Procrastination can be such a productivity thief.  For some it is an everyday companion, for others it sneaks up just when a project or deadline demands your attention.  As we head into the second week of March, we honor the bad habit with its own week.  That’s right – procrastination is so pervasive that we give it its own celebratory week!!

If you want to buck the honorary holiday system, here are 5 Procrastination-Busting Tips and Tricks:

  1. Sometimes, naming the beast can you help move past it.  Rather than passively ignoring the elephant in the room by allowing yourself to get easily distracted by other tasks or people, declare what is happening.  A simple “I am procrastinating today” declaration can allow you to refocus and take steps in the direction of your goal or deadline.
  2. Get curious about the procrastination.  Why am I not focused on this task?  Am I overwhelmed?  Bored? Confused?  Once you understand the reason, you might be able to do something about it.  If you are overwhelmed, break the task down in smaller chunks to make progress.  Bored or confused?  Who can you reach out to in order to gain clarity or someone to partner with to get the task done?
  3. Is this task or deadline something you struggle with often?  Are you in a position to delegate this task to someone else?  If you are at work, look around for someone who would like a stretch assignment or is interested in the topic.  It is ok to admit that something is not your specialty, especially if it gives someone else an opportunity.  At home, this strategy can work, as well.  Listing household tasks and assigning them to family members according to interest and aptitude can take some pressure off.  You probably won’t get any volunteers for some tasks, but maybe you can rotate the less-than-exciting things between the group so that you all share the burden equally.
  1. Did a task or deadline sneak up on you and now you will need to burn the midnight oil to get it done?  Sometimes procrastination is just poor planning in disguise.  This can be a symptom of reactive work habits, rather than proactive work habits.  If each day seems like a series of surprises when it comes to what you’ll encounter at work and home, sit down and assess how a change in calendaring can help you overcome this habit.  For me, moving to a Bullet Journal system to manage my calendar and task lists helped me get some visibility into what to expect each week at work and home.  I was able to both have an at-work electronic calendar, as well as a Bullet Journal that brought calendar items into my hands, where I was more bought in and aware.  Do a quick Google search on Bullet Journals, or let me know if I can help share this great tool with you!
  2. For those of us that are chronic procrastinators at work, I bet email has something to do with it.  The dawn of email communication made productivity soar, on one hand, because you could reach out to others without having to physically speak with them.  On the other hand, many of us are so trained to be drawn to our email at all times, that we automatically check it multiple times throughout the day.  Do a simple test.  Place a piece of paper next to your computer or workstation.  Each time you look at your email, place a mark on the paper.  At the end of the day, count up your marks and see how often email occupies your attention. If it feels problematic, try some of these tips:
    • Turn off your notifications.  When we hear the noise, or see something pop up in the corner of our screen, it takes attention away from your current task, even if just for a moment.  We have developed a Pavlovian Response to these notifications, just like a dog, with a treat and a bell…
    • Set times to check your email.  Maybe the beginning, middle and end of your day are good times to focus in on your email.  Are you afraid you will miss something important?  There are ways to set up auto-replies to let people know when you will be replying to emails and letting them know how to reach you outside of these times, if necessary.
    • Take some time to organize your email.  Ideally, you will move email items to archive folders once they no longer require your attention.  That way, you will still be able to access them, if necessary.  This will make items in your inbox an actionable task list.  There is a big mental load to having thousands of emails in your view each day.  It can lead to a subconscious state of overwhelm that bogs you down, even when you don’t realize it.

As you consider your potential procrastination blind-spots, it can be helpful to reach out to someone else to help you increase your productivity.  Whether you have an established mentor in the workplace, or consider using a Productivity Coach or Professional Organizer to help, you can put procrastination in the rear-view mirror!