We all have days were we struggle to concentrate at work or on a personal task or project we are working on. In the year of the coronavirus pandemic, it may be even harder to concentrate on a task after working from home for weeks, missing out on social outlets or simply not having the energy to carry out an activity after such a mentally straining year. If you find yourself continually or temporarily struggling with procrastination, here are some tips on how you can better overcome or handle those tendencies.
Set up for success
We live in a world of distractions, our smartphones host a myriad of games, communication apps, social media channels and more. Whether or not we have an unconscious habit of picking up our phones, opening a web browser and scrolling for hours down multiple websites; notifications from emails, messages and social media take our remaining concentration levels away with every ‘ping’. So, if you do fall prey to these sorts of distractions, or any others around you – such as the TV, chatting to others, or any other activity – set up an area where these distractions are removed. Whilst you are focusing on the task, turn off notifications or leave you phone in another room. If you are working from home, set up an area away from the hustle and bustle of your house, equip it with only the things you need to complete the project, and be sure to take regular breaks to give your mind a rest rather than procrastinating for a unworthy substitute.
You have probably heard this solution a thousand times but it really does work. Instead of giving yourself a list of impossible tasks to complete for the day, set yourself realistic goals. Painting the garage, filing your taxes, reading a new book, finishing a project for work and perfecting a recipe may all look great on paper, but if you do not actually have enough time to achieve those tasks in the day, you can begin to feel low, anxious and overwhelmed. Often, this then leads to procrastination. So, start with a few priorities and break those missions down into smaller, more manageable tasks.
If you have trouble staying focused, try the Pomodoro technique, whereby you work for 25 minutes straight, taking 5-minute breaks in between. After approximately 4 ‘Pomodoro’s’ you take a longer 15-20-minute break. There is even an app that you can download to help you with this. It can also help, if in these breaks you reward yourself by doing something you enjoy, like watching a 20-minute show. Also try to take yourself away from the area you are working in, to allow your brain to recharge in a new setting.
Beware of perfectionism
Your mindset can play a massive factor in whether you become distracted or not. If you are disheartened with the task at hand, stressed, catastrophizing that the task will be unbearable or unachievable, in fear that you could fail, you may find that procrastination sets in rather quickly as a response. Keep a close eye on your thoughts and mindset, it may be worth looking into how you can check in on your stress and anxiety levels with other self-care activities, but beware of excuses. You will probably try and convince yourself that the task would be better served if you completed it later, if you talked to a friend first, after you have had a nap… these are just more forms of procrastination. Be very honest with yourself here and tackle them where necessary.
Take regular breaks to offset this. Be strict with yourself and figure out a routine that can help you minimize these negative thoughts, with techniques such as working for smaller chunks of the time or actively combating negative thoughts with positive mantras. Focus on the benefits of completing the project and rather than looking at how long it may take, hone in on the smaller details of the task, tackling them one at a time.
Another issue could be perfectionist tendencies. Psychology Today writes: ‘Perfectionism is an all-or-nothing mentality: Something is either perfect, or it is a failure. People with perfectionistic tendencies tend to wait until things are perfect in order to proceed—so, if it’s not perfect, you cannot be finished. Or if it is not the perfect time, you believe you can’t start. This all-or-nothing mentality can hold you back from starting or completing tasks. Instead, focus on being better than perfect. This means to still strive for excellence, creating excellence, or setting yourself up with excellent conditions, but at the same time, you focus on getting the job done.’