Let me be completely honest here. I was planning on writing this article at 9:00 AM and it’s almost 1:00 PM now and all I have is this depressingly honest intro. I’m a professional procrastinator and I hate that! Sometimes, when I’m overwhelmed with the amount of work I have to do, I choose to go take a nap or watch something on Netflix, which is by far, the furthest thing from being productive. I know that lots of people struggle with procrastination and if you are working for home, it’s almost impossible not to get sidetracked.
If you are one of those people and if a sloth is your spirit animal, this article was carefully and slowly crafted for you. Here are a few things that I’ve been doing in order to boost my productivity and find out what are some of my biggest time wasters.
An important thing you need to understand is that you are definitely not the only one procrastinating. About 20% of the population identifies themselves as chronic procrastinators. People constantly put off things they need to do, and that’s because we get overwhelmed by the huge tasks ahead of us. Which brings me to my first point;
1.Start with small bites
Michel Lotito. You probably have no idea who Michel Lotito is but I’m sure that he has something amazing to teach us. Lotito ate an airplane. I’m not sure why he did that but what staggers me is the fact that it took two years to do it. That right there is the perfect analogy for my point. Sometimes, a huge task like eating an airplane can be broken down into smaller tasks, smaller pieces. As someone who was recently introduced to the SCRUM workflow, I have to break down tasks every two weeks at the beginning of a sprint. For example, “email marketing – send black Friday promotion” isn’t a task anymore. It’s a “user story”. The user story “email marketing” has ten other tasks with subtasks so I can monitor my progress. This way, seeing that check mark which marks a completed task next to “user segmentation” or “email template” incentivizes me and it make me feel like I have accomplished something. It might be difficult at first to get used to this, especially if you work in a Marketing or Design department but you’ll get the hang of it and it will get easier in time.
Mark your progress
Teresa Amabile from Harvard wrote this in her study about progress. “This pattern is what we call the progress principle: of all the positive events that influence inner work life, the single most powerful is progress in meaningful work; of all the negative events, the single most powerful is the opposite of progress—setbacks in the work. We consider this to be a fundamental management principle: facilitating progress is the most effective way for managers to influence inner work life.”
Long story short, the feeling of accomplishment and seeing progress while working is the best self incentivization technique. Being productive isn’t always about working a lot uninterruptedly. Although, sometimes, when the nature of your work makes you do that, taking a five minute break for a walk, can actually help you a lot.
I think it’s crucial for a freelancer or even an entrepreneur for that matter, to track the way they spend their time. And you can do that in a lot of ways. It can either be a time tracker tool where you can record how much time you spend doing your work and how much of it you slack on facebook or watching Trump and Hillary singing “Time of my life”. Planning your work ahead can also help you stay on track and I’ve been doing that a lot recently using a more visual task management tool.
Now this is something that you probably didn’t see coming. An article about how to stop procrastinating that advises you to take breaks feels a bit far fetched but please, hear me out.
Studies show that those who give in to some kind of diversion or distraction once an hour perform better than those who just keep at it without a break. After a while, our brains numb out a bit to the constant stimulation. We become unable to continuously treat the task as important. Taking a break allows us to come back to the job at hand with renewed energy and sense of purpose.
A break can mean almost anything. From a walk around the office to taking the time to drink a cup of tea, don’t be afraid of putting the work aside for a few minutes and let your brain rest for a while.
Wrapping it up
There are three elements for optimizing your time and getting more work done. Start with small tasks, mark your progress and of course, take lots of brakes. If I’ve missed anything, do let me know in the comments below.