Ah, the woes of being a responsible adult. As much as we like to think otherwise, none of us are perfect. We’ll admit: There are days where we wish we could lounge in bed all day doing absolutely nothing of value…especially when we’re still getting over that holiday hangover.
Don’t worry; we’re not here to judge. We understand how tough being productive can be.
Why? Well, we all procrastinate for various reasons. The project might be too daunting, we might be afraid to get started for fear of failing, or it could just be one of those days. Whatever it is, take it from a serial procrastinator, there is hope.
And to prove it, here are some tried-and-tested tricks.
1. Treat yourself
Yes, we know you’ve probably seen and heard this all before, but there’s a reason why so many people believe in it. When we say treat yourself it can be anything from indulging in your favourite coffee to shopping online during your lunch break. It’s not just an effective way of incentivising yourself to start working (especially on something you might find dull or boring) but it’s a good way to prevent burnout. Actively carving out this reward time allows you to sit back and indulge guilt-free, which ideally, should leave you feeling ready to head back to work. The trick, of course, is making sure you’ve really worked hard so you can enjoy your reward time.
If it’s a bigger task that needs to get done, give yourself markers so that for each task that you’ve accomplished. Which leads us on nicely to…
2. Br-br-break it down now!
Big projects are often very daunting to take on because where do we start?! We completely get it. Feeling overwhelmed will derail any potential for productivity so splitting it up into smaller tasks will help get you started. Start by identifying the key elements of the end result and working on each of them in intervals. This won’t just make the task appear more manageable, it’ll also help you focus on acing each segment, rather than giving in to distractions. Bonus: Breaking your project down is, in itself, an act of planning so you’ve already kickstarted your productivity!
3. Have you got three minutes?
Taking the first step is always tough – and that extends beyond just work. So here’s what we propose: Don’t think about all that work that lies ahead. Instead, identify one task you’d like to start on, set a timer for 3 minutes and get cracking. Putting a short time limit on yourself will ease the pressure of getting it all done ASAP. And once you see yourself making progress, your motivation will start picking up accordingly. If not, well, extend it to 5, and then 10 and eventually 40 minutes as the day progresses.
4. Stop hating yourself
Seriously. Stress may be a good motivator to some, but negative thoughts and emotions will get you nowhere. So your break has gone on for 20 minutes too long. There’s no use spending the next five minutes of your indispensible time fretting about it. Just close the Facebook tab and focus on the Excel spreadsheet that you forgot about. Learn to accept that failure in your willpower is all part of the game and the time spent on beating yourself up is even more time spent on unproductivity.
5. Multitasking? Yeah, right
We like to believe that we’ve nailed the ability to multitask. And yes, for many of us, it’s probably true that we’ve gotten better at juggling multiple expectations and responsibilities. However, nothing beats the result of an undistracted brain that’s completely engaged in that one task. But how, you ask, do we isolate our to-do lists in an era of increased demands from our employers? Choose one task for a 30- to 45-minute interval and get brainstorming. Then, take a little break to reward yourself. And once that’s up, identify the next item on your agenda and get at that. Continue with this until you’ve ticked off everything on your list for the day.
Which brings us to the final point:
6. Plan and be reasonable
Whether or not you’re an organised person, you should start every day with an itemised list of things you need to get done. It doesn’t have to be written out in perfect caligraphy, and it could be a simple list typed up on your iPhone when you’re in the MRT heading to work. What’s crucial, though, is your list remains reasonable. Planning to practice for a marathon on top of balancing your sheets and finishing your big sales pitch while still making time to cook dinner and get to bed by 11 is probably going to leave you feeling more overwhelmed and, ultimately, defeated than a smaller to-do list that might not look as cool.
Remember that this struggle is one we all share in. And if it’s any comfort, know that we too are resisting the urge to control-tab our way to browser with WhatsApp web open. Godspeed.