to step away for a bit to recharge. I don’t mean to cave in and mindlessly browse the internet or watch TV for hours. I mean have a snack. Take a quick walk. Maybe even step away from the project for a day or so and return to it later with fresh eyes. This is especially useful if you’re working on a creative project as it can help spur inspiration. The other benefit of taking small breaks is that it’s good for productivity, unlike multitasking, which in actuality has the opposite effect.
5. Set yourself up for success. Above all else, the best way to be productive is to create an environment for yourself in which you can thrive. If you work better while listening to music, listen to music. If you work better in solitude, find a nice quiet place free of any distractions. If you’re easily tempted to look at your phone, put your phone away for the time being. If you find yourself stumped, move on to something else and return to it later, or if you can, ask someone for help. Don’t let yourself get discouraged. Keep pushing and working hard.
There you have it. I hope these tips help you break your procrastination cycle. Now, get off the internet and get back to work!