Hi my name is Kristen and I am a procrastinator <phew> glad I got that off my chest!
So let me start by saying that I am not an expert, but I am a fellow procrastinator (I am actually writing this while I put off doing something else entirely ha) and I have been to my fair share of courses to learn how not to procrastinate (which is hard when it’s so naturally ingrained in your DNA!)
So here are my tips that work for me on how to kerb your procrastinating:
Put that down!
Your phone is your biggest distraction (it is mine) you pick it up to quickly to check what Sarah tagged you in on Facebook then boom, you’ve scrolled through all of Facebook, watched every Instagram story, played 3 games and lost an hour. Seriously, your phone is not good for you if you want to be productive.
Did you know that it takes our brains 25 minutes to get completely focused on a task again after a distraction? That means that every time your phone dings with a text message or that Facebook notification, you are actually losing 25 minutes of productivity, according to researchers from the University of California Irvine.
So, if you want to get through your workload or the task you need to finish by the end of the day; put down your phone, lock it in a draw, put it on silent in another room (and take off your apple watch too….)
Close your email account
Same thing goes for emails, they are a hidden procrastinators heaven. That little pop up from outlook, it’s enough to have you off on another task and forgetting about the one at hand. If it is not mission critical to have it open, then just close it and….
Set time to deal with emails
Seriously, it works! Block out 30 mins to an hour every day to check and respond to emails. You will find that you will be more efficient in your answers and your dealings in your mailbox. 30 mins at the start of the day and 30 mins at the end of it.
While you’re at it, check out my tips for managing your email account to help you be more productive during your allocated time with your mailbox.
Write a to do list
Not only does it help you keep track of everything you need to do, it gives you a visual on how you are tracking through the day.
But what if your to do list is what’s causing you to procrastinate?
It happens! You sit down and write your to do list but it’s so long and everything is so complex that you find yourself not doing any of it. Here’s what to do:
- Break it up: have a master list of all the things that need to be done, then have a smaller one for what you want to get through that day. If you have to, break it down even more – there is nothing wrong with having a to do list for the next 3 hours if that will help you to focus.
- Break down the big stuff: If you have a big task or a complex task on your list that has you doing everything else except that task (you know the super important one that MUST GET DONE) then split it up into stages so that it doesn’t seem so scary.
- Put the easy stuff on the list: some days my to do list really does have “drink coffee” “eat lunch” “Pick up kids from school (I set an alarm for this one) it means I can cross things off the list and feel like I am achieving something. Even if it’s a task for “check emails AM” “send thank you email to Jane” “print invoices” short little tasks to help get you into a bit of a task accomplishing groove will help you get through the bigger stuff.
Don’t like the idea of a piece of paper with all your to do’s?
If you’re not a fan of the old paper to do list, there are so many programs out there now that can track your to do list for you electronically. There are even ones that you can set your team up on and you can all manage, track and update tasks and projects. Check out the following:
Get organised the day before
Sounds silly right? But if you set an alarm to pack up 10 mins before the end of your work day, you can then spend those last 10 minutes setting things up that you want to do the next day.
Write your to do list, get out your files that relate to a task you need to complete, print off the papers for that 10am meeting.
It means you will be ready for the day so will spend less time having to get these things in the morning/through the day and will have less opportunities to get distracted.
Block out the day
You may have noticed, I like to use alarms, a lot. It reminds me to check the time and see what I should be up to, or where I should be going (don’t underestimate it – do you know how many times I’ve been so focused on a task that I didn’t realise it was school pick up, in 2 minutes, when school is 5 mins away).
You don’t have to go overboard, but if you set up a semi organised structure to your day, then you will have more success at using that time for the tasks you have allocated to do.
Do the task that you’re avoiding the most first
I hate this tip, do you know why? Because it’s true. It doesn’t matter how much I preach it to myself, I can’t help myself from avoiding dong the biggest, hardest, most important task on my to do list.
But when I do bite the bullet and get.it.done, it always takes either less time than I thought it would or it isn’t as hard as I thought it would be.
Have goals for yourself
So when you do decide to bite the bullet and do the one big task you’ve been avoiding, have a big reward ready for you after. “I am going to lunch and eating dessert when I’ve finished this” “I will eat that packet of chips in the pantry as soon as I’m done” (celebratory cupcakes are the best cupcakes).
