Frustrated person working

Three Tips for Avoiding Procrastination

I don’t know about you, but I can be my own worst enemy when it comes to getting my work done. Especially when I’m working from home. It can depend a lot on the time of day, but here are some of the things I can find myself doing instead of finishing my work:

Reading promotional emails
Sharing news articles with friends
Making tea
Playing games
Untangling headphone cords
Clicking on those ‘how do they look now’ links

Staring out of the window

And that’s to name only a few. The list is endless.

Man playing game

It’s not always our fault though as freelancers. We should give ourselves a break. The modern world has a lot to answer for, with all its pop-up ads, social media notifications and Amazon deliveries. However, being able to identify and stave off procrastination can make a big difference to your productivity, and let’s face it, to your reputation and financial bottom line. Because if you’re working to deadlines and you want to make a good impression with your clients, then every minute of the working-day counts in order to maximise efficiency and to deliver projects on time.

Here are three tips to help you win the fight against distraction and procrastination.

1. “By failing to prepare you are preparing to fail.– Benjamin Franklin

You’ve probably heard this gem of a quote before, and it can be relevant in many different contexts. As severe as it sounds, it certainly rings true with me with regards to my daily planning. If I sit down at my computer and I haven’t written a good, clear to-do list the day before, then I can find myself wasting valuable time and energy trying to decide what I should be prioritising.

Woman writing listThis is prime procrastination time. All of a sudden, watching a compilation of ‘baking-gone-wrong’ videos or reading the Wikipedia page for the Jamaican bobsleigh team seems far more appealing than focusing on the work at hand.

Conversely, if I sit down at my desk and there is a list there waiting for me from the day before, written in order of priority, then I’m good to go. I know exactly what I need to do and where to begin. This can save me many vital minutes first thing in the morning and stops me from checking the news or social media.

The to-do list tells me what needs doing straight away, but also makes me feel like I’m on top of things. Kind of like a controlled urgency, as opposed to a spaced-out dread. An organised daily list with around 10 key tasks on there will get you off the mark with ease in a morning and will help keep procrastination at bay. 

2. Tidy screen, tidy mind

There is definitely a direct correlation between the amount of different browser tabs or email windows I have open and how productive – or unproductive – I am. For many of you who also spend much of your working time staring at computer screens, closing all of those tabs and windows that aren’t essential to the task you’re carrying out will help you focus. A lot.

You’ll need to respond to some of those emails at some point no doubt, and maybe you’ll want to allow yourself some social media or internet-searching time later on. This is where the to-do list saves the day again. How far down your list have you got? Which high-priority tasks are yet to be completed? If you can retain a level of discipline and apply it with a touch of ruthlessness when deciding which tabs you need to keep open while you work, you’ll reap the rewards at the end of the day. 

Man working on computer

3. Drown out the noise

Some scientific research suggests that listening to music can reduce stress levels, lower your heart rate and improve your focus. Putting on some tunes certainly helps me keep my head in the game. My preference is listening to music that I know really well, which means it isn’t grabbing my attention and I can focus on the job at hand. However, for some people the opposite can happen, and when listening to their favourite music they can find themselves singing along and tapping their feet. If that’s the case with you, maybe try listening to any or all of the following:

  • Instrumental music (e.g. classical)
  • Ambient noises (e.g. waves)
  • Whale sounds (e.g. erm, whales)

Drowning out noisy distractions – or in some cases, eerie silences – can often help fend off distraction and the temptation to procrastinate by allowing yourself periods of uninterrupted focus. Just be careful not to tangle the cord for your headphones.

Working as a freelancer and staying on top of your workload can be very challenging, and although you’ll already have your own techniques for dealing with procrastination when it rears its ugly head, why not give some of these methods a try and see what improvements you can make?


Photo of author - Joe Ogden

The article was written by Joe Ogden.
Joe is a copywriter and sales professional with a background in business development and technology sales. He is passionate about helping entrepreneurs, freelancers and small companies reach a wider audience and grow their business. Read more at Joe’s website.

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