How to stop procrastinating… why can’t I stop procrastinating… how can I stop loafing around and actually get something done today… I’m working from home and am getting nothing done… what do I do?!
Oh, the joys of working from home.
With the newfound freedom of remote work comes the need for even more discipline and intentionality. It may seem like a challenging road to maneuver, but it’s completely possible to navigate. A few minor tweaks are all you need to set your day up for success.
I’ll get to those in a moment, but first, let’s set the scene.
Your bed is comfortable. The sheets, nice and warm, keep you cocooned in a layer of toastiness; protected from the cold, bitter world that waits for you just outside your duvet. The chill of early morning hides in silence, ready to attack when you pull back the covers.
You know you should get up.
You have things to do.
Emails have already started coming in. But, you think to yourself: Screw it. I work from home. I’ll just set up camp here for the day. I’m way too cozy to leave this spot.
Four hours later, you’re still in bed. Your laptop is off, but your phone is brightly lit. It flickers as the scrolling colors of Instagram and Pinterest flash in front of you.
Four hours are gone. While you burn through four more?
It’s easy to procrastinate when working from home. There’s no boss standing over your shoulder. There’s no set routine to follow.
It’s just you and your laptop.
Which, actually wouldn’t be that big a deal if that’s all there was. But it’s not just you two. In addition to you and your laptop is the:
- Couch that you love to take naps on
- Pantry full of sugary snacks
- Disney+ subscription that you’ve been meaning to check out
- Sound of your neighbor talking loudly on his phone outside
Distractions abound. And with distraction comes procrastination. Because you know what you need to do, but with so much going on, it’s easy to succumb.
Perched upon it
The story I’m about to share is more so one of overcoming laziness, not necessarily overcoming procrastination, but the message behind it still works.
I love my couch. It’s grey. It’s made out of… I don’t know what couches are made out of. Cotten? That doesn’t sound right. I have no idea. All I know is that it’s comfortable.
I also know that bright screens distract me. I’m like that one bird that always flies into your shiny window.
Well, it just so happens that my very comfortable couch is positioned right in front of my very bright TV. See where I’m heading with this? If I happen upon an occasion where that bright screen is on, and the couch is open for business, I may, at times, find myself perched upon it.
In other words, if my wife is watching TV in the living room and I walk by and notice, I will end up sitting down on the couch or will stand in front of the TV like a zombie until my brain yells at me to move.
Even if I have no interest as to what’s being shown.
I don’t care. The bright box is telling me things and I don’t want to look away. It’s why slot machines are so appealing. It’s why babies have toys with bright lights. We all like shiny things.
How to stop procrastinating when you work from home
So there I am, glued to the screen. Immobilized by Top Chef Junior or whatever. I have things to do but I’m not doing them. I have entered into the procrastination zone and I’m stuck.
Luckily, I’ve worked from home for well over three years at this point and know just what to do. I apply some of the strategies that I’m about to share with you and manage to pull myself away from the flat screen of anti-work.
I then go back about my business and continue to make the progress that I set out to make.
Now, I know remote work comes with unique challenges to you.
Maybe the TV doesn’t serve as a means of distraction and procrastination. Maybe it’s the park down the street where you would rather play soccer than work on your report. It doesn’t matter. If you have work that needs to get done and you find yourself putting it off, use the following strategies to learn how to stop procrastinating and push forward.
How to stop procrastinating: Have a plan
It’s funny. I’ve written about time intentionality for quite awhile. I’ve read books about it, I’ve experimented with it, I’ve written many, many posts about it.
And do you know what common tactic comes up again and again?
No matter the context, creating a plan for yourself is a smart move. Why? Because it forces you to think things through. You not only have to envision the beginning, but also the middle and the end. And it’s those second two parts – the middle and the end – that are the most valuable.
It’s easy to come up with the beginning. It’s the inspiring part.
- It will be so fun to start that business
- I’ll wake up at four in the morning and go for a run
- I’ll try working from bed today
- You know where a fun place to travel would be? The sun!
The beginning is bright and optimistic. But considering the consequences of those initial actions (ie. planning out the middle and the end) forces you to walk through the entire process. Not just the beginning.
And in that contemplation, you realize what unintended consequences lie in wait:
- Start that business? Years of hard work.
- Four in the morning run? Feel tired later in the afternoon.
