It happens to the best of us.
There are tasks and things you should be working on, but you’ve ended up organising your emails unnecessarily; scrolling through social media and commenting on a video post about a possible alien discovered in someone’s fridge; falling down some other irrelevant internet rabbit hole…or just gazing out of the window, picking your nose.
You can even do it on purpose, or know exactly what you’re doing while you’re busy not being busy! You may be trapped in fear or self doubt, or lack of motivation, or distracted by problems outside of work, and so on.
Procrastination has numerous negative effects on your business and life. Here are a few ideas to help with getting out of the habit.
Change your working environment
Firstly, your workspace affects your approach to work. It’s good to be comfortable, but be wary of making your working environment too cosy and relaxing.
Break your work into smaller tasks
One cause of procrastination is feeling overwhelmed by the amount of work to be done.
Try breaking your work down into smaller tasks. Then just focus on these smaller, more manageable tasks one at a time. It can definitely help to make things a lot less daunting. If they are still overwhelming, break them down into ever smaller tasks.
Another cause of procrastination is not being very interested in the project. You might find a particular project a bit boring…especially when you have other, more exciting or interesting projects you could be working on.
Breaking a project’s work down into smaller tasks that don’t take too long to do will make it a lot easier to get it done and out of the way.
A project with a deadline can not only feel overwhelming sometimes, it can also have a very different effect… It can invite you to procrastinate because the deadline date is later on – so you feel like you have plenty of time, and can start/continue with the work later.
As with being overwhelmed, breaking things down into smaller tasks can help here too. In this scenario, you can give your smaller tasks their own deadlines.
Create an overall timeline, with specific deadlines for each small task. Be serious about this, and know that if you miss one of the sub-deadlines it could affect your whole progress on the project.
It will help prevent you from feeling like you have plenty of time to while away.
Remove or avoid your ‘go-to’ distractions
If you have go-to distractions, or favourite things to do instead of working – or even distractions that seem relevant to your work, like checking emails – make them less accessible or a pain to start, if necessary.
Identify which social media platforms/apps are tempting and easy to open up, and move them from your bookmarks…turn off all notifications… Make any other websites or games etc. less easy/quick to get to.
The same in your physical environment with the usual things you do instead of working. Keep the vacuum cleaner out of sight… Make sure your family can’t disturb you while you’re working if possible… Put the key to the drinks cabinet in a ‘time lock safe’ :)
You don’t need to be too drastic. You might not even need to do any of the above. Just be aware of these pit stops, and avoid them.
Side note: If you have the habit of going to any one of these distractions as a strategic way of giving your brain a quick rest from the task you’re working on, so that you can go back to the task with a fresh perspective, consider trying something different.
It may be a quick, intentional ‘break’ from the work at hand, but 5 minutes can very easily turn into an hour! Especially on the internet. Instead – find other kinds of distractions to give your brain a break – such as making a cup of tea, doing some stretching, or other activity.
Let others inspire you into regular action
Identify the people, friends, peers and mentors/advisers who inspire and motivate you. Spend time with them, or their content (when you’re not supposed to be working).
Let them help to induce a daily sense of motivation in you. Procrastination can happen when you feel aimless and unsure of your path…or unconfident about your abilities.
Tell others what you’re aiming for
Tell people you know, or even strangers, the details of the project you’re working on, and when it will be done. Or, for example, tell others the details of the marketing you’re going to do for yourself, or the dates of certain business goals…etc.
This can be very useful, as most of us like to ‘save face’. The fear of looking like a prune in front of others is a great motivator for taking action, for some.
Be perfectly imperfect
Perfectionism is one of the biggest reasons for procrastination.
Perfectionists can work for more time than necessary on a task (even simple tasks like composing an email). This in itself can be a form of unconscious procrastination.
They can also put things off, because they see the upcoming work as needing a LOT of detailed involvement… Or maybe they’re waiting for the perfect time to begin/continue a project.
If this is you, be aware of the problem, with regards to procrastination, and work on becoming perfect at not needing to be so perfect with everything.
Get on with it
As I like to say at the beginning of my podcast episodes at the moment, “Let’s get on with it!” I’m not only talking about the episode, I’m trying to instil this (maybe a bit too subtly!) into the listener’s mind as a method for business progress.
As some of my podcast guests have said, the most important thing to do for a successful freelance business is take action.
You can spend countless hours planning, strategising, organising, perfecting, or doing things that seem important… But taking action – on the things that you know will make the most impact on your progress and success, even when you think you’re not ready or good enough or whatever – is crucial for getting things done.
Let’s get on with it :)
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