Procrastination and distraction go hand-in-hand. We’ve all put things off until the last minute or found ourselves flitting between tasks – anything to avoid facing those bigger, more daunting responsibilities.
Why do we do it? Some of us can’t function without structure. Some of us are afraid of being judged for our work. And some of us are perfectionists paralysed by the idea of making a less-than-ideal decision.
Here’s how to send those procrastination demons packing when it comes to getting things done for your business.
Winging it and waiting until the last possible minute to get things done can work sometimes – but it’s a risky strategy in the long run. You’ll make mistakes and encounter unforeseen issues you won’t have time to deal with.
Instead, set hard deadlines, and stick to them. Better yet, set them a day or two prior to when you really need things done – giving you something concrete to work towards, while still allowing some flexibility if anything needs to be revised or revisited.
Tip: add your deadlines into your Google calendar and set a “day before” reminder to keep yourself on track.
Set smaller tasks
A large goal can seem insurmountable – leaving you prone to procrastination. When you’re staring down a huge task, it can be impossible to know where to start, or when you finally do, to feel like you’re making progress.
That’s where it pays to break your larger goal down into a series of smaller ones – each with a deadline. Create a series of measurable tasks or goals, and tick them off as you work through them.
Tip: try the Pomodoro technique, which involves short, individually timed challenges, and you’ll really get yourself firing on all cylinders.
Get laser focused
When you have a lot on your plate everything becomes white noise – making it hard to figure out what you need to prioritise and leaving you prone to working on things that aren’t necessarily the most important or effective.
Start plotting a list of tasks that are urgent versus more long term – and also take some time to weigh the importance of those various tasks. Once you’ve done this, you’ll know what needs to be done ASAP, and what you can set aside for now. Make a separate list of only those things that must be done today, and work through them before heading back to your master list for the remaining tasks.
Tip: try the Eisenhower Box matrix for figuring out in what order you need to work on your various tasks.
Do away with distractions
Social media notifications, email alerts and other interruptions are the enemy of productivity. Taking a few minutes here and there can quickly turn into a spiral of procrastination. No matter how good at multitasking we claim to be, really we’re at our best when we’re properly focused on a task.
Turn off any alerts, set your phone to aeroplane mode, and set yourself the goal of only responding to emails once in the morning and once in the evening. You’ll find you get plenty more done – and that people don’t really mind when you don’t get back to them instantly!
Know what works for you
We’re all different, and we all have different ways of working. Some people do their best work at 5 in the morning, and others late at night. Setting aside your lunch break to do some work on the side might be the solution – or taking that time to relax might be exactly what you need.
That said, be careful about falling into the trap of using “what works for you” as an excuse to leave things to the last minute!
Use tools to help you
There are plenty of tools out there to help you get organised and keep on top of your tasks. Here are a few that we find handy.
- Wunderlist – an app with a clean, easy-to-use design. Use it to create task lists, share them with friends or colleagues, and to discuss individual tasks all in one spot.
- Todoist – an app designed to manage tasks in a highly detailed way. Break big projects into sub-projects, attach related documents, colour-code tasks by priority, and arrange for reminders via email or SMS.
- Calendars – anything from iCal to Gmail to a paper calendar hanging on the wall can be a big help. Block out pockets of time each week and colour code them with how you plan to spend your time – and then compare them with how you actually do.
- Trello – one we love in-house at Kong. You can assign tasks to yourself or your team, set deadlines, and move things around if the need arises. It’s also easily customisable to your preferred working style.
We’ll consider this article as professional development rather than procrastination, but from here it’s up to you how you spend your time.
Distraction can be a difficult beast to master – we all have plenty going on in our lives – but by following the tips above you’ll have it tamed in no time.