Humans are natural procrastinators—if we have extra time, we’ll milk it to the very last drop, regardless of how it worked out last time.
Yet, procrastination sucks. It makes us feel anxious, lazy, and stressed.
Where sometimes procrastination is harmless, other times, it can hurt our careers, our personal lives, and of course our well-being.
The worst part is, we often do this to ourselves. Deadlines creep up on us over and over, yet we fail to plan accordingly.
Below, we’ve rounded up some tips for getting a handle on your productivity, and we promise, they’re not too hard.
How to trick yourself into better time management
Break projects into small tasks
Instead of a sprawling to-do list, you should approach your tasks as bite-sized pieces. Staring down a massive project can be overwhelming, to be sure.
So, break it up.
Your to-do list should contain a few steps at a time, which makes it more manageable. Plus, when you check off each task, you’ll see a record of what you’ve already done.
On top of this divide and conquer approach, we recommend including the learning process on your list, as well. We tend to get frustrated when something is hard, which, of course, leads to procrastination.
Instead, build time into your day that accounts for research, ideation, just grasping new concepts. It’ll make things easier, to be sure.
Set time limits for each item
Setting time limits can be an effective way to blow through tasks. We like this approach for getting smaller items done.
Allocate one hour to sending emails, and that’s it. Maybe 20 minutes go toward doing research, and another hour gets spent on revising a colleague’s latest article.
You should also block in time buffers, as you’ll have a little cushion to finish that blog post or invoicing your clients.
Rethink your approach to the things you don’t want to do
Another reason we procrastinate is that we have to do something that sounds plain awful. While this might seem impossible, you’ll need to think about putting together a report, answering those emails, whatever it is, in a fun or interesting way.
Try setting a timer to see how much you can get done within 20 minutes or an hour. Or, change the process of doing a task to something a little different.
Make a plan
If you’re prone to procrastination, never go to bed without a plan. Before you shut down your computer for the evening, spend 10-15 minutes making a list of what’s on the agenda for the next day. Then, clean up your workspace, so you’re not kicking things off with clutter.
Before you go to work, or wherever you do — write down your three top priorities. These are the things that need to be addressed that day, for sure.
Work on those high-priority tasks when you’re at your most productive.
And, by the way, those times may depend on the task. If you have to come up with several ideas for a new content strategy, that time might be in the evening. If you’re editing a piece of writing, approaching it first thing in the morning might be your best bet there.
This two-pronged approach is not very much work, but it will help keep you from starting the day off on the wrong foot. You know, like those kinds of days where you can’t settle on where to start, so you start online shopping or surfing the web instead.
Eliminate that fear of failing
The reason many of us put things off is fear. After all, you can’t fail at something that you don’t do.
This is where a lot of perfectionist-types get tripped up. While perfectionists are associated with attention to detail, that tendency can also hold them back, as they may become overly worried something won’t turn out as planned.
Do your best, turn it in, and move on.
Overestimate how long you need to finish a task
Look, we all like to imagine ourselves as someone who can quickly put together a great project in record time. But how often do you start a task you thought was going to be over and done within an hour, only to find it’s taken all day and messed with your other deadlines?
Allow yourself some extra time, so you don’t overextend yourself, and especially if you’re working with clients, add in an extra day or two at the outset of a project. This will prevent you from falling shy of expectations.
The second part of this, is, you should learn to track your time as you move through these tasks. If there’s a disconnect with how long something takes and what you anticipated, it’s time to gather some data.
With these strategies, you’ll set yourself up for a more productive life. And it’s worth checking in every so often to reset your expectations of what you can accomplish in a day. By establishing some good habits, you’ll reap the rewards for years to come.