Dictionary.com defines procrastination as “the act or habit of putting off or delaying, especially something requiring immediate attention.” It’s definitely nothing new under the sun. Leaving for tomorrow what we can do today is as old as the history of labor. Fables, aphorisms, proverbs and stories about procrastination have been written since old times. However, today this self-destructive attitude has become some sort of epidemic behavior in workplaces (and other scenarios.) Some people find it easy to concentrate and working effectively on their schedule, but it is a great challenge for others. We live in the age of distraction, and connecting to the Internet may mean spending more hours than expected at work because of the huge amount of games, tests, news, memes, social networking, porn, music, YouTube videos… and the unwillingness of procrastinators.
The real problem for employees and businesses is the inverse relationship between productivity and procrastination. To this extent, procrastinating may cost a lot of time and money to workers, bosses, and companies that could be saved if they teach and learn how to stop procrastinating.
The first step for this is, of course, to understand what happens in the mind of a procrastinator. Check this funny TED talk about procrastination (while you procrastinate…) in order to learn more about this issue.
Recommended: The Truth Behind Why We Procrastinate
Here are some tips that may be really useful in this everyday struggle. More than simple “don’ts” (like stop checking Facebook while you work), they focus more on positive and practical actions you can implement:
This simple technique works for those who are unable to focus for several minutes and need to stop to breathe and stretch their legs from time to time (many times a day.) Its name comes from the popular tomato-shape timers used for cooking (yes, ragazzo, pomodoro is the Italian word for tomato…). It consists of working for twenty minutes, taking a rest for five: that’s one pomodoro. After four pomodoros, rest fifteen minutes.
It can be very useful for reading, writing, studying or filling long boring Excel tables. In fact, from twenty-five to twenty-five minutes you will be working so efficiently that you will get surprised of yourself. There are many smartphone apps (most of them free) for implementing this technique.
Related article: How to deal with work-related stress, by Jason Hanold
People often believe that meditation is a complicated exercise that requires a tremendous concentration. They even believe it is intrinsically linked to spirituality, but, strictly speaking, it is only an exercise to quiet the mind and anchor it in the here and now.
It does not take much, really: sit comfortably (even walk), breath deep and be aware of your breathing. That’s it. There are many ways to do it (yoga, transcendental meditation, Tai-Chi, Zazen, etc.), but, in essence, meditation is to be aware of breathing and not be swayed by thoughts (by letting them go, as the clouds pass in front of the sun). It is known that twenty minutes of meditation a day (it doesn’t need to be in a row) dramatically decreases the levels of anxiety and stress, and, therefore, favoring concentration and productivity.
This Japanese discipline may be applied as a Human Resources strategy to improve all the processes of a company, but each employee can assimilate it in his work and even in his daily life. Kaizen means “continuous improvement” and it’s about making small improvements every day, instead of great goals from time to time.
Be aware of how long it takes to do a job, and then divide any task into smaller steps. Knowing that each micro-task lasts a short time will subsequently help you to fight procrastination. At the same time, wonder every day: “How I can improve my work a little bit more than yesterday?” Recommended.
Seriously: A twenty minutes nap (and no longer than that) can enhance your productivity tremendously. Many companies know it, and they allow their employees to sleep a little in order to work better. Of course, it is not allowed in some professions (flying a plane, watching a dangerous prisoner, moving containers with a crane, extracting a bullet from a deadly-wounded patient…), but others do; and if you can’t, talk to your boss, or sleep twenty minutes during your time off. Your concentration will improve greatly.
One of the main causes for procrastination is the absence or the lack of order when it comes to deadlines. When there are clear deadlines, almost all people leave a heavy workload for the end of the day, but they usually finish what they have to do. Well, don’t leave everything to the last minute, but set deadlines. This can be mixed with the Kaizen technique from above: dividing the work into many tasks of short durations throughout the day until the deadline is an excellent way to work efficiently.
Organize your schedule by priorities and set the duration of each task. Again: it’s simple, but it works.
This Japanese concept means “reason of being,” and is an idea that goes beyond the mission or the passion we have related to the activity we perform every day. According to this concept, we all have a ikigai, although it is not easy to find. One way to find our ikigai is answering some questions: Do you love to do it? Are you good at it? Is it something the world needs? Will they pay you for it? If the four answers are affirmative, congratulations: you have already found the best way to stop procrastinating!