With so many people working from home now due to COVID-19, a lot of us are suddenly confronted with a lot of freedom that has proven to be at times a curse in disguise.
Procrastination has emerged as one of the biggest issues people working from the home face. To help tackle this problem, I asked Seth Cooper of Radiant Organizing, a life coach and productivity consultant, on his best tips for staying accountable in the absence of traditional checks and balances working at the office.
Set Up a Clear Routine
The worst mistake you can make when working from home according to Seth is failing to have a routine. Essentially, this means that you don’t have any structure in place with a clear start and finish time. As a result, you’re more likely to put off work to a later time.
To avoid this, you should have a routine which you follow on a daily basis. Decide what time you’ll start, the specific tasks you’ll do that day, as well as the time you’ll end your day.
As an example, Seth’s morning routine involves:
- Making the bed – research shows that making your bed each morning can make you more productive.
- Getting dressed
- Having a nourishing breakfast that’s high in proteins and low in sugar.
- Tackling high-value work as this is when you are most focussed.
Break Down Your Work
One big reason people procrastinate is that they perceive the task at hand to be difficult. They get overwhelmed by the fear of failure because they regard a project to be too hard to complete successfully.
Breaking down large projects to smaller manageable subtasks is the key to tackling any large project successfully, says Seth. If you find yourself still procrastinating, break down the task further till you arrive at a task that you’re confident handling.
Let’s say you’re tasked with writing a book. On the surface, this seems like an enormous project. However, instead of procrastinating, try breaking it down into stages such as:
- Choosing a topic
- Coming up with an outline
- Drafting the first chapter
- Writing the rest of the chapters
- Editing and revising
When you’re working from home, you don’t have to worry about a noisy coworker dropping by your desk unannounced. However, you’ll encounter a whole other set of distractions that force you to procrastinate work. In fact, studies reveal that “distractions” are the fourth greatest challenge for remote workers.
Instead of putting off work to deal with the distractions, here’s what Seth suggests you try:
- Create a physical boundary – as a remote worker, it’s important to separate your family and work life. The easiest way to achieve this is to have a dedicated space where you can work without getting distracted by family members or pets.
- Look for childcare – if your kids are the source of distraction, consider hiring a babysitter.
- Install an internet blocking tool on your laptop and cellphone. If you’re easily distracted by social media and other non-work related websites, software like Freedom and StayFocused can help. These work by limiting your access to certain websites for a specific period of time
- Make time for household chores – instead of casually incorporating household chores into your routine, set aside a certain amount of time for them. This way, you won’t have to procrastinate your work in favor of these chores.
In the same way you give your pup treats for good behavior, you can also reward yourself for working in a timely fashion. This is based on a fairly simple principle: the act of rewarding serves as an incentive for good behavior, which in this case is getting your current work done. Think about it: aren’t you more likely to complete a project if you know you’ll reap significant profits from it?
So, if you’re tempted to procrastinate when working from home, consider this reward-based approach. It doesn’t even have to be a massive reward. Something as simple as taking a break to snack, going for a jog around the block, or calling a friend for a catch-up is enough incentive.
Research shows that individuals are 65% more likely to accomplish their objectives if they have an accountability partner.
So to avoid procrastinating, Seth suggests telling one of your family members what you’re planning to do and by what time or date you plan to complete. You’ll probably feel embarrassed if you’re constantly giving excuses for why you keep putting off work.
Programs like StickK help you stay on track as well if you work at home by yourself.