3 Ways to Avoid Procrastination

What’s the opposite of motivation? Some might say laziness, but to be honest, the most common killer of staying on-task is, well, falling off-task. In other words, the best way to stay motivated is to avoid procrastination. In today’s world of fingertip-ready entertainment and by-the-second interaction, it’s easier than ever before to wander away from your to-do list (virtually speaking, of course). So we threw together a few tips for when you feel that Facebook newsfeed calling your name.

1. Freedom

No, we aren’t quoting Braveheart or harping on good old-fashioned Americanism here. One of the best ways to avoid the many distractions afoot on the Internet is to simply disconnect yourself from the Internet altogether. This is where Freedom comes in. This simple-yet-celebrated app does exactly what it sounds like. It shuts the Internet off for a specified amount of time. That’s it.

So how does this get you motivated? Well, if you’re trying to write a paper for school or put together that Powerpoint presentation from those notes you took at that conference last week, do you really need the Internet? Most likely the answer is no. Sure everyone can use a quick Pinterest break here and there. But it’s a slippery slope. There’s no substitute for a bout of solid productivity, and when you’re forced to do nothing but the task at hand, you’d be surprised at how motivated you can be.

2. Regulated Distraction

It may seem contradictory to our first tip, but just like constant focus leads to productivity, it can also burn you out. And if you’re working on something creative or fluid, you might find it hard to deliver on cue for extended periods of time. So don’t be afraid to take a walk, play with the dog, watch a mindless sitcom. Some of the finest work a creative person can do is when their brain is refreshed, recharged and (most importantly) detached from the task at hand.

In fact, this isn’t even just common sense talking—although it’s pretty obvious. Studies have shown and reports have supported that measured breaks make for more productive time when you are on task. Let’s look at it this way. Say you work for two hours straight but you’re so burnt out by the second hour that the speed at which you’re working slows to about 25%. Now let’s say you work for an hour, take a 20-minute break, and then work for the second hour. Now, theoretically, each hour is started with a “fresh mind.” So your total time worked takes up more time than the original two hours, but you probably got more done.

3. A Kitchen Timer

No, we aren’t kidding here. Just like Freedom employs a concept so simple it’s laughable, so does this little trick. The best way to complete tasks and achieve goals is to set these goals in a concrete, accomplishment-centered format. So sit down at your desk and set your timer for 15 minutes.

It isn’t a lot of time, sure. But tell yourself that you’ll finish one specific, attainable task before that time runs out. If it takes you thirteen minutes, great. If it takes you sixteen, no big deal. The point is, you now have a small task to complete that is part of your larger workday. It will help you stay motivated, and you probably won’t get distracted when the timer is going. Okay, you caught us. This isn’t as much about the kitchen timer as it is about goals. Get in a habit of planning out your daily goals and you’ll find that motivation follows closely.

While these are three really simple ways to stay motivated, they can be applied further. Rather than shutting off the Internet, try suspending your Facebook account or even logging out of your email and leaving it logged out until your task is done. Figure out what your personal sources of procrastination are and come up with a solution. But the most important part is to stick to it. You’re your own boss, so if you let yourself lose focus then you only have yourself to blame.
Alicia Lawrence works for an Internet marketing company and blogs in her free time at MarCom Land. Her work has been published by the Association for Business Communication, Business Insider, and Spin Sucks.

– What are some ways you overcome procrastination?

* photo credit: Flickr’s Creative Commons from S.Miramontes