Our Grandparents’ generation used to say, ‘Never put off until tomorrow what you can do today’, which shows that procrastination isn’t a modern problem. People have been trying to outmaneuver themselves to get things done for generations. When you work from home, procrastination can be a real issue as you don’t have your peers around you for accountability; it’s easy to get sidetracked.
To help you deal with the problem, we’ve pulled together a list of 11 procrastination hacks to help you easily tackle this problem.
Why do We Procrastinate?
One of the theories around why people procrastinate has to do with anxiety. The theory goes that there is a certain amount of anxiety around doing a task. So we put off facing that anxiety by distracting ourselves with other things until the anxiety of a deadline becomes greater than that caused by doing the task, so we get on and do it.
Leaving things to the last minute seems to reinforce the behavior; so once you’re an established procrastinator you’re likely to stay that way unless you take determined action to stop.
While everyone procrastinates, it can be more prevalent amongst people who are neurodivergent; for example, while it isn’t an official symptom of ADHD, many people who have a diagnosis struggle with chronic procrastination.
If your procrastination is having a significant impact on your life then it might be worth talking to a healthcare professional.
11 Procrastination Hacks
We can’t put it off any longer, it’s time to get down to those procrastination hacks! We’ve scoured the internet for you to come with the best tricks to stop procrastinating, so here they are.
1. Eat the Frog
Mark Twain is most often credited with this piece of advice, ‘ if the first thing you do in the morning is eat a live frog, you can go through the rest of the day knowing the worst is behind you’.
The idea is that rather than spending the day dreading and avoiding a task, if you make it the first thing you do in the morning, then you will have a much more enjoyable day as a result.
2. The Pomodoro Technique
Named after a tomato-shaped kitchen timer, the Pomodoro technique was developed by Francis Cirillo back in the 1980s when he was trying to understand how to deal with procrastination.
The essence of it is simple, you set a kitchen timer, and you work solidly on something until the timer goes off, and then you stop. Most people who use the technique stick with a 25-minute timer, and an important part of the process is taking a break once it goes off. Using a physical timer seems to help as the physical act of turning the timer sets the intention to use the time well.
This hack looks to end procrastination due to overwhelming. If you are facing a big task like writing a lenghty document or making many calls, break them down into mini-tasks to help you deal with them.
For example, writing the next page is less intimidating than finishing the entire report. Breaking the process of writing this post down might look something like:
- Research procrastination
- Compile notes
- Create list of hacks
- Write introduction
- Write about procrastination
- Write about hacks
- Write conclusion
Breaking tasks down this way gives you a manageable step to start with and helps you to see the progress along the way.
4. Cold Turkey
This hack is designed for people whose procrastination habits include web surfing, doom scrolling, or who are easily distracted by the ping of a new email.
The idea is that you will break off all distractions for a set period of time; you put your phone in airplane mode, close your email application, and shut down any browser windows that aren’t for work. It’s not forever, it’s just until you’ve made some progress. There are apps to help you to reinforce your self-control and block out distractions.
5. Scheduling your Stress
If anxiety is the root cause, then it follows that dealing with stress is part of how to fix procrastination. In this solution, rather than trying to power through those uncomfortable feelings, you give yourself dedicated time to think about them.
Give yourself some dedicated time each day to feel the stress, and journal about it if that works for you.
6. Go with the Tide
Rather than trying to fight procrastination, what about just going with it? Harness the rush of that last-minute deadline and use it to make yourself more productive. Let’s say you have a project due that will take an hour, and needs to be shared with colleagues at noon before a meeting. Schedule your time so you start working at 11 and ride the adrenaline rush to completion.
How can you motivate yourself to get something done? If the satisfaction of a tick on your team’s task management system isn’t enough, then maybe you need to find a way to bring the fun into your work.
If you’re doing something repetitive, try timing yourself and then seeing if you can beat your own time. If you’re writing a report or article, see if you can find a work to work in a random word or phrase. Assign points to tasks based on how demanding they are, and when you hit a target, you get to go out for Starbucks.
Be creative and do what works for you. Some apps can help with this too, for example, Habitica, which turns your to-do list into a D&D-style adventure game.
8. Stay on Target
Multi-tasking can easily turn into a distraction.
If you’re interested in how to stop being a procrastinator, then doing one thing at a time may be a good first step. Decide on your task, and stick to that one thing until it’s done. It sounds simple, but it might beinteresting to see how many temptations crop up to swerve away, from Slack notifications to phone calls.
Make your remote teammates hold you accountable.
Pop a message in the group chat, or DM your work wife and let them know that you have this thing to do, and how long it will take. Ask them to check in on you in an hour (or however long) and see how you’re doing. You could even have a virtual co-working session where you all join a Zoom or Teams call and get on with your work, keeping each other on track.
10. What Happens if You Just…Don’t?
Wondering how to stop procrastinating right now? Ask yourself this question. What will happen if I don’t do this thing. The chances are that it won’t be good. You might let down your team, lose a client, increase someone else’s workload or – let’s face it – get fired.
Sometimes knowing what’s at stake can be a great motivator.
11. Use Your Time Wisely
One of the benefits of working from home is that you tend to have more control over when you work, and that can be outside the 9-5. If you know that you have an energy slump after lunch, then don’t expect yourself to be able to do much at this time.
Plan your day to set yourself up for success; if you’re highly motivated first thing, then that’s when to swallow your frogs. If you’re better after your lunch break, put your most difficult tasks into your calendar then.
Now you Know How to Stop Procrastinating
The list above gives you plenty of tactics to use to help beat distraction and get things done, but it’s also important to remember that you are human and might just be having a bad day. Sometimes the best thing to do is to put something off until tomorrow (sorry, Granny!) and don’t beat yourself up about it. At least you now have a toolbox of procrastination hacks to use when you really need them.