Procrastination; the enemy of progress. We’ve all been in that situation where we intend to work on a task or project but can’t muster up the willpower to do the work. Even just making a start seems like a daunting task as you look at what feels like a mountain of work.
Before you know it, you’re scrolling through Twitter, watching YouTube, checking email (again) and doing just about anything besides the actual thing you need to do.
With that in mind, here are 5 tricks to help you overcome procrastination and make progress on your work.
Don't want to read this post? Listen to the podcast instead5 Tricks to stop procrastinating: 1. Ask: WHY are you doing the work? 2. Create the right conditions 3. Focus on small units 4. Plan when to each unit 5. Create an incentive to finishClick To Tweet
1. WHY are you doing the work?
If motivation is the issue, you may need to reconnect with why you’re doing the work in the first place. Understanding the purpose of the work and the end goal you’re working towards can help you overcome any motivational issues.
If you do a lot of client work like me, your goal should be to finish a client project as quickly as possible (without compromising on quality) so you can service more clients and increase revenue. Or if you’re working on a college assignment or studying for an exam, naturally your goal is to get the best grade possible.
Realistically, not everything we do has a WHY. Sometimes we need to do things because it’s simply part of our job. And that’s fine. But it’s worth asking this question as it may help you to appreciate the importance of the work.
2. Create the right conditions for doing the work
Before you get started, shut down your email and close any browser tabs or other apps you don’t need. Turn your phone onto do not disturb and make sure you’re not going to be interrupted by tools like Slack that can steal your attention without warning.
If you need to, move to a new physical space where you can work in silence. Grab your beverage of choice and put on some music that’s going to help you to focus.
Creating the right conditions not only helps you to get into a deep work state but even just the act of making a cup of tea or closing down other apps acts as a mental cue that it’s time to get started on your work.
3. Break the work up into smaller units
Especially when starting a big project, one of the first things you should do is break up the work into smaller tasks. This makes it far easier to plan your next steps and the work feels instantly easier to deal with.
If you’ve ever come across the Getting Things Done (GTD) method, this is what’s known as the ‘next action’. It’s the very next thing you can do on a project to move the work forward.
I’m currently working on an update to my Personal Productivity Toolkit and that alone feels like a lot of work. So, as I do with any project, I created a new task in Asana and mind-dumped everything I knew I’d need to do into the subtasks:
Now, when I think about working on this project, I’m not really thinking about the project (that’s too scary). I’m focussing on a singular next action; a bite-sized piece of the project that I can make progress on.
This is why using a task management tool is so powerful. Project management requires that you identify the key phases, milestones, tasks and even subtasks within a project.
4. Plan when you’re going to work on each unit
As a proponent of time blocking, the next step is to plan when you’re going to work on each of these smaller units. You could do this using a task management tool and simply assigning due dates to each task. Tools like Asana can then show you a timeline to help you visualise when you should work on each task.
I like to go one step further and block out time on my calendar to show when I’m going to work on each task. This forces me to think about:
- What day and time I’m going to do each task.
- How much time to allocate to each unit of work.
By scheduling the work on your calendar, you make a commitment to yourself to do the work. A bit like scheduling a meeting, you commit to the other attendees to show up on time, I like to use the same mentality with appointments I make for myself.
I got started with time blocking back when I was studying at university. Instead of sitting down and trying to write a 2,000-word essay, I’d break this up into smaller units of work. For example, I’d schedule time on my calendar to work on each part of the essay like the introduction, each paragraph and the conclusion. This process helps make the assignment much easier to plan and execute.
5. Create an incentive to finish
A fun trick I like to use is to create an incentive to finish.
Just this morning, I was preparing to record a series of YouTube videos. This is always a very daunting task as it’s a lot of work and can be quite exhausting to perform to the camera for a long period of time.
So, I made some adjustments to my calendar and scheduled time to go to the golf range over lunch. But the only way I was going to have time to fit this in would be to get started and record all the videos without delay. If I wasted any time, I wouldn’t have made it (fortunately, I did).
Depending on your environment and the work you’re doing, incentives could anything; Going for a walk, getting a takeaway coffee, buying lunch instead of making it, working on something easy or watching an episode of your TV show at the end of the day.
What else do you do to overcome procrastination? Please share your tips in the comments below!