- Work from bed? Fall back asleep and miss that important call.
- Travel to the sun? Get disintegrated by its rays.
Planning things through to the end will help you imagine the result of your efforts. Which will, in turn, help you decide if those are results that you want.
If you are OK with years of hard work, go start that business (it will be worth it!). Or if you think you’ll be tired in the afternoon from your early morning run, plan to take a nap. If you’re fine with missing that call, set up shop in bed. Or if you relish the idea of burning up by the sun’s cosmic heat, don’t forget to pack sunscreen.
Either way, if you want to learn how to stop procrastinating, you need a plan.
Creating a plan helps you see things through.
Especially as someone working from home, time will feel different compared to when in an office. It will feel like vacation even when it’s not. It’s a nice feeling but is also one that may lead you astray. So instead, take some time each afternoon and plan out your tomorrow.
Consider what you want to get done and when.
Consider where you will work, when you will eat, and when you will be done for the day.
Create a plan for your time so that there are no surprises or miscellaneous tasks bouncing around in your head.
How to stop procrastinating: Keep it close
I read during lunch most days. It’s a nice break from writing and it’s also a method for expanding my way of thinking. I enjoy it and have been reading more this year than ever before.
There are many things I attribute that to, but one of them, in particular, is seemingly obvious – I keep a book by where I eat.
In the past, I would eat lunch in one area of my home and would keep my books in another area; normally on my bedside table. What I found though was that instead of reading during lunch, I would play on my phone. I would mess around on Snapchat or check my email.
I knew I should be reading, but I wouldn’t.
Through reflection, I realized that I am a creature of convenience. If I don’t live with you or live by you, I struggle to make the effort to maintain our relationship. If I don’t have a good place to run by where I live, I just won’t run.
It’s not a great trait of mine and I’m working on it.
Nevertheless, reading for me follows that same pattern. If there’s not a book nearby then I just won’t read. In realizing that, I now am sure to keep a book within arm’s reach of where I relax and eat lunch.
I play into my convenience-seeking ways and game the system in my favor.
When working remotely, it is far too easy to procrastinate. Just like me during lunch, it’s much easier to mess around on your phone than to work on something challenging.
So rig the system.
If you find yourself drifting to your couch instead of your desk, have your laptop and a charger conveniently placed and at the ready. If you like to work in the kitchen with the rest of your roommates (where distraction can strike), have your noise-canceling headphones sitting on the table for your use. Or if you’ve been meaning to start a new course, set it as the home page on your browser.
Make getting work done as convenient as possible.
Remove the barriers around you and make “doing” as easy, if not easier, than “not doing.”
How to stop procrastinating: Have a set workspace
I work at a desk in my bedroom. It’s not a big desk. There’s a small bamboo plant that sits in one corner, I have my laptop, a charger, a wireless keyboard, and mouse. I have a window next to me that I look out of occasionally.
That’s pretty much it.
When I sit at my desk, I work. I don’t read at my desk. I don’t watch movies there. If I’m at my desk, I’m getting things done.
For me, procrastinating isn’t an option if I’m at my desk. Because I have my plan (see the first strategy above) and I have my work supplies set up (see the second strategy above). I know what I need to do and have the means to do it. All that’s left is the mindset.
And when I sit at my desk, I get into the mindset. When I sit at my desk, I get things done.
You have a lot of options when working from home. Anywhere you look can be a potential workstation. However, when it comes to how to stop procrastinating, I urge you to pick one spot and make it your home base.
A spot that when you sit there you know it’s time to get work done.
A place that when you open up your laptop your work habits kick in automatically and you get to it without delay.
Sure, you can still work in other places. Sometimes I work on the couch instead of at my desk (never with the TV on though). But it helps to have that one central location. That one spot that you know in your mind is a place where work gets done.
Just like if you still had to go into the office, going to this spot in your home can serve as your “arriving at work” moment. So pick a spot and make it your official workspace.
How to stop procrastinating moving forward
Don’t let procrastination derail the progress that you seek. Don’t let your comfortable bed lure you into a wasted day. Refuse to waste time wondering how to stop procrastinating ever again.
Instead, be thoughtful about your work from home setup.
Create a plan for your day, design an environment of convenience, and establish a home base where you get work done. It’s too easy to let working from home turn into a false vacation. Don’t fall for it!
Apply the above strategies and start making the most of your time at home.