Procrastination costs much in terms of time and productivity, so procrastinators often want to reform. Use the following 19 productivity tips for procrastinators to get started on the road to recovery.
1. Make (public) commitments and use commitment devices.
Deadlines have a way of motivating procrastinators. Just as students will cram at the last minute for an exam, workers will work overtime to get a project done right before a deadline. People tend to respond with intensity when they feel trapped, so they rise to meet the challenge rather than allowing themselves to miss a deadline. But studies suggest that procrastinators can prod themselves to act if they make commitments to themselves.
Commitments can be private, but they work much better when they are public commitments. Public commitments are commitments you make in the presence of others. For instance, telling your boss that you will finish something at a certain time, telling your significant other that you will start studying for finals a week in advance, or telling your friends on Facebook that you are going to do something. Those are all public commitments.
One form of public commitment rarely talked about is called a commitment device. A commitment device, according to Freakanomics authors, is “a means with which to lock yourself into a course of action that you might not otherwise choose but that produces a desired result.” It is a term used often in decision-making theory.
A commitment device works by increasing the cost of failure to reach an objective. For instance, paying your friend $100 if you get lower than a B on a test or taking your co-worker out for drinks and dinner if you fail to land a client are both examples of commitment devices.
2. Act Now (and Defeat Paralysis by Analysis).
Common phrases such as “paralysis by analysis” help describe situations where nothing ever gets done. When you think about something too much that it paralyzes you.
Sometimes, you must stop thinking about doing something and do it. Create a list of several big things you need to get done and carry it with you. When you get to the office, get started right away by tackling the top of your list.
Start chopping away at it bit by bit. For instance, don’t find the perfect time to start studying for the test. Use your idle time to start. For instance, carry flashcards around with you so that you can study when you are walking or waiting for the bus. Doing something is always better than doing thing.
Do not wait for the perfect moment or time to act. Just act now and get something done.
3. Do Something—-Anything.
Procrastinators often have things to do that they do not want to do, so they do nothing. When you find yourself in such a predicament, try directing yourself to do something productive—anything productive really. Doing so can prime the productivity pump and gradually engage your mind in a way that will lead to accomplishing the important tasks that you want to avoid.
4. Understand the Problem
It is important to be honest with yourself when analyzing why you are truly procrastinating. If you can understand why you procrastinate, you might find ways to stop the problem at its roots. Low-value tasks, perceived difficulty, fear of failure, and personality traits all cause people to avoid performing necessary tasks.
If you can mix fun jobs with the formidable, break tasks down into easily completed chunks, build your self-confidence, and avoid distractions, you might nip procrastination in the bud.
Studies show that dreamers with lofty goals perform worse than people who visualize completing necessary processes that can help them achieve goals. In your mind, see yourself tackling difficult tasks along the pathway to ultimate success. As you perform tasks in your mind, you prepare to do them in real life.
Research shows that the act of visualizing yourself performing something promotes movement in muscles that are involved in the act. For instance, visualizing yourself playing the piano will actually excite the motor movements related to playing the piano. In essence, mental practice, or visualization, is almost as important as physically performing the act itself.
Experts suggest that the extra planning and emotional involvement of visualizations can give you the impetus needed to knock out those bothersome tasks.
To make visualization work for you to get stuff done, you must specifically visualize yourself acting on the task specifically. Additionally, visualize how you feel after you have completed the task.
6. Defeat Monotony
If the thought of tedious work turns you off, try working for ten minutes at a time followed by a two-minute break. If you do every hour like that, you will avoid boredom and get more done than if you just stared at your work for an hour.
7. Add Color
Scientists have discovered that adding red-colored objects to your workplace can improve your attentiveness. When you surround yourself with blue things you can boost your creativity. If you try this, you get the added benefit of increasing the visual appeal of your environment.
8. Remove Distractions
Studies show that people check their phones as many as 150 times every day. Meanwhile, social media absorbs an increasing portion of the workday. Get rid of the things that enable your procrastination. Stick your phone in a drawer, get the gadgets off your desk, and use site-blocking tools like Cold Turkey to block distracting sites.
When you have fewer distractions, you will have an easier time focusing on your work.
One of the best ways to boost productivity can also improve your health. As little as ten minutes of exercise at the beginning of the day and you will feel more energetic and motivated. You don’t need a gym membership because you can find plenty of simple exercises you can do at home or in your office.
If you can spare 5-10 minutes in the morning or at noon, try some high intensity interval training. It’s hard but it is so good for you.
10. Change Your Environment
Jobs that require intensity don’t get done while you sit on the sofa or lie on a bed. Pack your computer and head to the coffee shop or library where you will have fewer temptations. Setting up the right environment for productivity is one of the most fundamental things you can do to stop procrastination.
