6 tips to avoid procrastination at work

You’re about to get to grips with a task that’s due in two weeks, but just as you’re about to start, the emails in your inbox steal your attention away.

The two weeks are now almost over, and you’re beginning to worry thinking to yourself… why didn’t I get on with it two weeks ago?

Procrastination is defined as the putting off of activities that were planned or scheduled, for activities that are of lesser importance. No doubt, it is something we have all probably experienced at some point in our lives. In fact, according to research procrastination impacts over 20% of the population and that it has more than quadrupled in the last 30 years. I think we can all agree that it is not only is frustrating but can end up affecting us more than the job in hand in the first place.

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For more than 20 years, psychologists have been actively seeking the reason for procrastination. Tim Pychyl a procrastination researcher got one step closer when he found that when we put pressure on ourselves to complete specific tasks, we tend to procrastinate. He also found that such activities usually have unique features that make you more likely to procrastinate, such as if it is complicated or lacks personal meaning.

Furthermore, the past decade has seen a dramatic increase in technology which has played a big role in the rise of procrastination. This is because we are constantly surrounded by technical devices and the social media apps within them. Technology is starting to control our lives, causing negative impacts such as procrastination, rather than making our lives easier.

With all of this mind, here are our 6 tips for avoiding procrastination at work.

1. Get organised and create a timeline with set deadlines 

Your first point of call should be to create a timeline. A timeline with clear deadlines will create a sense of urgency, which will also allow you to keep track of your tasks and objectives.

When creating the timeline though, it is important to know what method works best for you. Do you work best diving tasks into days or weeks? Alternatively, would you work more effectively breaking certain tasks down into sections such as research, writing and proof-reading? Both of these techniques will help to avoid the overwhelming feeling and allow you to more successfully accomplish tasks.

A planner or an app on your phone such as Microsoft Planner will allow you to write everything down and almost force you to be organised. Don’t give yourself any excuse to forget your deadlines and stray away from your timeline.

2. Set SMART goals

We’ve all set goals before, but how often can you say you have achieved them? SMART is an acronym for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely. By using this method to set goals, you will have deadlines and clairty, which will, in turn, allow you to prioritise tasks and achieve your goals.

As research has shown procrastination often occurs when goals are either vague or completely unachievable, for example ‘get work done’ or ‘complete 5 projects in one day’, it is clear that setting SMART goals is an effective measure to take. So go ahead, grab a pen, add your goals to your timeline and make sure they are SMART.

3. Take productive breaks 

Taking breaks may be the main cause of your procrastination. However, this is probably because you’re trying to focus for too long on particular tasks or you don’t use your breaks in the right way. Rather than scrolling through social media or gossiping with a friend, take the time for yourself.

The ‘Pomodoro Technique’ is a well-known technique which assists you in managing your time and breaks successfully. Francesco Cirillo developed it in the late 1980s and it works by helping you break down your work into intervals, separated by short breaks.

4. Start today

We could give you tips and tactics all day, but if you don’t take action then nothing is going to happen.

No more of “I’ll start it tomorrow” or “something came up”, start today!

5. Get rid of distractions 

Maybe you are making it too easy for yourself to procrastinate. Are your email notifications set to pop up? Or is your desk phone ringing constantly?

It may be beneficial for you to disable notifications and put your phone on ‘busy’ or ‘in a meeting’ while you try to complete complex tasks. The advances in technology mean that there are many helpful features – some even let you set your phone to only ring for certain numbers!

Getting rid of distractions also means those around you in your work environment. Do you struggle to stay focused when your colleagues are talking around you?

The ability to work from home is often seen as a privilege, so if you have the opportunity to, it is worth considering to help you remain focused and complete tasks. Hosted Workspaces are one solution that organisations use to enable their employees to work from home securely. It works by allowing users to access their desktop through the internet. As it’s encrypted it’s secure, but authorised users can work from anywhere with an internet connection, making them much more mobile and productive.

6. Don’t beat yourself up

Don’t expect to get it right the first time – everyone will slip up once in a while. Ensure you persevere, even if you feel like giving up and are stuck in a repetitive loop of procrastination.

Studies have shown that people who procrastinate have higher rates of stress. While there is no cure to it, there are a number of tactics to help prevent it.

Do you have any additional tips that have helped you overcome procrastination? Let us know in the comments or on our Social Media platforms!