I’ve always considered myself more of a doer than a planner but that doesn’t mean I don’t fall foul to a dreaded bout of procrastination every now and again. For us online entrepreneurs (especially those of us who work in isolation), it’s really easy to persuade yourself that the pointless task you are currently performing (tidying your email inbox, updating your Facebook status to “really busy” or simply staring at a spreadsheet in the hope that the numbers suddenly reveal the answer to life, the universe and everything) is actually productive work.
Procrastination is a serious business. It’s the main reason I find myself working late into the evenings, on weekends and occasionally pushing deadlines to their limits. That is why I’ve come up with the following 10 solutions to help me beat the curse and win back some work/life balance.
Win Back Your Life
- Write a list: On really busy days, I find writing a list of jobs to do really helps focus my mind so I can speed through all the work. Breaking jobs into simple bite-size tasks makes them appear less arduous and, as you tick them off, gives you an enormous sense of achievement.
- Reward yourself: Give yourself a little treat every now and again as you tick items off your list. These little rewards will give you something to focus on, especially when tasks are repetitive or boring.
- Turn your phone off: It’s not easy to crack on with things when your smartphone is constantly buzzing away in the background. Most of these annoying bleeps will be less-than-urgent emails of social media messages from friends or colleagues who have also fallen foul to procrastination. If you really cannot live without your smartphone or are waiting for an important call — just turn the data off.
- Schedule Email Time: Schedule a time of the day to check and respond to your emails. This will stop you from bouncing in and out of your inbox all day. Emails are rarely so important that they need an instant reply. If an issue is really pressing, someone will pick up the phone. Remember: You will not find Nirvana in an inbox set at zero — so why bother?
- Take a break: Great marketing ideas never happen when you are starting at a computer screen. So instead of ruining your eyesight staring at the white glow of an empty document take yourself out for some fresh air and some quality thinking time. You’ll be surprised how quickly ideas flow when the pressure is off.
- A change of scenery: Some of my most productive days have been spent away from the office. A good cafe or comfortable hotel lobby (with a constant flow of fresh coffee) is sometimes the perfect location to avoid office politics, watercooler moments and other distractions that prevent you from getting your work done.
- Get up early: It’s amazing what you can do before the rest of the world gets out of bed. On a good day (rising at 6am), I’ll have a blog post written and all my email answered before breakfast. This enables me, if so inclined, to indulge in a little late afternoon procrastination without the guilt.
- The right job at the right time: Some jobs are better suited to certain environments than others. As a content marketing professional, reading (blog posts, whitepapers, ebooks, etc.) is a huge part of my job (helping me stay better informed and constantly inspired). But sitting reading in the office is not a productive use of time (and might irk your colleagues) — so I reserve dead time (time when I cannot do anything else — for example, when traveling) for reading.
- Cancel that meeting: Is that next meeting really so important? Will it help you and your team get on with the job in hand or is it just a distraction? If a meeting doesn’t have a purpose (an issue to resolve), a clear agenda and a set running time — cancel it.
- Get on with it: Ok, occasionally you need a little tough love. You’re probably procrastinating right now — so stop what you are doing and get on with it.
How do you ensure procrastination doesn’t destroy your productivity? Share your comments below (but only if you’ve already ticked some of the items off today’s to-do list).
This abridged post first appeared on the iContact Email Marketing Blog.