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Healthy Tips

Work Smarter, Not Harder

How to Tackle Productivity Head On and Fight the Procrastination Bug

There are some things no amount of coffee can fix. So when the three o’clock slump rolls around and you find yourself in a procrastination spiral, it’s time to learn a few new tricks to find your productivity stride. By getting to the root of the issue, you can start incorporating this mindset into your own style of work and become a master of productivity in no time.

Procrastinators, Unite.

Everyone procrastinates. Some, more than others. Whether it’s putting off responding to an email or putting off an entire project altogether, everyone has their own workday idiosyncrasies. And when deadlines start closing in and breaking ground seems all but impossible, it’s time for some expert intervention. While procrastination is just one reason for a dip in workday productivity, it can be detrimental if you don’t learn how to wrangle it.

Procrastination happens when you lack motivation or underestimate the power of present emotions versus future emotions. You aren’t a “bad” worker, you just need the tools to become a more efficient one. Often, people turn to easier jobs like checking email, organizing their desk or grabbing that 3rd cup of coffee. Those takes are important in their own right, but there are ways to structure a day to maximize productivity and limit tasks deemed transitional time-wasters.

In a study that asked participants to look at future life events in days rather than months or years, participants started planning much sooner for those events than those who viewed time in longer terms. For example, participants were told to imagine they had a newborn child. Half of the participants were instructed to consider that their “children” would begin college in 18 years, the other half in 6,570 days. Those who were told to think in days rather than years planned to start saving four times sooner.

Bottom line? Start thinking of deadlines as concrete, rather than a vague blip on your future radar. If you have a project due in one month, think of it more like twenty days and you may surprise yourself in what you can do.

In Praise of the Monotasker

You may think the key to a productive workday is doing as many things as possible in the shortest amount of time. However, that’s the very mindset that could be bringing you down. The brain has a limited capacity of cognitive bandwidth. Therefore, the more you “multitask,” the more time it takes your brain to switch gears, and remember where it last left off. You’re better off focusing on one task at a time, or, “monotasking,” whether that be for 10 minutes or an hour.

Adapting a laser-like focus overnight is easier said than done. Here are a few small changes you can start making today to help sweep out the clutter in your mind and help you work smarter, not harder:

  • Focus on one screen: Put away cells phones, tablets, and second monitors – all causes for distraction.
  • Get moving: If you find your focus breaking and mind start to wander, get up and take a walk. Even just a stroll to the water cooler and back can lift your mood and help restore focus.
  • Remove temptation: Close out of all social media tabs. Even better, remove temptation altogether by installing an anti-distraction program like Self Control or Stay Focused. These are great tools to temporarily block distracting sites and let you get back to work.

What Your Desk is Telling You

According to Julie Morgenstern, author of Organizing from the Inside Out, a messy desk doesn’t always point a finger toward a messy person, maybe just a busy one. Unless there’s a reason for keeping old papers lying around, a disorganized desk could actually mean an overloaded worker. Usually, a paper represents some kind of task, and when papers cover a desk end-to-end, it could be a sign to call in back-up or start delegating.

To-Do, Or Not To-Do

To-do lists can be excellent tools for prioritizing, but can quickly eat up your time if created with the wrong mindset. To make the most out of a procrastinator’s favorite tool, be sure to make each item on your list detailed and actionable. The broader the task, the more likely it will sit there hanging over you. For example, instead of writing “Finish presentation,” break it down into a handful of digestible steps that are easy to tackle. If you find your desk adorned with forgotten to-dos, it might be time to rethink your strategy.

No matter the schedule, by making small changes, being accountable for your workload, and forgiving yourself when you make mistakes, you’ll be a more productive and ultimately, happier worker.