It is a lot easier to remove yourself from distracting environments instead of using your willpower to stop yourself from engaging in distracting activities right in front of your (watch Netflix, cook something to eat, go grab a drink, etc).
I always find that I get the most work done at the library instead of my home office. Even though my home office is set up for work, the kitchen and living room is just a few steps away.
11. Make Laziness Productive
When you realize that you’re slipping into a pattern of work avoidance, take breaks that focus on ways to boost your productivity. Even if they have no relation to the task at hand, you can make wasted time work for you by searching for time management tools or finding better ways to organize your files.
I found that a good way to make procrastination productive is to clean your work area. When you work area looks cleaner, it’s more appealing to get work done in it.
12. Get Help
Get a coworker or friend to keep tabs on you during times when you have critical tasks to complete. Make a deal to pay them five dollars every time you get caught goofing off. The accountability combined with the penalty can drastically reduce the time you waste.
13. Plan Your Work
As soon as you get a task, create a plan for completing it. Make several small tasks from your big jobs and put them on your schedule. Such planning will help you with your time management and help you know what you should be doing at any given moment.
A great way to plan your work is to use the alarm clock method I outlined. The alarm clock method gives you reminders to get things done but also provides a sense of urgency to make the most of your time before the next alarm sounds. For instance, if you want to start on homework at 5pm, set an alarm for 5pm that says “start homework.” Then if you have dinner in two hours set an alarm at 7pm that says “dinner.” Setting multiple alarms throughout the day is a great way to remind yourself to act at specific times. And knowing that another alarm is going to go off in a matter of hours gives you a sense of urgency to get things done.
Another great method is using Google Calendar to plan your work. Color-code the stuff you have to do and set reminders for them. The more specific your calendar, the better. Here is an example of one day in my Google Calendar:
I use green for exercise or anything relating to my health, yellow for social events, and dark red for activities related to my main business. The key is to use enough colors to differentiate your activities, but not so much that the categorizations become hard to remember. Outside these three colors, I use two other color—white for errands and light red for work not related to my main business.
14. Use Motivating Quotes
Buy or print motivating quotes that you can post in your office and on your desk. When you begin losing your focus, force yourself to read the quotes and then refocus on your job.
I use motivational quotes as my screensaver for my laptop and phone. I also tend to change the quotes often because when the eyes become used to seeing them, we become blind to them.
15. Prepare for Tomorrow
Two of my favorites quotes regarding preparation are “failing to plan is planning to fail” and “prior preparation prevents piss poor performance.”
Mornings can cause hassles, especially for people who have families. The commotion of everyone running around the house trying to get ready for the day can easily distract you from preparing for your day. Delays can frustrate you and cause you to leave behind things you need for work.
Solve the problem by getting planning for the day ahead the night before. This includes planning your tasks for the next morning and getting your computer and other items packed and ready to go before you sleep tonight.
16. Get Real
Just as drug addicts must identify and accept the fact of their addiction, you must acknowledge your disturbing identity as a procrastinator. When you consciously and subconsciously become aware of the problem, you can take responsibility for it and find ways to become more productive.
17. Log Your Time
If you do not have enough productivity to show for a day of work, you must get a handle on time. Get a notebook and write down everything you do, when you start doing it and when you finish it. The time log can make you conscious of your actions during the day and give you a way to identify and remove the unproductive behavior from your daily routine.
RescueTime is a great tool to log your time on the computer and on your phone.
18. Make Realistic Estimates
When scheduling tasks, people rarely include wasted time. Although the idea might sound silly, it will help you accept the reality of your work habits, miss fewer deadlines, and lose less income.
When I schedule my calendar now, I always give myself breathing room by scheduling more time for a task than needed, giving myself some time before the next task, or giving myself 1-2 hours of makeup time in the afternoon. Giving yourself proper time is important because rarely do things go 100% according to plan.
19. Ration Procrastination
When you recognize your proclivity to avoid work, allow yourself a little time to get your fix. Check the weather or your social media account for a minute or two and then get back to work. You might consider such small doses of goofing off as a way to inoculate yourself from it in the future.
Fixes don’t come overnight. A chronic procrastinator will not become the world’s most productive person overnight. The idea is to fix your problem of chronic procrastination by procrastinating a little less each day.
Start using the tips you just read to take control of your time and become more productive. When you overcome procrastination, reach more of your goals, and feel better about yourself. These 19 tips are for procrastinators, but really they will benefit anyone looking to be more productive. So even if you aren’t a chronic procrastinator, I feel that you will find a lot of benefit from acting on some of these tips.
Netflix enthusiast, horrible speller, jiujitsu hobbyist, weekend drinker, and occasional poker player. Favorite quote is “[o]ut of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars.”