We’ve all been there and I’m sure you can relate – you’re supposed to be working on an assignment at home, and instead you find yourself mindlessly scrolling through your News Feed. You then get up to make a sandwich and on your way, you notice a loose floorboard. Hmm, better fix it, right? Before you know it, two hours have passed and that assignment is still sitting there, waiting to be completed. Does this scenario sound familiar?
Even when we know that we have a deadline looming, we willingly distract ourselves despite the fact that that does not get us any closer to our end goal. That is procrastination at its finest and many of us are guilty of it on a daily basis. We’re all aware that we do it, so then why don’t we actively try to avoid this type of behaviour?
If you knew that there were procrastination remedies, would you actively practice them? What if there were ’cures’ that could target this type of avoidance behaviour? If you’re a person who constantly finds yourself putting off work projects, college assignments, or even jobs around the house, then you will benefit from these top tips.
1. Set Smaller, More Achievable Goals
If you haven’t bothered to update your CV or have been putting off your job search, there are steps you can take to boost productivity. If you’re having trouble getting started because you keep leaving it for another day, why not try breaking it up into smaller, more achievable goals?
Breaking your workload up into more manageable tasks makes them less daunting. Subconsciously, you may feel overwhelmed by a big project and this might be why you are procrastinating, so why not make it easier on yourself? Lay out the job ahead and then start breaking it down into smaller tasks, which can be completed with ease in a timely manner.
For example, when you’re looking for a job, it can seem like a challenging journey ahead. With there being so many different jobs out there, it’s tough to know where to begin. Realistically, you shouldn’t just start looking through thousands of pages, skimming through job advertisements because that will only lead to dead ends. You need to start by looking for a job in your field or for a job you’d enjoy.
Easier said than done, right? Well, not when you break your job search down into a more organized checklist. Here’s how...
The first thing you should do is break the end goal up into smaller tasks that need to be accomplished. Make a master list - what needs to be accomplished in order for you to obtain a new job? Treat each step as its own unique goal which is going to help you work towards your larger end goal – in this case, it’s a new job. As you cross off each step, you become more motivated to push forward. Focus on one step at a time and you’ll find that any task can be achieved. Here’s an example of how you could break up the daunting task of finding a new job:
- Revising your CV is critical – make changes based on the position you’re looking for. Have you included any new experience that would apply to your job search? Ensure that your CV is polished would be step one. No need to even think about applying to positions until you know that your CV is solid.
- The next step would be to narrow down any listings or opportunities, looking specifically for openings suited to you. When you find a number of positions to apply for, make a list of application requirements for each position.
- Write cover letters for each application - fine tune your skills and attributes, highlighting all that apply to each specific position.
- Follow-up with any potential employers.
- Prepare for specific interviews.
By breaking your job hunt up into a checklist, it makes the overall job seem easier. The big picture doesn’t seem like an impossible task and before you know it, you’ll find that you have achieved your goal. Also, you will be less prone to procrastinate because you will be accomplishing small victories along the way.
2. Focus on Micro-Rewards
Let’s say you have been given a work assignment with a five week deadline, this lengthy period of time may automatically encourage you to procrastinate – and you’re not alone. Approximately 20 to 25 percent of of the globe’s population takes part in chronic procrastination, which may be due to your limbic system - as your brain naturally seeks short-term pleasure.
This is a natural and somewhat unconscious battle between your limbic system and your prefrontal cortex. Your prefrontal cortex controls behaviours and cognitive functions such as goal setting and information processing. When your pleasure centre and prefrontal cortex conflict, this results in you seeking out activities that offer short-term pleasure, instead of those that yield long-term gains.
A micro-reward system can help you complete your set task, while you enjoy yourself and experience the positive effects of a reward. If you need to complete six tasks, choose six other enjoyable tasks that you can take part in after you finish. The tougher the task, the more enjoyable the reward should be. Whether you treat yourself to lunch from your favourite spot or watch a movie trailer, rewarding yourself throughout your workload, can help you move forward. Before you know it, you will have accomplished all of your tasks. Keep your eye on the prize!
Don’t be shy to reward yourself after you complete a portion of your work or task. Simply focus on how rewarding it will feel when you finish - then set a timer to push yourself.
3. Set a Timer
When you find yourself procrastinating, you may want to look into what it is you flitter away the time doing. Check out your browser history and make a mental note - what were all those hours wasted on? If you have a full workload, try to set yourself a work timer so that you do not get as easily distracted. You can also incorporate the micro-reward system into this process.
Depending on what you’re trying to get done, set yourself a time period in which you will focus only on the task at hand. Use your smart phone, set a timer and once the timer goes off, reward yourself. Take a break, make a cup of tea, or talk to a fellow employee.
Once you enjoy your small reward, get back to work, focusing on the task at hand. Sit down once again, set another timer and focus. Effectively planning with these set time schedules helps you accomplish your goals for the day. You can either take ten minutes each morning to plan your day, or organize time intervals the night before. This will force you to complete x-amount of work in a given time period.
You may even find that with these small, rewarding breaks, you actually accomplish more. This has been seen throughout multiple studies, reporting that individuals who take frequent breaks, are actually more productive.
4. Reevaluate Your Goals
If you are a person who consistently finds yourself procrastinating, then maybe it’s time to re-evaluate your goals. Do you have trouble concentrating on even the simplest tasks at work? Is your work environment, making you feel less than motivated? - Maybe there is a better job suited to you.
Find some inspiration to move forward, developing a more productive and rewarding future. Many people procrastinate because they whatever it is they’re doing isn’t providing a sense of achievement or fulfillment. Set out a plan and focus on where you would like to be in the next one to two years. If you can’t see yourself in the job you’re currently working, then it’s time to re-assess.
However, if you still have a keen interest in your current job, but you’re still checking your emails every five minutes, then perhaps it’s just a little motivation you lack. Alter your perspective. You may enjoy your job, but you find yourself losing interest quickly. If this is the case, approach your superior and ask for work that needs to be completed, which is of more interest to you.
Be more aware of your timeline and your level of productivity. Think in a way that is productive, encouraging yourself to get the job done - instead of, I can do it later, say to yourself, I can do it now. Push yourself and become more aware of your behaviour in order to make positive, lasting changes.