Procrastination remains an ever-present foe, for pretty much everyone, in all walks of life. For professionals, particularly freelance or contract professionals, winning the fight against procrastination can make a big difference when it comes to the bottom line.
Josh spotted the following tweet come across his timeline recently, and it spurred us to think about how remain productive and how we fight procrastination:
With that in mind, we asked the Glance team, “How do you fight the urge to procrastinate, and what’s your best advice/strategy for remaining productive?”
Recognize Your Fears
Tomorrow: A mystical land where 99% of human productivity, motivation and achievement is stored.
Mike Valenti: Procrastination is almost always based on some kind of fear.We fear that these tasks are so big and scary and we fall for the traps set in our mind over and over again, thinking that putting them off will somehow ease the fear.
After years of repeatedly making the same mistakes – I finally came to the shocking revelation that nothing was going to change unless I started to make small tweaks to my habits. I also realized that I get filled with unnecessary stress and anxiety when I leave things to the last minute – so why do I keep doing this to myself? The end result never changes how I feel when I procrastinate, so again, why do I keep doing this myself?
I began to rewrite my daily habits with minor tweaks so I stopped chronically avoiding tasks and deliberately looking for distractions.
One of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever heard or come up with is that when you do it now – it leaves your future wide open.
Instead of making a note to call someone later, do it now. Start getting your lunch and outfit ready the night before. Even if it’s something like working ahead and creating a game plan for after a long weekend so you’re not worrying about it Sunday night – do it now.
To battle against procrastination, I like to remind myself of these pointers:
- Do something your future self will thank you for.
- Take action! Start small and take the first step against the fear.
- Try the three-minute procrastination solution: What needs to be done now in these three minutes.
- Remember: When you do it now – it leaves your future wide open!
“One of these days I’m going to get help for my procrastination problem.”
Make a Plan and Put Yourself in Position to Succeed
Josh Kern: I alluded to this when we were talking about working from home, but I can be prone to distraction — which certainly can lead to procrastination. The best cure I have for this is setting goals, and ensuring my environment is conducive to accomplishing those goals.
Getting s–t done for me starts with writing down what s–t I want to get done at any given time. Admittedly I’m better at this some days than others, but creating a list of things I need to do, then prioritizing the list by importance, is the simplest and most effective way to do it for me. Crossing things off a list still gives me that little endorphin rush that comes with accomplishing anything, and that in turn then gives me “permission” to do something else — whether it be something else on the list or something non-work related.
My work environment has a lot to do with productivity as well. Since joining Glance I’ve definitely taken advantage of the flexibility we offer to work from home or remotely, but I know that, if I’m working in the office, I’m best at doing “medium” intensity things like account management or writing proposals; if I’m in Starbucks, I’m best at low-intensity things like answering emails, or, you know, writing this roundtable entry. If I need to do some serious client writing or campaign development then I’m best at the comfort of home.
Part of establishing a productive environment is shutting down additional distractions when I don’t need them, such as email and Slack. We’ve gotten it ingrained in our lives, work and non-work, that we have to be “always available,” but that’s a huge productivity drain. Answering an instant message while you’re working on something is in fact just another form of procrastination — you’re putting something off (something you’ve prioritized) in order to do something else. Command-Q is your friend!
Finally, something I’m horrendously bad at, but I know works because when I actually do it, it helps immensely, is scheduling all of the above in my calendar. For example, if I have three specific things on my list I want to get done, I put in the estimated time it takes into my calendar, I put dedicated “email on” times, and I consider the locations where I want to do those things.
So my tips to remain productive:
- Prioritize, and actually write down, the things you want to get done in any given time period
- Put yourself in a place that’s conducive to working
- Shut down email and instant messaging for dedicated time periods
- Schedule all of the above
Is all of that easier written and said than done? Yes. Do I practice what I preach? Not nearly as well as I want to. But I have done all of these things, and I know they work for me, and one of my main 2019 goals is to transform these from general practices into habits.
Keep it Simple
Julie Ford: It’s amazing how much there is to say about procrastination once you actually stop procrastinating and start writing. I’ve been putting off writing this for days, using every excuse possible to not do it.
As a working mom with two young kids, I always have a million things on the go and there’s not a lot of time for procrastination. It does creep in though, especially for tasks like cleaning and laundry.
Here’s what I do to avoid procrastination: I keep a running list of things to do in a note on my iPhone, adding and removing tasks as I go. It’s a messy mashup of family, business and personal tasks of all different levels of scope and priority.
If something on that list is urgent or if I notice that it has sat there for too long, I book a block of time in my calendar to complete that task and commit to myself that I won’t delete that calendar block until the task or tasks (sometimes there’s a few in one time block) is complete. The calendar block often gets moved out a couple times, but the task does get completed.
It’s actually a pretty simple system, and it works (for me anyway)!
How do you fight the urge to put things off until later? Give us a shoutout on Twitter with your best tips!
Don’t forget, we’d love to include your voice in a future Glance Roundtable. Let us know if you’d like to contribute!