We live in an era where procrastination is trendy. We use it as a hashtag on Twitter to laugh at ourselves for our hopelessness of not doing what we should be doing.
But when we factor this dilly-dallying into the day-to-day running our of businesses? It’s a problem. Dip a toe into the pool of distraction and there’s a good chance you’ll slip and fall in head-first.
Work piles up, time evaporates, and soon you’re falling seriously behind. So how can you defeat such a demon? It’s not easy. But it’s also far from impossible.
Motivation is a miracle because only you can create it. And I’m going to give you the tools to channel into that magical part of your brain.
Work in 25-minute bursts
Whether you have an article to write, accounts to settle, clients to call or emails to sift through, doing a little is better than doing nothing at all.
And it’s good for your brain.
Working in short bursts makes your to-do list seem less daunting than if you were to say, “I have eight solid hours to complete everything I need to do today.” In fact, this system is so great that we gave it a name.
It’s called the Pomodoro technique, and it works like this:
1. Pick a job to complete
2. Promise yourself that’ll you’ll dedicate 25 minutes to do it (and no interruptions!)
3. Work, and work on nothing else
4. When 25 minutes are spent, mark your progress
5. Chill for 5 minutes
6. Rinse, repeat
Do as the tomato says. And after every fourth session, allow yourself more time to relax in between. Soon your brain will connect the dots: hard work = more breaks = motivation = hard work. You’ll never look at your tasks in the same way again.
Prepare a music playlist in advance
Silence works for some people. I wish it did for me. With no background noise, my internal voice just gets louder and louder.
“Just do something!”
“You are getting NOWHERE!”
If I pick the right music, soothing sounds push away these thoughts and help me concentrate.
The problem was, I was spending precious time and energy looking for the perfect playlist when I should have been doing work.
How did I solve this problem? I used a little free time to prepare my let’s-get-to-work track in advance. I’ve now discovered that rain music mixed with my favourite chillstep mix is my study lullaby.
Perhaps you’d prefer a radio show, some heavy metal, or a soundtrack from your favourite film. Just make sure it gets your creativity flowing and isn’t a distraction.
Improve your working environment
Maximising your office’s potential as a sanctuary for concentration can do great things for your motivation levels. You might not see it as a priority when tasks are coming in at high speeds. But taking a back seat when it comes to improving your workspace can have detrimental effects on your productivity.
Mary Bitner of Arizona State University explains in The Impact of Physical Surroundings on Customers and Employees, “Physical comfort (temperature level, lighting) and responses to noise level and/or music affect productivity and overall satisfaction.”
Feeling comfortable is a huge factor here. Your chair should hug and support your back. Natural light is optimal, but if your office is like mine (which is north facing), lighting should be bright enough to read by and dim enough to not produce glare.
The aesthetics of your office is up to you. You might be a minimalist who finds it easier to concentrate when your room isn’t cluttered. Or perhaps plants make you feel peaceful, enhancing your ability to focus.
Whatever your style, dedicate time to optimising your office for work, and you’ll earn those minutes back from an increase in productivity.
Rewards, write them down.
This helped me especially in the earlier days of running my business. It’s easy to get lost in the whys of what you do when you’re working for yourself. Self-discipline is an art that’s mastered over time.
But what I found was that, if I thought about the rewards of completing a task more than the task itself, my motivation levels would skyrocket.
And I think it’s better to focus on short-term prizes, rather than your long-term gains. You could say to yourself, If my business grows large enough, maybe in ten years, I can move abroad and work somewhere hot.
But ten years involves A LOT of work, and your brain won’t respond as effectively to this thought when compared to thinking, If I do this, then I can eat a massive slice of cake.
So tomorrow, when you’re sitting at your desk first thing in the morning, grab a piece of paper and write down all the rewards you’re going to give yourself in a day. Then watch as your level of caring grows from average to OMG, CAKE.
Close your social media tabs
Social media is great for building your brand’s awareness. But if you’re using it to pass the time during working hours? You’re setting yourself up for a deadly dose of demotivation.
The main problem with perusing social media channels is this: reading your peer’s tweets about the work they’re smashing, or the article they’ve recently written, or all the cool things happening in their business will magnify your own lack of productivity.
Which will probably make you feel really bad. The consequence? Nobody likes to work when clouded by a crummy mood.
So keep the minutes you spend on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram to a minimum and sidestep discouragement.
Accept that you’re going to have bad days too.
One day wallowing in the dumps doesn’t mean you’re doomed to fail. But it’s easy to absorb that negativity and carry it with you into a new day.
It’s going to take some practise to shake off the bad vibes. But if you use these techniques and combine them with the dedication you have towards making your business a success, working might just become as enjoyable as baking (and eating) your favourite cake.
Have you got content to create? Is it taking too much time away from running your business? Send me your thoughts or questions here.