There are only 24 hours in a day, and we’re each given that same amount of time to make magic happen. But, does it seem like—no matter how hard you try—you’re always grasping for more time?
And, if you’re someone who’s prone to procrastination, you’re never quite motivated until there’s a monster of a deadline breathing down your neck. And then, of course, you turn into this guy:
The problem with procrastinating is that delaying one task tends to create a snowball effect. And before you know it, you’re constantly running, constantly feeling overwhelmed, and constantly stressed out. You go to sleep suffocated by all of the things you need to do. And you wake up in a panic because every deadline is fast approaching, and you’re nowhere near done.
Can you relate?
Life doesn’t have to be one endless runner game.
In today’s post, I’m going to share with you my favorite productivity tips that will help you tackle procrastination. If you put these tips to action, you will feel happier, healthier, and in complete control of your life—instead of a slave to it. I can’t wait one more second, so let’s get started!
Psst… here’s a list of 10 additional productivity hacks for procrastinators.
#1 Give Yourself a Time Limit
Have you ever heard of the Pomodoro Technique? It’s a time management method where you work and break in specific intervals. Basically, you work for 25 minutes and then take a 5 minute break. Rinse, lather, and repeat three more times. After the fourth “pomodoro”, you take a longer break (say 30 minutes), and then it starts over again.
Here’s why it works for procrastination: It sort of gamifies your day and instills a sense of urgency. When you know that you only have 25 minutes to complete a task, you become hyper-focused. And, let’s face it, some of us are simply motivated by the stress of a deadline. That’s why the somewhat-artificial stress of a 25-minute deadline can be enough to push you out of procrastination.
And, if the Pomodoro Technique isn’t your thing, consider simply imposing your own time limit. For example, pledge to yourself that you will only work on a project for 10 minutes. I bet that by the end of that 10 minutes, you’ll be so entrenched in the project that you’ll continue on until it’s done. That’s because once you get into the groove, you won’t want to break the flow.
Apply this 10 minute time limit every day to one of the tasks you’ve been dragging your feet on and eventually it’ll catch on.
#2 Break It Into Smaller Tasks
As they say, you eat an elephant one bite at a time. I’m not quite sure who’s eating elephants, or exactly how long that would take, but I do appreciate the sentiment. Sorta.
Sometimes you procrastinate because you’re simply overwhelmed. There’s no deep, dark secret buried in your childhood that’s demotivating you. It’s just that you just don’t want to do it because you know it’s going to take forever to accomplish.
If that’s the case, consider breaking the task into smaller tasks. Set yourself up for easy wins. For example, instead of “start a blog”, turn it into small tasks you can easily complete in a shorter amount of time, such as:
Choose a blog design
Come up with topics for my blog
Finalize my editorial calendar
Write blog post #1
Find images for my blog post
In this example, you can see that a generic task like “start a blog” is so big that you probably wouldn’t know where to start. But, by breaking it down into actionable chunks or steps, the task won’t feel as insurmountable.
#3 Stop Checking Your Email
I would never dream of telling you to stop checking your email completely because, let’s face it, that’s pretty much impossible. But I would recommend that you limit your email checks. Drastically.
According to this study, you should only check your email three times per day. At most. You’ve probably checked your email three times since reading this post.
Studies show that most Americans check their email at least 15 times per day. And they check for text messages 150 times per day.
All that inbox refreshing and phone swiping can impact your level of productivity throughout the day. A minute here or two minutes there can disrupt your ability to focus. Each time you go off task, even if it’s for a quick email check, you have to re-focus your brain when you return to the task at hand. This process takes an average of five minutes.
Multiply that by the average 15 daily email checks, and you’ve wasted 75 minutes on average just trying to re-focus on what you were doing before.
One of my absolute favorite productivity hacks is to use Sanebox to manage your emails. Sanebox uses algorithms to find out what emails are important to you. Use this tool to feel like a boss during your email sessions. You can unsubscribe from mailing lists quickly, find out who hasn’t replied to your sent emails, send reminders to yourself, and snooze emails you’re not ready to reply to yet.
I use it to clear up my inbox so I can check the priority emails first, and then the other emails later when I have time. Which brings me to my next point:
Consider limiting your email checks to once in mid-morning, once in early afternoon, and once at the end of your work day.
Notice I said “mid-morning”. If you’re particularly prone to procrastination, this tip can help you. An urgent email that you receive in the morning can interrupt your day, rock your schedule, and ultimately cause you to procrastinate on the other tasks in favor of completing the disruptive task.
However, if you know that this is how you normally respond to emails, I recommend not checking your inbox until after you’ve completed your most important tasks first.
#4 Write Notes
One of the biggest reasons why we procrastinate is because we’re constantly distracted by other things we need, or want, to do.
Sometimes, the brain won’t turn off. It’ll nag you about some task that needs to be addressed. While it’s good that you remembered, it’s bad that you’re being distracted from what you need to do now.
So, instead of being tormented by the endless list of tasks you need to do next, jot down a quick reminder note. Surprisingly, taking a simple note can quiet the nagging loop.
However, I’m not a big fan of cluttering your desk with sticky note on top of sticky note.
I recommend keeping notes in the cloud. You can use Evernote, for example, or any other app that stays synced so that you can take notes (and view them) on multiple devices, such as your desktop, laptop, smartphone, and tablet.
#5 Avoid Perfectionism
You’ve heard it before: Done is better than perfect. Remember that perfection is your number one enemy.
The pursuit of perfection can often lead to procrastination. So many of us want to wait until everything falls into place before we act. But in life, there’s rarely one perfect moment when the stars align and everything falls into place.
More often than not, the things you’ll want to do are inconvenient and require that you speak to yourself in Nike mantras. “Just do it,” you’ll say to yourself. If you can succeed in self-motivating, you’ll have practically accomplished your goal. That’s because the hardest step is just getting over your hesitations and doing it anyway. Once you do it, you’re going to win.
Finally, I want to leave you with a word of encouragement. It’s okay (and even beautiful) to admit that you’re a human and not a machine. Sometimes, you need time to zone out and just be. Give yourself space to revive.
Don’t beat yourself up about procrastinating. Instead, understand what’s motivating it and work toward creating a life of less hesitation. Accomplish tasks on a timetable that makes sense for you and your needs. Start saying “no” and be okay with it.
And, in the meantime, you can use these above tips to get a handle on your procrastination and improve your time management. Good luck, and let me know which of these tips is your favorite!