Editorial note: All Guest Post authors share their own views and experiences, and do not represent Week of Saturdays.
This article is brought to you courtesy of the District Chairwoman of the West African Chapter of world-class procrastinators.
Seriously, the art of getting work done and done on time is underrated. Have you ever found yourself postponing a task indefinitely? Sometimes it starts with snoozing your alarm clock more than once or putting a task aside to do other important things like social media and movies.
Being a freelancer is like being in school. You are always learning; and piling up deadlines is something students are very good at. As a high school student, I was always extending my study deadlines until the last minute and then trying to cram everything overnight. It almost never worked and I had to fall back on what I remembered from classes.
As a freelancer, I have seen this old habit creep up several times and I find myself constantly extending timelines for one reason or another, and then scrambling to meet the deadlines, under constant pressure. I hate the feeling of being under pressure.
The point I’m trying to make is that procrastination can kill your productivity, not just in your career, but in just about anything you do. It is a deal-breaker and the sooner you deal with it or get rid of it, the better you become at being productive.
Below I’m going to share three hacks that have worked for me in winning this war against procrastination (the few times I won).
1. Plan, plan, and plan
Making a plan can range from planning your entire day to setting goals and having a to-do list of tasks you, sometimes within a set time or with a number of hours attached to each task. Planning can feel daunting but is worth it. Your day may not go according to plan but it is important to have one. For me, it’s a map to help me find my way back to productivity when I get lost in a sea of distraction or simply can’t prioritise.
Planning also helps to remind me of things I have to do. Seeing all the tasks written down helps me remember, stay accountable and be honest. I’d highly recommend planning daily if you find yourself in the habit of procrastinating. If the idea of a plan sounds too much, take it bit by bit. Complete harder tasks first before your ernergy dwindles. You can use Trello or your phone notes app for this.
2. Knock out distractions
No matter how good your plans are, you may never be able to accomplish your goals if you keep getting distracted. Focusing on my tasks without checking my social media accounts once in a while is difficult and it’s one of the areas I keep failing in when it comes to procrastination. However, I discovered some tricks that keep me in check anytime my hands itch for Facebook, Twitter or Instagram or some other form of distraction.
One of the things I do is to set time aside for social media. It could be during the period I have scheduled for taking breaks or a different agenda on my schedule. This way, I am able to keep focused on the task at hand till it is social media time.
Another thing that helps me to knock out distraction is to use the pomodoro technique – work for 25 mins, rest for 5 mins. Having these short breaks in between reduces the pressure on me and sets me at ease to see a task to completion. You can also regulate the number of tabs you have open on your laptop. Close your social media tabs and others you’re not working on and have just the ones you will be needing for your work, open.
3. Sniff out inspiration
I was having a conversation the other day with a good friend of mine, a freelancer and he mentioned that he procrastinates when he hits a wall in his task, a creative block. If you are constantly creating, you will sometimes hit a wall, a creative block where you are simply uninspired to continue with creative work and this may force you to postpone the task till another time.
One way to get out of the creative block rut is to look for inspiration. I often find myself re-reading books that inspire me when I hit a writer’s book, and like clockwork, the creative tap opens and the juices flow. Look up artists that inspire you if you are into design, read the works of writers that intrigue you if you are a writer, look for/at things that inspire you when you get to that point and allow yourself time to get back into the mood. Don’t be afraid to take breaks when you have to.
You may have procrastinated for a long time that you think there is no hope for you. That is simply not true. Start small and though you may not be perfect at first, you will get there with consistency.
On the days you don’t win, don’t beat yourself up, instead, dust your behind and move on to the next thing. Set your mind to beat procrastination with the next task. This is how you can tackle procrastination one task at a time. Have other ways you deal with procrastination? Please share in the comments below.
Feature photo by Patrick Perkins.