Procrastination can be a problem in all walks of life, not just at work. High expectations and daunting deadlines can cause you to work on lighter work first, pushing back work that should be seen as a priority. It’s important to remember that avoiding a problem won’t make it go away, so we’ve provided five tips to help you reduce procrastination.
Leave Your Workspace
A cluttered desk can be the sign of a cluttered mind, and balancing several different projects can mean you unintentionally prioritise one task while shying away from others. Sometimes, you just need to finish a piece of work and the words won’t come. So, if you find yourself taking too long to finish a task and are tempted to stop, take a quick break away from your desk.
Just five minutes away from a task can be enough to refresh your mind. Check in with a colleague on what they’re working on, enjoy a coffee break, or simply stretch your legs with a stroll around the office. Whatever you do, deliberately pausing your work and allowing your mind to rest can mean the difference between making that deadline and procrastinating through it.
Ask for Help
Often people procrastinate because they’re putting off the inevitable. Whether you have a report looming or confusing data to sift through, it’s tempting to put off starting these tasks because you know the difficulties you’ll likely face in completing them. Instead of dodging the task ahead, prepare some questions and ask someone for help before you get things going.
Grab someone for five or ten minutes to make sure you start the task on the right foot. Being candid with a colleague about any frustrations you’re experiencing may cause them to reveal some advice they use to solve the same problems. If you have any apprehensions about a task, it is always better to ask for help immediately before you spend too long deliberating and failing to make progress.
Alternate Between Small Tasks
Any project can be broken down into its composite tasks. Every document that needs writing starts with the research stage. Every presentation that requires planning begins with a single slide. Therefore, if you’re finding it difficult to stop procrastinating, try finding a few small tasks you can easily jump into throughout the day.
If you feel yourself flagging whilst working on a large task, take ten minutes out to complete a smaller one. This could be making notes when proofreading a document, brainstorming some new ideas, or simply finding the resources needed for future research. Be careful not to spend your whole day jumping from task to task, or you risk making just a small amount of progress on several tasks and no significant progress on the work as a whole. So, to stay productive when taking a break from major workloads, bite-sized tasks are the key.
Know When You Work Best
Some people start the day with a burst of energy, while others settle into their work in the afternoon. Everyone works differently and only you know the best way for you to work. That means steering yourself towards high-maintenance tasks when you’re full of energy and saving easier jobs for when you usually feel less creative.
You may not always have the leeway to work on projects whenever you want, so take advantage when it is possible to be flexible with your workload. Whether it’s a specific day of the week, time of the day, or just after a weekly meeting, try to plan work around your natural productivity levels and you’ll find yourself hitting your stride when you need it most.
Eat That Frog
Mark Twain once said that if the first thing you have to do every morning is to eat a live frog, you can enjoy your day knowing you’ve already been through the worst thing that’s going to happen. This is the same approach you should take to your work. Imagine you have two tasks to complete in a day: one easy piece of research, and one daunting report to write. Which should you work on first? It can be tempting to say the research as you’ll be able to start your day easier, but that won’t make your report any easier to write.
Getting into the habit of tackling your hardest tasks first can be difficult, but you’ll often find that completing your work earlier means that your colleagues will be able to see it and offer constructive feedback. This is a much better prospect than avoiding your work and completing it close to your deadline, when revisions may not be possible. That’s why each day you should strive to ‘eat that frog’ and get your hardest work out of the way first.
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