Monday, February 22, 2016

Fighting Procrastination

I confess it: I procrastinate.

I think I am getting better at this, but only because I have so many things going on in my life that I can't afford to procrastinate on everything.

On the other hand...I have so many things going on in my life, that there are times things get pushed to the back burner, or even set on a cooling rack away from the heat entirely...and don't seem to make their way back onto the stove.

I've had to learn a few techniques along the way to keep up. Here are my top three tips for fighting procrastination:

Number one tip: tame the email beast. If it's something I can deal with in 2 minutes or less, I deal with it RIGHT NOW, so it's not overwhelming later when I have too many messages in my inbox. (I do tend to use my inbox as my workflow, so if I get more than 30 or so messages in there I start to feel a little stressed out...) Folders are thus essential to keeping the inbox relatively free and clear. I even have one folder simply named "important" where I stash things that I know I might need later, but don't need in my workflow for now. (Rarely do things come back out of "important" into the inbox, but it has happened. Mostly it just gives me a clearinghouse for emails to search, should I need to find one again. While inbox zero is the dream, the reality is that I rarely achieve it. But I have...a few times.

Tip number two: multitasking is a myth. (Really. Don't believe it? Read this piece from Psychology Today for more info...) So you have to minimize distractions. For me, this means closing extra tabs in my browser--especially social media sites!--and blocking out potential interruptions from other people. This might mean closing the door or hiding out in a separate room, or--in my case--putting the earbuds in to block out background noise. But here's the catch: you can't multitask with music either! So choose something without lyrics, something ambient that will fade into the background. I really like Spotify's Deep Focus playlist for this purpose: no lyrics, unfamiliar melodies, and calming-yet-energizing, for me at least.

Tip number three: consider the pomodoro technique to address time management. In a nutshell: use a timer to devote your attention to a particular task for 25 minutes and do not stop working on it. After 25 minutes is up, reward yourself with a 5-minute break to do something you enjoy. (Mine is usually scrolling through Twitter...) I even have a pomodoro app on my phone, but any timer will do. I have found this approach very helpful for just getting started with a challenging, overwhelming task.

Need more tips on fighting procrastination? Check out the infographic below; it also includes a little more info about the pomodoro technique. (I just found this during my last Twitter break! Thanks to @focus2achieve for sharing!)

How do you minimize distractions and stay focused? Please feel free to share your tips in the comments section below.


  1. My favourite tool is an iOS app called 30/30, basically create your own pomodoro - I don't use it nearly often enough (there are way too many ways to procrastinate out there)

    1. Agreed about too many ways to procrastinate! What a world we live in... :-)