WORKING FROM HOME: HOW TO STOP PROCRASTINATING AND GET WORK DONE.
Im pretty terrible when it comes to procrastination. I find it all too easy to distract myself with a million other little tasks just to avoid the one thing I KNOW I SHOULD be doing. Even while trying to write this blog post! I sat down at my desk 30 minutes ago with the intention of writing a new post. Instead, within that time I have managed to pay a bill (if thats not procrastinating at its most desperate- I don’t know what is!), write a list of potential blog post ideas, take a photo of said list, pop it up on Instagram and on Facebook (both of which I have since checked multiple times for likes and comments!) check emails, reply to emails and then stare into space for a bit before finally opening up Text Edit and actually begin writing. Sound familiar?
Why do we fall prey to procrastination? Most of the time its because the task we need to complete involves some element of uncomfortable effort on our part, or perhaps we feel unsure of our ability to complete it as well as we would like. If the task was fun filled and exciting, we would be motivated TO DO it- procrastination wouldn’t come into the equation. Compare the internal response to the offer of a nice trip for coffee and cake with a friend over doing housework… We all know what we would rather do, even though the housework might be more pressing. We are kind of geared up as humans to seek ease and pleasure over effort so it takes real determination to choose to tackle the things that require more from us.
Often the smaller, less important tasks we choose to distract ourselves with provide us with a temporary false sense of accomplishment. We tell ourselves “Ok- I may not being seeing to X at the moment but at least I’m taking care of Y & Z!” When in reality, X is the the REAL task, the most important thing on our list. Y & Z could have waited (paying that bill, posting on social media…eh hem…) So what’s the answer? Ultimately it all comes down to self discipline, but there are many tools and tips out there that can help us focus and accomplish the things we really need to. Im very much still a work in progress but I am learning to manage my time better and attempt to shut out distractions and get things done. Here are some of my top tips so far:
1. WRITE A LIST DAILY.
Apps are good but you can’t beat physically WRITING down your tasks. You will make a better connection mentally to the things you need to do and clear head space & free up brain power to help you get them done. Get those tasks out of your head, and onto the paper. Better yet, write that list the day before. If you can sit down at your desk and hit the ground running the next day thanks to that little bit of forward planning you’ll be far more productive than if you began the day by first working out what it is you need to get done!
2. KEEP IT SIMPLE.
Write no more than 3 main tasks on your to do list. These need to be the 3 most pressing to-dos that you have. You need to be careful not to give yourself option paralysis or give your mind and excuse to go for the easy tasks over the harder ones. If you are super productive and manage to accomplish those 3 tasks before the end of your working day, then go ahead and grab yourself a brand new shiny blank piece of paper and write another 3 point list.
4. CHUNK IT DOWN.
This is phrase me and my husband use a lot when faced with big tasks! For example, lets say an item on my list is “Blog Post”. Now, within that, there are several steps and at a glance in one whole bite it can seem overwhelming and make me want to look for something, anything, else to do instead. If I write out a few “sub” tasks however, it makes the job feel a lot more manageable. So “Blog Post” might have “Write & Edit Post”, “Take & Edit Photos” & “Publish & Share” written underneath it. Bite size pieces. Baby steps.
3. CROSS OFF THE ITEMS AS YOU GO.
There is nothing more satisfying that taking a big chunky sharpie pen and crossing that sucker off your list. Its a reward all of its own!
4. SHUT OUT DISTRACTIONS TO CREATE MORE FOCUSED WORK TIME.
Having focused work time is essential to getting tasks done quickly. If possible, work somewhere quiet and make sure others know and appreciate the fact that they need to leave you to it for a while. This can be particularly tricky when working from home what with kids, partners, or housemates around in the background, all fighting for your attention. In the case of family- its worth discussing your needs and carving out dedicated periods of focused work time where its mutually understood by all that you need to be left in peace to get on with things during that time. This will look different for every person but the difference in what you can achieve in say 2 hours of focused work time over 6 hours of constantly interrupted work time is huge. You’ll be far more productive if you can create these pockets of time for yourself. This can also apply to things like housework! being a bit of a neat freak at times, If my house is messy it really bugs me and distracts me from my work. In an effort to combat this, Ive been getting up a little earlier and having a quicky tidy round or popping on a load of laundry before I start work. When the house is really messy, I’ve even been known to shut bedroom doors and physically shut myself in my studio so I can’t see it. Whatever works!
5. LIMIT YOUR USE OF SOCIAL MEDIA.
Social media platforms can be such a drain on our time. This is major weakness for me! I deleted my personal Facebook account for this reason. Im not saying you should too- It just became such an issue for me personally that it had to go. Most of my social media use is strictly for business use these days, but even that can pull me away from my work all too often. (exhibit A- Paragraph 1!). Check & post what you need to to get it out of your system then turn them all off while you work on your task. Right now, Facebook is not open in any tabs and my phone is facedown on the desk so I cannot see any notifications flash up on my screen. If your task is going to take a while, schedule your social media breaks. Tell yourself “I can check Facebook etc in one hour”. How often have you caught yourself checking for likes and comments repeatedly after posting something? I dread to think the amount of time I have personally wasted doing this and its something Im trying hard to stop. Those likes and comments will still be there when you are done.
6. USE AMBIENT NOISE OR MUSIC IF IT HELPS YOU CONCENTRATE.
Again this is something that will look different for each person. For me, if I’m working on something creative, listening to a podcast helps me really focus on what I’m doing. Theres something about listening to the conversation that keeps my thoughts at bay, my brain entertained and my creativity flowing. Many people find that music has the same effect. I will occasionally choose music but for some reason I have found that podcasts really are the best tool for me. When writing however, I either need total silence or ambient background noise. Silence can be tricky to achieve sometimes (I live on a main road and share a studio space with my husband) so ambient noise is a good alternative for me. Right now as I type, I’m listening to Coffitivity through my headphones. Its a website that plays simple coffee shop background noise. No conversations are legible, its just that gentle hum of voices and the odd chinking of cups. Its actually really relaxing and its so helpful to concentrate against. Try it!
7. SET MINI GOALS AND REWARD YOURSELF.
As silly as it may seem, I often tell myself, “Meg, if you get this done by such and such a time you can go have a cuppa and a kit kat!” It works though. Once I’ve set that time and know theres something good coming at the end it really helps me knuckle down and complete the task! (I will do most things for chocolate…) I hope you have found my tips helpful! Why not comment below and let me know your favourite procrastination busting tips or if you plan to try out any of the above.