stop procrastinating

Have you ever left the office feeling tired, yet unsatisfied with what you achieved that day?

Have you asked yourself the question “Why haven’t I been able to get the things I want done? Was it because of external interuptions, or because I kept delaying the tasks I set out to accomplish that day?”

There is no secret that being productive is key to a succesful professional career. In times of constant distractions, being focused on accomphishing your important daily goals becomes a skill that needs constant training.

Like many of you, I too struggle with procrastination. Besides sharing with you my personal strategies to tackle it, this article is meant as part of the “self-healing” process, a public admission of “guilt”, and a request for public accountability.

What is Procrastination?

Procrastination is the act of delaying or postponing tasks that affects individuals from all walks of life. It hinders personal growth, limits productivity, and stands as a formidable obstacle to achieving one’s goals. Aside from preventing you from accomplishing your daily goals, procrastination also makes you feel bad, because you’re fully aware that putting off things is a bad idea.

Procrastination can be a source of constant stress and unhappyness with one’s professional and personal life.

There is no point in blaming yourself for the guilty feeling of not accomplishing the goals you set for yourself on a given day. Unless you live in a cave, you are constantly exposed to distractions that prevent you from getting meaningful work done.

What is meaningful work? It is work that allows you to move closer to achieving your personal and professional goals. If your goal is to spend more time with your children, the common act of constantly checking your phone prevents you fully enjoying the experience, even if you are physically present. If your goal is to launch a new website, constantly checking the flow of incoming emails, or scrolling competitors’ social media fees distract you from the main objective. At the end of the day you’ll feel tired, but not satisfied with the amount of quality work you put in.

Getting important work done is hard, as it requires extended periods of focus. It’s human nature to avoid difficult work, and gravitate towards activities that don’t require a lot of effort.

A 5-Step Plan to Tackle Procrastination

Fortunately, overcoming procrastination is within reach for anyone willing to make a conscious effort. Below are the strategies I found very effective in avoiding procrastination and using my time wisely.

Identify the habits that prevent you from getting things done.

The first step towards overcoming procrastination is to acklowledge the problem. Remember, you are only procrastinating if you are delaying the task you had scheduled within a particular time frame. If you browse the web or check your social media in a purposely allocated time slot, it does not constitute procrastination.

In my case, I find myself delaying meaningful work, instead browsing the internet for the latest news, or checking my emails every 2 minutes, although I am not expecting any urgent email. The Apple News app is my number one enemy. I am fully aware that being up to date on the latest political and social developments rarely brings any personal benefits, while slowing me down in achieving the things that make me a happy and positive person.

Next, understand why you keep falling into these habits, being fully aware of the negative effects on your mood. We usually procrastinate because we are trying to escape a feeling such boredom (this task is so boring), anxiety (I am not able to perform this task), resentment ((I just don’t feel like doing it). Other times, it is the lack of strict dealines, or immediate accountability, that makes us focus on activities that provide an instant reward. In most cases, including mine, it’s a combination of the above.

Once you acklownedge the problem and the reasons behind it, it’s time to work towards regaining your focus and motivation.

Set Clear and Attainable Goals:

Establishing clear and achievable goals is crucial for combating procrastination. Break down larger tasks into smaller, manageable steps, and set specific deadlines for each one. This approach not only provides a roadmap for success but also creates a sense of urgency and accountability that helps to combat procrastination.

Rank the tasks that are most important to you that day. Think of these tasks in terms of the effect their accomplishment will have on your mood: “I will be so happy if I can get this done today!”. Write the important tasks down, and allocate your most productive time to accomplishing them. Make a conscious effort to become “indistractable” during this time.

Aim to work on your important goal at the time of the day when you are most productive. Some people are able to focus best in the morning, while others do their best work at night. When thinking for your most productive period, take into account the probability of external distractions occurring: for example, your might feel your most productive time is between 10-11.30 AM, however this is the time when you have to answer most emails. The most productive time allows you to focus for an extended period of time (ideally 1-1.5 hours) without interruptions.

Prioritize and Create a Schedule:

Procrastination often thrives on a lack of structure. Combat this by prioritizing your tasks and creating a schedule or to-do list. Identify the most important and urgent tasks and tackle them first. Organizing your day not only helps you stay focused but also provides a visual reminder of your progress, motivating you to keep moving forward.

There are numerous strategies and techniques that can be used to organize your day. Below are the ones I personally employed, with various degrees of success:

Written To-Do Lists: at the end of each week I write down my  important tasks for the next. Then, at the beginning of each day, I pick 1-2 items from the weekly list to work on. I find that writing down the tasks using the classic pen and paper gives me a huge sense of accompshiment at the end of each day, when I am able to phisically strike them off the list.

Time Blocking: this method involves allocating specific time blocks for different tasks or categories of tasks throughout your day. This helps create a structured schedule and ensures that you dedicate time to important activities. You can read more about this method in this article that helped me get started.

Use of Technology: Utilize productivity tools and apps like Todoist, Trello, or Asana to organize tasks, set deadlines, and track progress. These tools often offer features for prioritization and scheduling. Personally, I am not able to use digital productivity tools very consistently, instead beingmore inclined towards using traditional time management methods.

Minimize Digital Distractions:

Modern technology has opened a world of distractions that can easily derail your productivity. To combat procrastination, limit distractions by creating a conducive work environment. Here are some of the strategies I use:

Turn Off Non-Essential Notifications: I find the phone to be the number one source of digital distraction. As a result, I disabled all notifications for apps and programs, unless essential for my work or immediate communication needs.

Implement Digital Detox Time: As a complementary strategy to the above, I designate certain hours of the day or specific days of the week as “digital detox” periods drastically limit, or completelly disconect from digital devices.

Organize My Digital Environment: Every 6 months I declutter my desktop icons, delete files I no longer need, and remove unused apps on my phone. This digital clensing process gives me immense satisfaction and renewed focus.

Cultivate Accountability and Remain Positive:

Accountability can be a powerful motivator in combating procrastination. Share your goals and deadlines with a friend, mentor, or colleague. Consider joining a study or accountability group where members support each other in achieving their objectives. Knowing that others are aware of your commitments can increase your sense of responsibility and make you less likely to procrastinate.

Tackling procastirnation is not a linear process; you will most likely hit a few bumps in the road. There will be days when you’ll not be able to stick to the plan. This is inevitable. Remind yourself of your goals, and how achieving them will make you feel.

Hence, it is important to admit failure and remain positive.

Recognize and celebrate your accomplishments, no matter how small. Rewarding yourself for completing tasks or reaching milestones reinforces positive behavior and provides additional motivation to keep going. Choose meaningful rewards that align with your interests, such as taking a break to enjoy a hobby, treating yourself to something special, or spending quality time with loved ones.

Procrastination is a formidable adversary, but it can be conquered with the right mindset and strategies. By recognizing the causes of procrastination, setting clear goals, establishing a schedule, minimizing distractions, and seeking accountability, you can boost your productivity and achieve success. Remember, breaking free from procrastination is a journey that requires consistent effort and self-reflection, but the rewards of increased productivity and personal growth are well worth it.