How to stop procrastinating and start working

“I need to buy milk later.”

“I wonder what (insert friend’s name here) has put on Facebook this morning…”

“I need to renew my house insurance!”

“Ooh, I need to book that annual leave.”

“I’ll just make a cup of tea first…”

We are all guilty of giving in to the art of procrastination from time or time (or maybe more often for some), so why is it so hard to stop and what can we do to change these behaviours?

Procrastination is a learned habit that we know is bad for us, but we do it anyway. Often it is an important and time sensitive task that needs to be done but is overlooked for a more enjoyable or easier task. It’s absolutely not about being lazy – let’s address that first! It doesn’t stop us working, it stops us working on the right things.

However, it does mean that work can often be of poorer quality than you would usually deliver. It might be delivered late, or even not at all. Long-term procrastination can cause frustrations for yourself but also your team, particularly when it impacts other people.

Coffee procrastination

So, what can we do about it?

  1. Make a list

Everything good starts with a list! Take a step back from everything for 10 minutes and write down all the tasks you need to complete or anything needing your attention. It might feel like you don’t have time to do it, but it is the most valuable action you will do!

  1. Commit to deadlines

Even if you don’t have a strict deadline for something, give yourself one. It might not be an immediate deadline and there might be other jobs that will lead to the completion of a bigger goal in the future, but set a deadline. This way, you are giving yourself something to aim for and provide focus. It’s important to consider how long tasks will take you, so give yourself fair and reasonable timelines.

  1. Prioritise your workload

When you have deadlines, you can work out your priorities. Some tasks might be smaller, so you can get more done on one day, but be careful to not use these smaller tasks to actively avoid some of the bigger tasks on your list! Some tasks might be reliant on information from a colleague or client first. Consider the activity and prioritise accordingly. An extra step (that I love) is to highlight the tasks you aim to complete that day and order them from 1 – 5 (or 6, 7, 8…)!

  1. Eat that frog!

Our top tip of the day when it comes to procrastination is to read the book ‘Eat that Frog’ by Brian Tracy. The idea is to identify your biggest/most challenging task first (the frog) and complete this task first thing (eating it), before being distracted by other tasks.

It might be the scariest or ugliest task, or require lots of additional work, research, or input, but it’ll be the most rewarding once complete. It also won’t be distracting or taunting you all day if you do it first. It might take you all day to complete, and that’s ok – just get started!

And if you have two frogs to “eat”, then start with the biggest one. Yum!

  1. Reward yourself

Just like we do with children when teaching them new skills or behaviours, adults like rewards too! It doesn’t need to be a new Paw Patrol toy or a chocolate biscuit (although, who doesn’t want the latest Skye figure a nice chocolate biscuit?!), but something that makes you feel good can go a long way to ensuring work is completed efficiently. It might be making a cup of tea (a definite favourite at ADPR), a celebratory drink after work, or an earlier finish. Whatever works for you to make you feel good and get those endorphins flowing.

Side note – if you’re working in a team, a simple “well done” often goes a long way!

  1. Keep your list updated!

There’s nothing worse that starting out with good intentions and spending time prepping, to then not commit to your new routine and processes. So, start as you mean to go on and keep updating your list, adding deadlines and eating those frogs! The satisfaction in crossing something off a list is such a good feeling… Who knew!

Top tip – if you complete something not on your list (it might be an urgent request or a quick job), write it on your list and cross it off again… What a treat!

Procrastination to do list

If you are in need of some expert communications support, or you’d like to share your workload with our friendly team, please don’t be afraid to get in touch. You can hear more about our thoughts on organising your time and eating all the frogs on Season 5: Episode 2 of our Revitalise & Grow podcast. Separately, if you’d like to learn more about how we can help, from internal comms to external global comms – check out our latest work here.