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How to overcome ultimate procrastination

13 Dec 2016

It can happen to us at the best of times, but when we’re counting down the days to Christmas, procrastination can become especially problematic. Thankfully, there are ways to battle it.

A study in the UK last year showed that Britons spend an average of 11 hours a week putting off tasks they know they should be doing.

On a normal day, sometimes we can’t help but procrastinate. Whether it’s avoiding a massive task we don’t want to start, or just feeling a little distracted – it happens to us all.

Of course, that urge to procrastinate is turned up about six notches when it comes to the festive season and Christmas holidays are just around the corner.

So, in the final working weeks of 2016, how do we ensure we don’t let procrastination get the better of us? These tips will not only help you focus until the end of the year, but they will be good habits to stick to when you come back in 2017.

Don’t plan too much or too little

You probably know step one is to write a to-do list, but how much you write down will directly affect how much you procrastinate.

Write down too much and you will end up feeling overwhelmed and run to the nearest distraction. Plan a particularly small list and you’ll find yourself moseying through it at a much slower pace, with no real sense of urgency.

Try to realistically map out what you think you’ll get done in a day. Just because you’re in work for eight hours doesn’t mean you have eight hours to play around with. Take off an hour for lunch, another hour for extra tasks you might have to do and a third to allow natural breaks or extra time for certain tasks.

Make yourself accountable

Even as adults, if we set our own personal deadlines, it can be difficult to stick to them if we know deep down they are movable.

Run through your plan for the day with someone else, or at least tell your manager when you’re going to have things done.

Once someone else knows about your plans, you become accountable and that extra bit of pressure you needed is there to spur you on. Write your deadlines beside each task while you’re at it. If you can’t get to something, make it a top priority for the next day.

Make an anti-procrastination playlist

Of course, this will depend largely on the kind of work you have to do and whether or not music is a distraction.

Making a playlist should also not be done during work as another way to procrastinate. Instead, make one at home, with songs designed to spur you on. If you get distracted by lyrics, use action movie scores instead.

Even just one procrastination-fighting song to get you started will help you focus.

Break up bigger tasks

The bigger tasks can be the hardest to overcome and probably the first ones that will have you looking for a fun BuzzFeed quiz.

Break large tasks and projects into smaller pieces and write each piece down as a separate task that needs to be achieved.

Depending on how long you have, you should also spread each component out over a few days so that you’re taking regular breaks from the overall project.

For medium-sized tasks, mix them in with smaller ones. You don’t always have to start with the biggest ones and go to the small ones, nor should you leave all the bigger ones until the end of the day. Mix them up to give you a variety of speed and different levels of focus.

Don’t get distracted

Things will pop into your head throughout the day. What was the name of that song again? I need to go to the post office later … which one should I go to? I wonder will it rain at the weekend?

Any or all of these thoughts might lead to you checking one thing online, and then another. Before you know it, you’ve fallen into the rabbit hole of random internet memes and videos, wondering how you got there.

A good habit for this is to write down anything random that pops into your head throughout the day that doesn’t relate to work. Resist all temptation to look up unrelated information in the middle of projects. Save them for your lunch break.

Use the five-minute method

Probably the simplest tip you can adopt right now, the five-minute method is a surefire way to get more tasks done throughout the week.

Set yourself a timer to work on something for five minutes. Before you start panicking about what you could possibly get done in five minutes, relax. Couldn’t you at least start that report? Format a spreadsheet? Gather all your information for an upcoming project?

Starting a task can often be the hardest part and the reason we procrastinate the most, so use the five-minute method to start something you’ve been putting off.

If you do happen to have a few tasks you’ll be able to complete in five minutes, all the better. How good does it feel to check something off your list that only took five minutes of your time?

Don’t strive for perfection

We’re not saying submit sloppy work, but there’s a difference between excellence and perfection. Take the time to review your work, but don’t take too much time.

You probably don’t have the luxury to pore over your work for days on end, so learn to review it in a swift manner. Once it’s professional and sufficient, move onto the next task.

It still counts as procrastination, even if what you’re spending unnecessary time on is work.

Get to work

It sounds simple and obvious, but it’s the only thing that’s really standing in your way when you’re procrastinating. Bestselling author Stephen King famously said: “Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work.”

It really is as simple as that. Use all the tools and tricks you need to get out of the procrastination trap, but do get out of it and get to work.

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Jenny Darmody
By Jenny Darmody

Jenny Darmody became the editor of Silicon Republic in 2023, having worked as the deputy editor since February 2020. When she’s not writing about the science and tech industry, she’s writing short stories and attempting novels. She continuously buys more books than she can read in a lifetime and pretty stationery is her kryptonite. She also believes seagulls to be the root of all evil and her baking is the stuff of legends.

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