Pretty much all of us find ourselves procrastinating at some point, and we can get into some bad habits if we let it take hold and keep repeating the pattern. So figuring out how to reduce procrastination and increase productivity is an important question for all of us. That said, we are all different, and therefore different techniques will work for different people.
As someone who works from home and needs to be self-motivated, I’ve experimented with lots of different ways to get stuff done. I also work with other women, coaching them to improve their motivation, focus and productivity, and so I know what works for me may not work for them. Ultimately though, what we all want is to get stuff done so we can feel that sense of achievement, build momentum, see results and get that brilliant boost of confidence in our abilities and our businesses!
Here are 5 of my favourite tips to help reduce procrastination and increase productivity:
1. Have a Master List and 3 MIA’s each day
What I notice people doing again and again is overloading themselves with an ever growing To Do List. They re-hash this list day after day, week after week. It’s huge and overwhelming. And the worst bit? They never feel they tick anything off!! Why? Well, when the list is that long and it stays as a list, we tend to become very reactive. We fire-fight and just get done what comes in that day, rather than actively tackling the tasks we know we want to get done from the bigger list.
Instead, transform your long To Do List into a Master List. Then, you can begin to transfer items across to your day to day diary and actually get them done and ticked off.
My advice is to section your Master List out into different areas – work / business / personal / family / self care etc. Then each day, decide which are the 3 Most Important Actions (MIAs) to tackle that day. Transfer them to your daily list (make sure they’re small enough to do – see point 2) and then feel the satisfaction as you tick them off! The bonus is that some days you will have time to do more, and you can just draw from the master list and tick off as you go. But if you have a mega busy day, you can be realistic about what other tasks you can get done and go for small ones.
2. Break everything down
Often when we procrastinate over tasks, it’s because they are too big. We stick something huge on our list of tasks – for example, create a website. This is a huge project, not a small task – and when we see it on our daily list, it causes overwhelm and anxiety and a feeling of not knowing where to start. The result? We don’t start at all!
But what about the solution? Look at all those tasks on your Master List, and decide whether they are do-able tasks as they are, or if they need to be broken down and made more palatable.
For instance, if the website task was broken down into simple, small steps such as:
- Research website I like the look of
- decide on a wordpress theme
- choose how many pages the site will have.
By doing this, tasks will be more approachable, and pretty soon you’re seeing progress.
For some, being accountable to ourselves just doesn’t cut it!! We really need to find out how we can be accountable to others and know that someone else is interested in whether we get things done or not.
It may be necessary for you to create your own deadlines to get certain tasks done. That’s great, but then commit to an accountability buddy, friend or family member who agrees to keep a check on what you are doing. And of course, vice versa!
One great way to do this is to find a coworking group that helps you get really productive. At our coworking sessions both online and in Marlow, we always check in to see what everyone is working on at the beginning of the session, and then again at the end to ensure they’re staying on track. Coworking and knowing others are working at the same time holds a lot of power and really does help you to you beat procrastination and increase productivity.
4. Remove distractions
When we procrastinate, we are distracted. It doesn’t matter what the distraction is, but it will find us if we let it!! Whether your distraction is your phone, the notifications on your laptop, the kettle, the laundry or walking the dog, it’s a productivity killer, and you need to remove it!
Take some time to work out what your triggers are. What do you waste time with when you’re putting something off? Instead, decide when you will do those specific things, and when you want to get the work done. Then close off all those notifications, put the phone away, perhaps even go to a different space where there is no kettle or dog, and get your head down. That way, you can indulge in the distractions without feeling guilty later!
5. Pomodoro technique
This is a very popular technique to use to help you increase productivity. One of the things that kills our productivity is distractions – see point 4!! So a great way to beat the distractions is to set a timer on your task.
Put the distractions away as described above, then set a timer for 45 minutes. You work away on the task in hand until your timer goes off, and then have a 5-10 minute break to do whatever you like – make a cup of tea, get your social media fix, dance it out or go for a walk!
You can keep rolling with this timer technique all day if it helps you get things done. The reward of the break is usually enough to keep you going for those short 45 minute periods of productivity. And you’ll be amazed how much you can get done in that amount of time!
If you’re looking for ways to reduce procrastination and increase productivity, why not give us a try? I’d also love to hear your own tips in the comments!