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7 Easy Steps To Focus And Stop Procrastinating

Written by: Serena Martino, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.

 

If you are spending most of your time procrastinating at work, you are not alone: approximately 25% of working adults consider procrastination to be a big issue for them. Working online you have an even higher chance to get distracted easily, with 50% of people reporting using the internet to procrastinate.


re, white, and green traffic sign and road sign.

There are so many reasons you end up delaying starting or completing a task, the most common being that you do not want to do something because is difficult, boring, or not worth your time.


In the workplace, we got used to busyness and having too many priorities at the same time: we are in a constant struggle trying to tackle an increasingly longer to-do list every day.


This often seems a lost battle, so you end up giving your attention to the easy tasks that will provide you with quick satisfaction, instead of tackling bigger things that will require more time, effort, and focus.


Once you get stuck in the work→overwhelm→procrastination mode it becomes hard to break this cycle. So how can you get that right state of mind where you can focus on something important and complete it without dragging it along for days and weeks?


As Abraham Lincoln is quoted as saying,

“If I had five minutes to chop down a tree, I'd spend the first three sharpening my ax.”

The key to stopping procrastination is preparation. It might seem counterintuitive when you feel that you do not even have the time to do the actual work but to use your time effectively when you need to focus you have to set the right conditions.


Take control of what you have to do, break down the work into smaller less scary pieces, and

remove any excuse for not doing it.


Now let’s see how to get your work done in 7 simple steps


Prepare


This would not take more than 10-20 minutes of reflection time and can be done at any time before starting the actual project


1. Check why you are doing it ‒ Whatever you are supposed to do should be important enough not to put it on the back burner, so do a quick check to see why (and if) it is really worth your time. What goal will it contribute once it is completed? What will happen if you do not do it or it gets delayed? We get 100 things on our to-do list, but if this is on your top priority list you need to schedule time for it and get it done.


2. What is that you need to achieve ‒ Seek clarity on what exactly is expected and break it down to deliverables and time needed. Having to do a presentation is too generic to quantify the workload, a better assessment would be “I have to prepare my slides for the quarterly review next Friday. I need to add last month's numbers and forecast for December; I probably need to set aside 3 hours”


3. When will you be done ‒ Think about the quality of what you want to deliver. Decide if all you need are a few bullet points, a quick draft, or something final is the key. This is where a lot of people get lost and end up overdoing things or not starting at all. If it is unclear because someone has assigned you a job, ask them before, so you are aligned and won’t spend more time than needed to have something super polished that will need to be changed and reviewed.


4. Get everything you need ‒ Nothing is worse than being ready to start than figuring out that you miss a piece and you have to delay again. Check if you have access to all the tools at hand, any document, or data that you need, or pre-work that you need to get from someone else.

At this point you know the why, what, when, and how. You are now ready to start


5. Choose the best time ‒ Know yourself and your rhythm. Check your agenda to see the days and times when you have more energy. Do you need to do creative work? Schedule at the time when your ideas are flowing. There is no point in blocking a long stretch to work on a difficult task after a long day of meetings. Consider what you can move around so you can get some focused time when you are at your best.


6. Time-bound your work You already know what you need to deliver, but you do not have to do everything in one stretch, so block enough slots in the calendar to ensure you can get it completed on time. Aim to get a maximum of 2 hours in full focus mode at a time, but start with less if you are struggling with it. Plan a bit of time to get in the zone, and at the end so that you do not have to suddenly stop if you are in the flow. For example, if you have 90 minutes free, you’ll probably get 10 minutes to get started, a good hour of full-focus work, and the rest to close up


7. Prepare your space, no distractions ‒ If you work from home go in a quiet room, if you are in an office space try to get a room where you won’t get disturbed. Disabling notifications and putting the phone in silent is the way to go, and if willpower alone is not enough, shut the phone down and try time-limit apps or website blockers. Inform people that you are unavailable and won’t immediately answer. Would you respond to that call or message if you were with a client or with your boss? Take the same approach when you are in the zone trying to complete a task.


Here are a couple of extra points to give you a better chance to complete your project with success


8. Find an accountability partner ‒ Even if you are working on a personal project, share it with someone else, tell them what you plan to do, and ask them to keep you accountable. Nothing beats having someone check on your progress and cheering you on when you have done something.


9. Celebrate ‒ Another thing that can boost your success rate when dealing with procrastination is looking forward to something nice. Some of the important long-term projects don't give us an immediate sense of excitement and accomplishment, so it can help to give yourself positive reinforcement.

What will you do every time you achieve a milestone? What about when you finish the whole thing?


When you learn to avoid procrastination and can achieve more focused work, you will get more things done with less effort. Once you get into the right rhythm, you achieve more clarity and less stress throughout the day.


Instead of having 100 unfinished tasks in your place, you know you can tackle everything that is important and complete it in less time.


Now you have a routine for when you need to focus better at work. But creating a habit takes time and sometimes the challenge is to be able to fully zoom out from multitasking and get the time to focus in the first place.


Be kind to yourself: allow yourself to experiment, fail and try again. If you need a partner to help you with the process you are welcome to reach out to me via LinkedIn or my website. I can help you create extra value and escape the endless to-do list mentality.


 

Serena Martino, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Serena Martino is an Executive and Business Coach (ACC with ICF) with abundant Leadership experience both in Corporate and Startup environments, with a focus on Tech, eCommerce, and Travel. Having worked in 6 different countries and with teams around the World, she understands cultural diversity and the complex dynamics of scaling internationally. She works with leaders at all levels: her approach is allowing to find the best solution through self-reflection, combined with practical tools from her direct experience in the field. She coaches people through their businesses, empowering teams and individuals to grow with a clear direction. Her mission is to put people at the center of every company.

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