How to Stop Procrastinating While Working from Home

May 07, 2020

Molly McDougall

With “stay-at-home” orders issued by government officials to contain the spread of COVID-19, many companies have instituted new remote work policies for non-essential employees. It’s a welcome change for some, bringing newfound freedom and comfort, but others have difficulty concentrating and staying on schedule without the regular office routine. If this sounds familiar, you might be wondering how to get yourself to stop procrastinating. Let’s dive in to some productivity-boosting tips to kick the procrastination habit.

Make a to-do list.

Create a complete list of tasks and determine priority for each. It helps to know, “What do I absolutely have to accomplish today?” Finding a way to guarantee you check these items off the list, at a minimum, can help provide a sense of control and reduce the overwhelmed feeling that often prompts procrastinating. Planning to make progress on vital tasks early on leaves time for new items that inevitably pop up during the day.

Plan your time. 

Bring back a routine by planning out a schedule for work and rest. If you know that at certain times you’re going to take a short break to do a few exercises and refill your water, you can structure your day to fit tasks into the amount of time you have between set breaks or meetings. It’s okay to allow for breaks if you have specific time set aside to work on a particular project. Reward yourself with a brief social media check to let your brain relax and shift gears between periods of focused work.

Do the hard part first.

Knowing that the day will only get easier, tackling the hardest part of a project at the beginning of the day can be a useful strategy. It can also help to break down a large, overwhelming project into the smallest tasks possible and then start to complete them in order. Making progress will usually feel so good that you’ll want to continue. Another trick: If getting started is hard, tell yourself you only have to work on a particular task for 30 minutes. Once that passes you can stop if you want to, but often you’ll find yourself “in the zone” and want to continue.

Get into a positive state of mind.

It’s hard to be productive if you’re anxious or grumpy. Consider starting your day with exercise or meditation, or have a morning ritual that you look forward to, like sipping a cup of coffee while reading a few pages of an enjoyable book before work. A calm, positive mental state can go a long way in helping you stop procrastinating.

Create a suitable office environment.

The ideal home office is a quiet space solely dedicated to work – perhaps an extra bedroom or a spot in a finished basement. If space is limited, consider an out-of-the-way corner of your bedroom or living area that you won’t have to tear down and set up every day. To minimize interruptions, turn off notifications for phone apps that aren’t required for work communication.

It’s best to work away from the central area of the house that often contains distractions, such as TV. It also helps to mentally move in and out of work mode by keeping your computer in one place, rather than toting a laptop to places like the couch or bed that should be strictly for relaxing.

Of course, not everyone has the ideal remote working conditions during this pandemic. With schools closed, many parents are doing their best to multi-task between homeschooling children and completing their own work. It may be impossible for parents to work completely distraction-free these days, even if you have another caregiver with whom to share duties. Do the best you can to get some quiet work time in, whether in the early morning or after the kids are in bed. If you need some uninterrupted midday time to work, experts say it’s okay that children are occupied with a little more screen time than normal.

Choose comfortable office furniture.

If you’re not comfortable, you’ll look for any reason you can find to wander away from your desk. Invest in a supportive chair, and look into height adjustable desks. Sometimes the variety of sitting and standing – along with regular breaks – is enough to keep you engaged and away from distractions. Some companies are offering reimbursement for home office furniture with the expectation that remote work may be necessary again as the pandemic continues – or may even become permanent for some roles.

 

It’s natural to be distracted in these strange and uncertain times, so don’t be too hard on yourself if you fall back into the trap of procrastinating – just keep trying to improve each ay. Hopefully, by implementing these strategies into your work from home routine, you’ll form new habits and stop procrastinating for good!

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