12 Tips on How You Can Stop Procrastinating at Work
By Indeed Editorial Team
Updated December 27, 2022
Published February 4, 2020
The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.
Procrastinating can challenge anyone's ability to work productively. You can overcome the temptation to delay a task for a later time or date with a variety of tips and methods that focus on productivity. Learning which steps help you eliminate procrastination in the workplace may improve your daily productivity.
In this article, we offer 12 ways you can overcome procrastination and strategies to help you identify reasons you might procrastinate at work.
12 strategies on how to stop procrastinating at work
Like any habit, you can overcome procrastination with a strategic plan and practice overcoming the temptation. With some effort and careful planning, you can manage your time better and reduce anxiety over completing tasks. Try these strategies to stop procrastinating at work:
1. Simplify your tasks
Challenge yourself to scale down each task into smaller pieces. Try using different techniques to accomplish this, such as the Pomodoro technique, where you work for 25 minutes and then take a short break. After completing four cycles of working and breaks, you can take a longer break. This process allows you to focus for shorter periods of time while also implementing time for breaks.
2. Focus on productivity
To help establish and maintain a routine, consider using tools to meet daily goals like a task management app on your phone or a physical calendar. Remove anything likely to divert your attention from the task at hand. If you're challenged to avoid social media during work hours, turn off all notifications and put your phone in a place you can't reach from your workstation. If you work in a distracting environment, try using noise-canceling headphones to eliminate distracting sounds, or if you can, move to a quieter work area.
3. Reward your progress
If the completion of a task isn't enough to motivate you, grab a pen and write how you might feel once you meet your goal, what positive impacts might arise due to its completion and how you plan to celebrate your success. Celebrate small milestones. After achieving your overarching goal, reward yourself in a bigger, more meaningful way like stopping to get a favorite beverage or taking time to chat with a coworker.
4. Identify priorities
Identify the most important and complex parts of a task to better understand the project's scope. Sometimes doing the easy things first can help you stop procrastinating and get started with a project. You can also try moving back and forth between more complex steps and simpler ones.
5. Set goals
After you realize the scope of a project, set goals for yourself to limit procrastination. Consider making goals for incremental deadlines plus the amount of work you finish in a daily or weekly period. Writing your goals may help you remember and complete them.
Related: Setting Goals To Improve Your Career
6. Define completion
Before you start a project, identify how you know when the project actually concludes. Determine if you're finished when you send your work to a supervisor or after you complete any revisions or updates. Knowing when your work is over can make it easier to complete your work without procrastinating.
7. Make a to-do list
Once you identify key tasks, write them on paper or use a digital file to create a checklist of items to complete. If you feel yourself becoming distracted, read over your list and pick one item to accomplish before you stop again. Checking items off your list can also offer an intrinsically motivating reward when you resist procrastination.
8. Create a routine
Following a daily routine is another way to overcome procrastination. Make a habit of starting your day at the same time, following a schedule that maximizes your productivity. Consider starting with the most important tasks and stopping to complete less urgent items throughout the workday.
9. Establish accountability
Recruit a friend or colleague to help you stay on track by providing support and accountability. Schedule regular meetings to chat over the phone or message system. Consider getting together for a meal to discuss your progress and challenges with procrastination. Finding a trusted coworker to become an accountability partner may benefit your discussion because you both know the work environment.
10. Create and follow timelines
Creating a timeline is another way to break down tasks into smaller steps. This also allows you to attach a timestamp for each part of the project. Meeting small deadlines as you complete steps can motivate you to keep working toward the end of the timeline.
Stay aware of your deadlines as you're moving through tasks. You can upload tasks into a digital calendar or task management software and assign deadlines or put notes on your computer monitor or anywhere you're likely to see them multiple times per day. With a deadline constantly in view, it's harder to procrastinate.
11. Use visuals
Creating a visual map of your task may stimulate you to work and meet each step. Clarifying each part of the process with a graphic cue can make the task easier to understand your overall responsibilities. You could also physically track your progress with a colorful chart or graph you fill in each day or something that automatically updates via a digital app. Look for templates online or find graphic organizers including flowcharts, storyboards and outlines.
12. Take breaks
Taking a break may seem counterintuitive to procrastination, but giving your mind a mental rest can make you more productive once you get back to work. Set up a routine to include a 10- to 15-minute break every so often to get up, walk around, get some fresh air, chat with a coworker or do whatever you consider relaxing and re-energizing. Time yourself so you don't frequently turn short breaks into long ones.
Reasons for procrastinating
Identifying your reasons for procrastinating may help motivate you to get started. You can also determine which solutions might benefit your work habits. Here are some common reasons why you might procrastinate to address before your next urgent project or task:
You might choose to procrastinate after feeling overwhelmed by a task. This anxiety can affect your ability to decide when to start on a task, making you opt to put it away until a later time. Consider practicing positive self-talk, and remember to break tasks into small portions to stop the cycle of anxiety.
Lack of interest
Procrastination sometimes happens when you dread a task so much, you'd rather be doing anything else instead. This may lead you to continually push the task to the bottom of your list until the deadline is near and you must rush to finish on time. Consider rewarding yourself for finishing an unpleasant task before continuing on to easier ones.
When given a long lead time for completing a project, it's easy to prioritize other tasks first before beginning something new. Tasks without set due dates may also cause you to postpone them indefinitely. Make a list of tasks to complete first while working through longer ones with a later deadline.
If you like to produce work that meets high standards of perfection, you might choose to procrastinate out of concern that your work may be less than perfect. The situation can cycle between anxiety, self-criticism and feeling overwhelmed. Opinions differ on the best way to deal with this reason for procrastinating, but one solution is to change your expectations or standards to complete work and make a plan to revise parts of your work when it's complete.
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