Procrastination, or the act of delaying or putting off tasks until the last minute, is very common.
No matter how disciplined and well-intentioned you are, you’ve likely found yourself checking your social media, playing a game on your phone, shopping online, or any number of other activities that help you avoid whatever it is you should be doing.
Despite the looming consequences—like missing a work deadline—sometimes we just find it hard to get to the task at hand.
The bad news is that procrastination isn’t something you’ll get over. You’ll always feel like putting off a hard or challenging task. That’s only natural.
But the good news is that you can defeat procrastination on a case-by-case basis. When the moment comes that you need to sit down and just get the job done—even if you’d rather stick a cocktail fork in your eye than do it—there are things you can do to help you get in the groove!
1. Identify the most important project.
A very typical method of procrastination is to do other items on your to-do list that are easy to accomplish. This tricks you into feeling like you’re getting things done—but what you’re really doing is wasting time. So, first things first: Figure out exactly which project is the crucial, most important one.
2. Break it up into small tasks.
It’s highly likely that one of the reasons you’re avoiding your most important project is that it’s a tad overwhelming. The bigger the project, the bigger the stakes, the more the work—you get the idea.
To combat the feeling of being overwhelmed, break your big task into small ones. In fact, we recommend the smaller the better. The smaller the tasks are, the easier each will be to complete and, as you finish each one, you’ll gain momentum and motivation.
3. Grab some alone time.
Whether you consider yourself an introvert or an extrovert, we all enjoy a bit of human interaction from time to time. Chatting with friends or co-workers allows us to let off a bit of steam and even get away from our desks for a minute, but it can also be a major distraction.
And if you’re working from home? Those roommates, spouses, partners, significant others, pets, and children are major detractors from work.
Find somewhere you won’t be disturbed. Go to the library, a coffee shop, a bookstore, or your bedroom closet. Anywhere that will allow you to concentrate.
4. Have a deadline.
It’s human nature to work to a deadline. If you don’t have one, you’ll put off getting the task done forever.
A deadline helps hold you accountable and lets you break down the big task into little, manageable pieces.
Set a deadline with your client. When that deadline comes closer, it will put you into full “I’ve got to get this done!” nose-to-the-grindstone mode. Nothing makes you buckle down better than a looming deadline.
5. Set 10/5 alarms.
Here’s where you can have a little fun. Set an alarm for 10 minutes. Then, work with focus for those 10 minutes. At the end of the 10 minutes, set a new alarm for five minutes and do whatever you want. Update your Facebook status, play Wordle, or whatever. But when that alarm goes off, stop, set the alarm for another 10, and dig back into work.
Keep alternating between 10 minutes of work and 5 minutes of fun until you’re done. You may find that those 10-minute sections get you into a groove and you want to keep working. But even if you don’t, you’ll get your work done eventually.
Want more tips to stay focused? Check out our “5-Second Rule for Freelancers.”
Do you have any tried-and-true techniques for beating procrastination? Let us know in the comments below!