How to stop procrastinating at work

First published: 21-04-2015

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We've all been there: time seems to be ticking away quicker than usual and for some reason you just keep getting distracted by other things while the deadline for your project fast approaches. Procrastination is almost impossible to resist sometimes, but there are a few tricks you can employ to keep your brain focussed on the task at hand and ensure you do a great job every time. Lists, lists, lists

Image 2 It sounds so obvious, but a to-do list will really help you avoid procrastinating. There is nothing more satisfying than ticking tasks off a list, so make it as visual as possible, and knowing your own bad habits, will help you tailor your list to target the times when you often find yourself distracted.

For example, if you have been known to spend a couple of minutes here and there scrolling Facebook, or having a chat at the water cooler, try making these two minute breaks opportunities for productivity.

Within your list, highlight any tasks that will take 15 minutes or less, and any time you need a quick break from your bigger projects, get one of these smaller tasks done. That way, you can satisfy your need for a break as well as getting something finished.

If visual aids are really helpful for you, then make your list into a timeline of tasks and deadlines. If you know something needs doing by a certain time, then specify that when you're making your timeline. The Swiss cheese method

Some big projects can seem really overwhelming or even intimidating, so the trick is to break them down into something more manageable. Many people like to think of this as a 'Swiss cheese' method: if you make your way through small chunks of the task over a prolonged period of time, you will probably do a better job than if you try to do it all at once. After all, you can only eat an elephant one bite at a time.

Write down all the smaller chunks of the project as individual tasks, and this will help you keep a track of your progress. Furthermore, if you reduce tasks to their absolute simplest form then you can prevent them from becoming overwhelming. This should help you get through them quicker without feeling the need for a distraction or break. Bite the bullet

A great trick to get you started when you arrive at work is to identify the task you are dreading the most and do that before anything else. This will set you up really well for the day, since your least favourite task will be out of the way and you can spend the rest of your time doing things that aren't as bad. It's the things-can-only-get-better mentality. Focus your mind

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This can be the hardest bit. If there are things about your work environment that are proving a distraction, then to get yourself into full-on work mode you may need to remove them. For example, if Twitter and Facebook are just too tempting to resist, then maybe block them on your browser so you can't let them distract you.

Alternatively, if you find working easier when you've got some music on, pick your tunes carefully. Putting on your favourite songs may just leave you wanting to sing along, but if you know that a piece of classical music will relax you and focus your mind, then get that on instead.

Sometimes, random thoughts of tasks that you had forgotten about pop into your head, and it is hard not to tackle them there and then to make sure they get done. However, this will ultimately only distract you from the task at hand, so instead make a note of it so you can come back to it later on. No Distractions Day

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If none of this is really doing the trick, then you may need to schedule in a No Distractions Day. Get in early, turn off your phone, maybe move over into a quiet, empty room in the office if you can, and just power through your work. Schedule in a few breaks so you can check e-mails, texts, or your social media, but keep these few and far between in order to maintain your focus.

If you tell your colleagues you're doing it, chances are they will give you some breathing space and only bother you if it's urgent. This should keep you totally focussed all day, and you'll be amazed at how much you can get done. Let time be your friend

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How many times have you found that you suddenly work so much better when the deadline is imminent? When the pressure is on, many of us kick into action to get the job done, so use this to your advantage.

If pressure works for you, then create it - schedule in the time by which a task has to be finished, and set a timer. This will give you that exam-style sense of urgency, and you will have no choice but to get your head down.

Invest in a good watch to help you achieve this - if you choose a chronograph watch, you can time yourself wherever you are, and make sure it has a really clear face so you can see how you're doing for time at just a glance.

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There are plenty of chronograph watches available that will do the trick, as well as look totally professional for work. For gents, this Royal London watch has a really slick and smart gold case, which complements the rich leather strap perfectly. It is just 39mm wide, making it relatively small for a men's chronograph, and will therefore be ideal for a work environment.

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For ladies, this elegant gold Timex Original watch is perfect, with the buttons along the side to help you keep track of how you're doing for time. It is just the right size for work, measuring at 30mm wide, and the versatile colouring means you can match it with almost anything.

Alternatively, pick at time during the day when you reassess your progress and figure out your priorities for the rest of your day. At, 14:00, for instance, take a look at the list you wrote in the morning, and figure out what is finished, what needs your attention before end of play, and what you can re-schedule if you need to.

This will help you stay realistic about your work goals, and keep you on top of your tasks. It is also a great opportunity to add in any of those random tasks you've thought of during the morning. Get by with a little help from your friends

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Lots of people find it really tricky to motivate themselves, so why not enlist the help of a friend? Chances are you know someone who struggles as much as you to stay focussed, so try getting into a study-buddy mentality.

At the start of the day, tell each other what your goals for the day are. The act of explaining what we want to achieve to someone else instills a sense of responsibility in our heads - we don't want to let the other person down by not achieving what we said we would.

Have regular catch-up points during the day - three is ideal in terms of spacing out your day - and tell each other how you are progressing. This will help you self-evaluate, too, since you have to figure out how well you're doing in order to tell your study buddy. Just make sure you are working separately so you don't end up distracting each other!

This will also provide you with someone who can actively encourage you, and if you both support each other it creates a positive atmosphere in which you can enjoy getting your work done. With just a few changes to your work routine you can keep your mind completely focussed on the task at hand. Procrastinating is really easy, but so is avoiding it, so use a few of these hints and tips to help you stay on target throughout the working day.

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