Procrastination is a powerful force of nature capable of bringing an empire to its knees
Or, in the case of most people’s day to day, that painful urge to binge on Netflix, characterized by a just a hint of guilt and a dreadful tingle of impending doom, always seems a more tempting option than making an early start on your taxes; or responding to a clients email, or beginning work on your novel.
Procrastination massages those parts of us that tense up when confronted by fear of failure. If you work from home, you know all too well of distraction and must have found methods to overcome it, but the simple truth is that WE ALL procrastinate. Whether we want to write the next Gatsby or make homemade jewellery, we all have something we’re putting off. So here are some handy tips for staying on task and on focus when pursuing your goal:
1) Start your day right
If you’re someone who hates mornings then be kind to yourself. Get enough sleep (the recommended eight hours) and wake up to a series of alarms. A song that makes you happy is a great thing to set as an alarm as it’s likely to give you more energy than those pre-packaged ring tones that evoke Brian Eno playing a xylophone on a merry go round.
Get dressed for your day, a Dinosaur onesie makes cute pyjamas but wearers don’t often attack things with the ferocity of a T-Rex. Make sure you eat a balanced breakfast. Doing any or all of these is likely to have a positive effect on your productivity and, if anything, catering to your basic human needs for sleep and proper nutrition is just good general advice.
2) Prepare your workstation
An organised workstation is essential for properly handling your tasks for the day. A clear desk free from distraction and with plenty of natural light is probably best, unless you’re building a darkroom or training in stealth. Make sure you have the tools, materials, and supplies you need and most importantly, know yourself as a worker. If having a photograph of your trip to Rome in view is likely to to lead you off to thoughts of the Roman Empire and what the brushes on Centurion’s helmets were actually used for then don’t include it.
Equally, if your task is creative and relevant imagery is likely to spark inspiration then do include some. The important thing is that you can take what you need out of the environment in which you’ll be achieving your goal. Maybe consider getting some plants as well; Simon Pegg had a peace lily on his desk in Hot Fuzz and he was very efficient.
3) Set Daily Deadlines
Okay, now we’re into the nitty-gritty. But don’t back out, remember that glass of green juice you drank this morning? The notice board you covered with pertinent articles and marketing trends? That was all for this. Set yourself deadlines that you will meet on a DAILY basis. A weekly deadline allows one the opportunity to waste a day and leave yourself open to having to complete more work in less time, so break your week down into daily, simple and thought-out tasks. If you have a long list of daily errands or are struggling to choose which task to attempt first, then prioritise.
Make a list and break them down by time spent and urgency, if something as simple as sending an email will take five minutes then handle it immediately. By allowing yourself this time daily and not taking on too much, you’ll also inevitably end up going beyond your initial deadline, insuring that you feel the virtue of your progress and also meaning you progress faster than you initially thought. That leaves all the more time for your passion, and in the end isn’t that what it’s all about?
This is the last and, in many ways, most important tip I have for beating procrastination. When we procrastinate, essentially what we are doing is allowing ourselves undeserved leisure time. We stop treating recreation as a reward for hard work, something that motivates us to get things done. Whilst you should find personal enjoyment in your tasks in order to increase productivity and boost the quality of your work, there are some things we simply just don’t want to do. One way to get around this obstacle, when it would be so easy to procrastinate, is to offer yourself a reward that will serve as motivation.
It’s that simple, be it video games, a TV show or a tasty snack. Then, once the work is done, you can revel in the earned satisfaction of the reward and feel no guilt. That said, this blog is finished so if you’ll excuse me I have a date with some ice cream and a documentary about Roman military strategy… I’ve made myself curious about the Centurion thing.