How to stop procrastinating when you should be working

A 30-step guide to eliminating temptation and getting things done

Whether you’re one of life’s procrastinators, a victim of the allure of social media or just so busy that every second in the office is integral to the smooth running of your day, you’ll no doubt recognise the guilt, frustration and danger associated with wasting time.

Maintaining concentration has never been harder; emails, Facebook, Twitter, Skype, mobile phones, cigarette breaks, coffee runs, pointless meetings, water cooler gossiping…they all take their toll on day-to-day efficiency.

Quidco Discover runs through a few tips to help maintain focus.

Flexible planning

–       Recognise you have control and plan your days and weeks with electronic and manual calendars and diaries. Set long-term goals, as well as daily targets.

–       Making a to-do list is a perfectly acceptable way of planning a day, however, you need flexibility in the way you approach tasks.

–       It is certainly advisable to tackle the biggest and most important tasks first. After all, if you hit the ground running before major distractions take hold you’ll likely get more done before the end of the day.

–       That being said, if you recognise you’re not a morning person, ease yourself into the day with more routine tasks before picking up pace.

–       While many people play up the positives of multi-tasking, it can sometimes breed inefficiency – do one thing at a time and give it your full attention.

Communicate efficiently

–       It may be easier said than done, but try not to indulge colleagues in idle discourse if you have work to do. Politely back out of conversations and get on with work.

–       If you’re desperate, try wearing headphones (you don’t even have to listen to music) in an attempt to put people off approaching you

–       If you are going to take smoking breaks, don’t use them as an excuse to natter outside with colleagues for 20 minutes. Unscheduled, lengthy breaks are a disaster when it comes to maintaining focus.

Make meetings matter

–       Often a quick meeting is far more efficient than a back and forth email exchange. Try and communicate face-to-face and be ready to ask and answer the necessary questions before you meet.

–       Do not assume you can remember everything, make a note of key points so that you don’t have to contact people repeatedly for a reminder.

–       Of course, meetings aren’t always the answer. You don’t want to lose an hour of your time in a discussion which doesn’t require your presence. Resist the temptation to attend if you know you’re going to spend the time blankly staring out of the window.

–       Don’t let meetings go on for more than an hour. Scheduling a time limit  should push attendees to be more urgent tackling the issues at hand.

–       If you’re in a position to delegate tasks, do so. Taking responsibility for simple tasks when you know they could be done by others is a sure-fire way of avoiding more pressing issues.

Take a break

–       There is nothing wrong with taking scheduled breaks. Indeed, time away from your desk could help your focus and increase your productivity.

–       Test yourself by focusing on individual tasks for 30 minutes and then reward yourself with a short break. Every 90 minutes, have a longer break. Relaxing after an intense focused period of work is as important as soothing your muscles after a workout.

–       Take a walk, practice breathing exercises, power nap, consume naturally energy boosting foods and liquids.

Get off social media

–       Facebook binges are dangerous and should be limited to out-of-work hours. If friends and family are communicating via Zuckerberg’s social media behemoth rather than phone or email, there’s a good chance it isn’t urgent. To minimise distractions, turn off email and push notifications for messages, likes, friend requests and alike.

–       Twitter is even more dangerous. A constantly updated feed it plays on the urge to be kept up-to-date with everything as it happens. Turn off notifications to your email, set aside time during a designated break or don’t touch it until you get home.

–      Don’t leave internet browsing tabs open for ‘research’. Once you’re finished reading a document or article, close down the link and lessen the temptation to start checking other websites.

–       If you communicate with colleagues using an instant messaging service such as Skype, be sure to appear offline if you do not want to be disturbed.

A new approach to emails

–       Emails are one of the biggest office distractions. If you’re the kind of person who opens newly received mail as soon as it arrives you’ll know how easy it is to lose focus.

–       To minimise the constant interruptions you have to be pro-active in changing your attitude to email. Remove yourself from email lists, both work and social, that no longer apply to you.

–       Unsubscribe from consumer email lists and reduce the temptation to shop online during work hours. You’ll not only reduce time wastage, you may even save yourself some cash.

–       Set the spam blocker in your email account to high.

–       Schedule your inbox to check for new mail every 30 minutes rather than the average five minute setting.

–       Reply to non-urgent emails as a reward for a successfully completed task and set times during the day to respond to friends.

–       Don’t reply to everything. Sending single-worded ‘thank you’ emails are a waste of time and effort.

Get off the phone

–       The temptations of modern smart phones are all too obvious; sending text messages, taking and making calls, replying to emails and browsing the web are all available at the touch of a button. Turn off your mobile phone while you work(or at least turn it on silent).

–       If you can’t overcome the desire to play with the myriad functions on your device, think about downgrading to a basic model which only takes calls and sends messages. At least that way you won’t be able to download Angry Birds!

–       If you work in an office where calls are filtered before they reach you, ask the person who answers the phone to take messages while you are busy.

Andrew Allen / Editor

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *