Dealing with Procrastination | Productivity Tips

reading time: 8 min




Working from home isn't always that easy. Even though it's great to have the freedom to work when ever and where ever you want, there is also a downside to having a home office: There are distractions, no set daily routine, no clear boarders between working time and leisure time... it's hard not to mix work with personal life.

To be honest, the main reason why I'm writing this blog post is because I'm procrastinating. Like a pro. Currently my number one priority is to work on my master thesis, but of course publishing two blog posts every week is a priority too (for my personal well-being, sort of), so guess which of the two one the fight

If you are in a similar situation like I am, keep reading, take notes, and then get your sh*t together and get to work!

Here are my tips to beat procrastination and start to be productive.


1. MAKE A LIST (or several)

Yes, every single "productivity tips" blog post or video starts with the same advice: write a frickin list. So what are you waiting for? Articulating and visualizing – your tasks is the first step to reach your goals. Personally, I prefer a physical To-Do list. That can be a fancy notebook, blotting paper, old envelopes, the backside of school or uni readers, leftover pages from exercise books, misprinted sheets, the backside of a delivery note etc... 

Start with the worst. Make it a habit to start your day by taking care of the most unpleasant tasks before doing anything. Make a list with errands, ranked best to worst, then work your way up! Maybe even wake up an hour early and finish everything unpleasant before your day "officially" begins.

Prioritize. Since usually the "worst" tasks are also the "most important" (such as master thesis, taxes, studying for your a-levels...), it's a good idea to take a look at your To-Do list for that day – or that week – and mark the 3 most important of all – your MUST DOs, the ones that you HAVE to do that day, no matter what.

Have several lists. Maybe this is going too far for you, but personally I like to have more than just a daily to-do list. I have a list for the entire year ahead (more like a wish-list) where I note down everything I want to accomplish that year. Then I have a monthly list with rough dates such as birthdays, events and deadlines. Sometimes I have a weekly list with general chores such as cleaning, meal plan etc. And then, of course, the daily deeds. I know, this sounds completely nuts, but I think this really helps to break down your tasks and allows you to keep a very clear overview on everything. (Plus, I really love making lists.)


2. DRESS PROPERLY

It's tempting to stay in your PJs all day long when you work from home, but wearing your lounge wear will make it even harder to signal your body – and mind – that it's time to work and concentrate instead of lazing about on the sofa with your phone or a book. Though there is no need to show up in a suit, it's best to dress into something different – "work appropriate" – such as pants and a shirt or a hoodie, or even workout clothes. That way you will also not have to miss out on the relieving feeling of taking off your jeans and putting on your comfiest clothes to call it a day!


3. ORGANIZE YOUR WORKSPACE

The third step to a successful work day is still prior to the actual work. Working from home gives you the freedom to create the space you need to do the work you need to do. However, that means that you first need to create a "creative space". One that inspires you and motivates you without distracting you.  

Find a quiet corner. If you are currently using your kitchen table or even your bed as your home office, find a place that is not also (emotionally) linked to another activity (such as cooking, sleeping, watching youtube videos etc.), or even assign a specific room to be the base of operations where you do our work from there each day (and only that).

Declutter. Mess creates stress! Therefore, keep your desk clean and mess-free (also your actual computer desk and your browser with a dozen open tabs), put those stacks of files where they belong, place your dirty dishes into the dishwasher, sort out everything you no longer need. That doesn't mean your workspace has to be sterile and ugly – on the contrary. Make it a comfortable place to spend several hours each day without wishing you were somewhere else, for example with a candle, photo of your loved ones, a tea box, your favourite mug, or a flower bouquet.

Bring in some greens. Plants are great. They bring some colour into your room, they bring you joy, they act as natural d├ęcor, and they also refreshen the air. If you don't trust in your green thumb, try something resilient, like a small cactus or succulent, or at least arrange your desk so that you can see the outdoors. 

Leave your desk tidy. In order to start your next day fresh and clean, make sure to put everything away after work. That way, you won't feel overwhelmed by all the clutter the next morning, plus you won't have to spend your first quarter of your working hour sorting through your crammed desk (unless this gives you a calming zen-vibe, more power to you).


4. MINIMIZE DISTRACTIONS

Essentially, distractions are what keep you from working, and that tempt you to procrastinate. So remove anything that distracts you!

Disconnect. Put you phone away and put in on silent or flight mode. Log out from your facebook account or any other social media whilst working on your PC. Also, close all the tabs that you don't need for that particular work session. 

Focus on one thing at a time. If you are like me, you will be tempted to do at least three things at once, but that's exactly how you will end up shopping online or looking up irrelevant stuff. If there is something on your mind that you don't want to forget, have a sheet at hand to write those things down for later, once you're finished with work.


5. TAKE BREAKS

Just like you need fixed working hours (say, eight to four o'clock or nine to five, or ten to six etc.), you need fixed breaks, too. Set a timer to remind you when to take a break, and when to continue with work. 

Get outside. Since you are spending not only your free time, but also your working time inside your own four walls, it's important to get the hell outta there as often as possible! Take your lunch outside and enjoy the sun, or take a quick walk before or after work to move your body and get some fresh air.  

Rest your eyes. Not only your lungs will enjoy fresh air, but also your eyes that have been staring at the screen in a most likely heated or air-conditioned room for hours. It doesn't have to be a full mid-day break outside – even a short walk to the printer or to get another glass of water is great. Also, go by the 20-20-20 rule: Every 20 minutes, take at least 20 seconds to look away from your work/screen and focus on something else that is at least 20 feet away from you. That way, you will reduce the strain on your eyes in an easy but effective way.

Exercise. Working out prior to or right after work for 30 to 45 minutes every other day will enhance your ability to concentrate and work consistently throughout the day. Even a 5-minute or 10-minute yoga sequence in the morning will provide you with the necessary energy and focus to feel good and perform well at work. Also, don't forget to do a few stretches in between work! Straighten your back, twist your upper body left and right, open your chest, stretch your arms, etc.

P.S. If exercise is also one of those things that you are trying to avoid by procrastinating, I will do a separate blog post on that soon.

Set clear work and break times. For me this is one of the most important advices to go by: set yourself a clear structure! I use my phone alarm for this. That way I will now exactly when to start and when to stop. Don't take a break every 5 minutes because this will prevent you from getting into a "work flow", but perhaps every hour or so. Just a short break to stretch your legs and refill your cup set a timer to avoid getting distracted again.


6. CREATE A ROUTINE

Now that you've read everything that will help you to be more productive – you've got to get active! Habits are one of the most powerful forces on the human mind and body, so use this as your built-in "motivator" that will keep you going. Once you've made a habit of working productively and without distractions, it will become 10 times easier, I promise. If it helps, leave this blog post open for the next day as a reminder to get into this working routine.

To quote Jim Ryun: 

"Motivation is what gets you started. Habit is what keeps you going."

So: start, and then keep going. Easy, right? ;)

What are your tips on getting (and staying) motivated and productive?

Good luck!  


Maisy

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