Goals help keep you on track and motivated.
Set time for distractions
I know what you’re thinking, why would you want to set time for distractions? Well our brains do need a few distractions here and there, so set yourself times to get up, stretch and re-focus.
Be it at the end of each completed task or every 45 mins or so, you need to have regular breaks to ensure that you can focus more effectively.
Keep thinking of other things?
Write them down and move on
If you’re like me, your brain keeps reminding you of the 20 other things you need to be doing, or the universe keeps giving you interruptions when you sit down to concentrate on a task, so I have a note pad and pen beside me when I’m working and when this happens, I jot it down and move on!
Once I get out of my head that I need to call Jennie about the BAS or remind Duane to call a client, I am free to focus back on my task (until the next distraction).
Have a place to keep your tips to yourself
This one is a jem! I find myself wasting so much time trying to figure out how to do something I don’t do often, or find out those programs that are for a particular task.
So now I keep a list. Yours can be electronic or written down, but wherever it is, have it handy so when you think “oh crap how to I add a watermark to my document again” or “where’s the BCC option on my email” or “what was that program that was great at tracking time that Rosie wrote about” it’s all in one place so you don’t lose 20 minutes trying to find what you’re looking for.
Now this one might seem a little cheeky given I’m a VA and I’m telling you to outsource, but it really isn’t meant to be (promise!).
I know that when I or my husband is super busy (and he’s not the procrastinating type) and the workload is too much, we both end up doing absolutely nothing. Why? Because it’s all important and urgent and hard and impossible to pick one task to start on, so we burry our head in the sand and don’t do any of it.
When you bring in another person to help with part of the workload, you are freeing yourself up to focus on the rest. Hate doing your emails? Get someone who LOVES it to come in and do it for you (we can do that kind of thing Virtually too). Chances are, because you hate doing them, you’ll be less efficient than someone who you pay to come in and get through them all. You can ask someone to spend as little as 30 mins a day managing your mailbox for you, that gets a task you hate off your hands and frees up not only your time but gets something off your to do list as well.
It doesn’t have to be work related, if you are snowed under why not get a cleaner in to help one day a week. This frees you up to enjoy your time off instead of trying to catch up on house work.
There’s so much more a VA or other professional can help you with if you are open to outsourcing. I outsource all of my bookkeeping.
Business Owner catch ups
Now this one may seem strange at first, but it works! If you are a small business owner or working virtually, sometimes it’s nice to be held accountable for getting through your to do list for the day.
Rosie Shilo from Virtually Yours , organises regular VA Power Sessions where VA’s get together either in person or virtually and hold each other accountable for their to do list for the day. These sessions are invaluable! Not only do you get to spend the day with likeminded business owners, you get someone to (nicely) check in and see that you’ve done all the things you said you would get through in each hour block.
This can work if you work in an office or in a large organisation as well, try it with some colleagues, tell each other what your to do list is for the day, set goals for each hour and check in with each other either in the kitchen or via a group email. It really works!
Are you a work at home mum/dad?
If you are like me and are working from home with kids at your feet, then you probably laughed your way through half of this thinking “sure that’s great but I can’t lock my kids in the play room while I work” I hear you! So here are a few extra tips for you:
- Don’t be so hard on yourself – you are doing an amazing job! If it’s not working today, that’s okay, take a break, spend time with the kids and start a fresh tomorrow.
- Call in some reinforcements – Do you have a friend or family member who can take the kids for a few hours? Call them, ask for help, It’s better than trying to do everything, it will break you. The worst that can happen is they say no.
- Give yourself 30 min power sessions – set the kids up with an activity that will entertain them for 30 mins and go nuts on your to do list.
- Nights are good – have agreed nights that, when your partner gets home, they take over the kids and dinner and you can lock yourself away and get a few hours of work done.
- Spend quality time with the kids each day – now this is totally un-work related, but the most important. Being a mum working with kids around is hard, but we tend to forget that they want to spend quality time with us, so make sure you spend at least 10 minutes out of your day, no phone, just you and them: read a book, play a game, listen to their story, enjoy them (and if it doesn’t happen today, see the first dot point…)
I hope these tips have helped you! I know they help me daily. I’m always on the lookout for new tips and strategies to help me stay focused and stop procrastinating so please if you have any tips to add, comment bellow!