Small change #1. Before you do anything, understand your WHY.
It’s hard to make sense of work when you feel like you’re stuck right in the middle but you don’t even remember how you got there. That’s the time to pause and remember!
- Remind yourself again by asking,“Why am I doing this?” Make the connection with the initial reasons for starting your work. For example, maybe you wanted to become an expert in one field, or you wanted to learn a new skill or to research one topic or industry, or you started to study for an exam so you can graduate from university and start your career, or you’re trying to explore a new business opportunity.
- Turn everything you’re doing into a choice. Instead of feeling like everything you’re working on each day is just another chore and one more thing on your to-do list, change your attitude towards your work. Tell yourself, “This is something I really want to learn more about” or “What I am doing right now will impact my future in a positive way.” Having this attitude will let you feel that you are in control of your life, instead of just reacting to it.
Small change #2. Attack your procrastination head-on.
If you often feel like procrastinating with your responsibilities, join the club! Not only is it human, but it also doesn’t require a lot of effort to do. No wonder you tend to procrastinate by default. Next time you feel this way, get proactive about it:
- When you feel like saying, “I can’t do this right now, it’s too hard!” replace it with, “Why not? I will try!” Whenever you make this switch, you do something small that can have powerful results: you become open to possibilities. You don’t close doors and you don’t give up on something that you haven’t even tried on for size. If you don’t try it, how will you know if you can do it or can get better at it? It’s that first step that is the most important.
- Get to the bottom of your procrastination. Think whether there is something else hiding behind it. Is it fear of failure? Is it rejection? Is it that you think you can’t excel at something? Do you still need to work on your skill set? Are you worried you won’t be good enough or just mediocre? Are you concerned about what others will say about you? It’s important to ask where the resistance is coming from. When you find out where it’s coming from, you can figure out what to do about it.
Small change #3. Sharpen your focus.
When you’re juggling multiple tasks to complete each day, you can easily lose focus. Here’s a simple technique to help you focus better. Start each morning by asking yourself this question: “What is the one thing I am committed to completing today?” It trains your brain to focus on goals that are important to you right now, and it forces you to prioritize the goal you believe to be the most relevant in this moment.
- Put it in writing. Write it in big bold letters on a sheet of paper and hang it on your bedroom or bathroom wall so you see it first thing in the morning.
- Read it out loud as you start your day (while you’re brushing your teeth, getting ready, or having breakfast) and come up with an answer on the spot.
- Follow up by taking action and by reminding yourself throughout the day about the commitment you made.
Small change #4. Find out how your brain functions so that you can work smarter.
When you understand your circadian rhythm (which is your natural clock), you can optimize your day and divide it up so that you do certain tasks at the most optimal times. For example:
- Mornings can be great for doing deep work, i.e. work that requires a lot of your concentration. Some scientists call this the brain’s peak performance time, and it’s roughly 2-4 hours after we wake up. So, for example, if you wake up at 7, your peak times are between 9 and 11 a.m. Block this time off for your analytical brain to perform the most complex tasks that require a lot of focus, such as learning new material and problem-solving.
- Early afternoons are great for collaborating. This covers the 12-4 p.m. time range, when you take a lunch break and the few hours after, when you are more likely to socialize. It’s a good time of day to schedule meetings, brainstorm ideas with others, and work together on group projects where you can provide feedback and get recommendations on your work.
- Evenings can be dedicated to strategic thinking and relaxing. This is when the brain eases into a different tempo when it can be more creative. If you’re setting goals and strategizing where you want to be in 6 months’ time or a year with your personal development or career, this is when you can outline your next steps. When you’re done with your work for the day, take the time to rest, reach out to friends and catch up, watch a movie, go out for a walk, read a book, or do anything else that will help you to recharge your batteries.
Small change #5. Remove all distractions.
Sometimes it might look like we are procrastinating, but we’re really getting distracted by the little things we notice around us. Chances are also that we’re trying to multitask in order to finish more things sooner, but then that negatively impacts our focus. When you turn off what’s distracting you, you have a better chance to actually do what’s important to you. For example, you can:
- Check your email and social media apps only 2–3 times a day (around lunchtime, later in the afternoon, and evening), instead of paying attention to your phone notifications every time they pop up on your screen.
- Avoid browsing the Internet or reading the daily news early in the morning. Leave these activities for later after you’ve completed your most important work.
- Set your phone to Airplane mode. Then you won’t feel the urge to react to incoming messages or to return phone calls immediately.
- Set expectations with people around you. Let family, friends, study partners or coworkers know that you won’t be available for a couple of hours, so that you don’t get interrupted with their requests, questions, comments or invitations to go somewhere and do something not related to what you need to finish first.