Procrastination can be a debilitating cycle which kills productivity, creates overwhelming stress, and impacts your sense of work life harmony and wellbeing.
You have something you need to do
You’ve been dragging your heels and putting it off
You think it will take too much time or you’re not entirely sure what you need to do
So you avoid it
Putting it off makes you feel anxious so you find other things to focus on
Meanwhile, the original task waits for you, and you feel guilty for not completing it
Your procrastination leads to more stress, more avoidance and more excuses
Bottom line, you feel really unproductive
So how do you move from procrastination to productivity?
First of all, it’s about realizing that productivity is not about doing more in a day, it’s about prioritizing and doing the most important things well.
9 Steps To Move from Procrastination to Productivity
1. Prioritize Your To-Do List
Sometimes it’s hard to be productive when you’re feeling overwhelmed and you don’t know where to start. If this is the case, the most effective solution is to list everything you need to get accomplished, then prioritize these tasks based on importance and urgency.
Don’t overwhelm yourself.
Items on a to-do lists often fail because we make things harder than they need to be or the tasks are unequal in the time they require to complete. Some will take a long time, others won’t take any time at all and this can lead to an imbalance in the way we allocate our time.
What happens then is that we start to procrastinate because we tend to focus on the easy things, and then become really distracted on the harder tasks. Falling behind then leads to feeling more stressed.
I have found it helpful to create 3 categories for my to-do list which I label A, B, C. The A column is for items that need to be completed in the next week, the B column in the next 30 days, and the C column in the next 90 days and beyond. This helps me to focus and direct my attention and efforts to what’s most important.
2. Focus On One Goal At A Time
The ABC method listed above will help you determine what’s important to complete time wise.
It will help you prioritize and know where to focus your energy and attention at the start of each day.
When you’re working off a prioritized to-do list, completing one item at a time and then moving to the next, you can start tracking how much time you spend on your daily activities.
Remember to keep things as simple as possible. For each task on your to-do list, break it into smaller tasks which will help to make it more manageable. As you develop this habit, you will be able to be far more effective in completing the tasks in front of you.
If you get the most pressing and important items done first, you will be able to be more productive while managing your stress levels.
3. Track Your Time
Tracking your time can help you identify how and where you spend your time, what your patterns are as well as determine when you’re most productive.
Once you’re aware of your patterns, you will be able to address your problem areas as well as reallocate your time to be more effective and productive throughout your day. To that end, it’s worthwhile to track your time for a week or two so you can identify how and where you are focusing your time and energy.
4. Avoid Multi-Tasking
Pick one task and then carry it through to completion.
When we multi-task, we switch back and forth which creates a stop start momentum. This leads to distraction and, in the long run, we can end up taking longer to complete a task than if we were to focus our attention in the first place.
We end up skimming over what needs to be done which affects our ability to be efficienct and productive.
When I have a lot on my plate, I employ The Pomodoro technique helps me to be more effective with my time. Here’s how it works: you work in 30 minute blocks and you focus your attention for 25 minute and take 5 minute breaks during which time you stretch, walk around, take some deep breaths to help you refocus and refresh yourself for the next 25 minute period. Over time, you can extend these time periods to what suits you best. During these blocks of time, I consciously close out all distractions and in reducing interruptions, I become more productive.
5. Declutter Your Space
Your physical environment (home and work) impacts your energy and your ability to be productive.
It’s easy to let things pile up and taking the time to declutter and organizing your space means less time spent searching for things and more time being productive. This is also true for what you store on your computer plus how it is organizaed.
(Stay tuned for more on this topic in a future post.)
6. Stop And Reflect
It’s important at the end of each day to take time to reflect on how you feel your day went.
Take a step back to see what worked, what you could do differently tomorrow, what needs to change and how you will prioritize your to-do list for the next day.
Taking time to review and reflect must become part of your daily ritual as it will serve to increase your level of self-awareness as well as your productivity.
7. Be Accountable
Much like a buddy system, being accountable to someone you trust and who supports you in being your best will help you to be more productive.
Whether it’s your coach or a colleague, be accountable to this person to make sure you stay on track or help you refocus when needed.
8. Know When To Ask For Help
It’s usually pride or the fear of appearing incompetent that stops us from asking for help when we need it. In turn, it’s our inability to ask for help that not only consumes precious time, it impacts our confidence and ability to be productive.
9. Manage Your Time Effectively
How do you spend your time?
Time is our most important asset yet it’s easy to lose track of how we spend it and believe we don’t have enough time in each day to accomplish the things we want and need to do.
The good news is that you can become fully aware of how you allocate your time by being mindful of what your priorities and your distractions are. In fact, when you start tracking your time as suggested in tip #3, you may be shocked by how much time you may be wasting on tasks that bring little or no value creating work life harmony.
A time management system a former coach taught me years ago is called the “Results Remodel Recovery” system. The Results blocks of time is spent on high productive tasks (revenue generating activities), Remodel blocks are spent on creating new work systems or enhancing existing ones, and Recovery blocks are spent on personal time with friends, family or activities that bring about self-renewal. This system highlights the importance of creating balance in your life.
Good and Bad Habits
Habits (good and bad) are formed over years and the bottom line is that you can’t expect to become more productive overnight.
As you set out to identify where you procrastinate and how you can become more productive, be kind to yourself. Know that progress in this area will take time, self-awareness and discipline. Small steps in your desired direction will always lead to positive and lasting change.
Where are you procrastinating in your life right now?
In what areas would you like to be more productive and why?