- Apr 16, 2018
Slacking off is so easy when you don’t have the kind of structure a traditional office job demands. You can always put the alarm clock on snooze until you feel like getting up, have a long, leisurely breakfast, and do other stuff first instead of the task at hand. And when you’re home, surrounded by creature comforts and family members, everything just seems so...distracting.
A work-from-home setup needs discipline in order for it to be truly beneficial, but procrastination seems to always be there, mocking you in your rumpled pajamas. How do you prevent procrastination from ruining your entire schedule and putting your work in jeopardy? I’ve listed five methods I’ve personally tried along with apps that could help, and which you can try in turn.
1. Establish a routine to develop sound habits
I remember a time when I thought working from home meant I can start writing whenever I felt like it, and still have enough time for leisurely things like chatting with friends or scrolling through my Facebook feed. Boy, was I wrong. I ended up with lots of missed deadlines, disgruntled clients, and a string of bad habits I can’t seem to break.
Then a friend who also works from home recommended an app she called “the bad habit-breaker”. Chains.cc is an online program (also available as an iPhone app) aiming to motivate users to complete tasks everyday. The great thing about Chains is that you can visually map how long you’ve been completing scheduled tasks based on a streak or “chain”. Knowing how disciplined you’ve become will make you think twice about breaking this chain of good habit.
2. Have your own uninterruptible workspace
Setting up work from home also means having a dedicated physical space for it, even if it means a space no bigger than a supplies closet. It’s so easy to give in to procrastination when you can hear the sounds of the television, your dog barking, or your kids running around. You also shouldn’t surround yourself with furniture that tempts you to lie down and doze off. You will need a room with a door, a desk, a comfortable chair, and and agreement with the other people in your house that you are not to be disturbed during established work hours (unless it’s an emergency).
Then you will also need a virtual workspace, one that really helps things go smoothly without disrupting your process. Dropbox has been around long enough to become a much-utilized tool of office workers and WAH people alike. You can keep track of your files in one place, and people can send new ones to you without interrupting you with phone calls or messages asking if you’ve received them.
3. Put social media and other online distractions on hold
Based on experience, social media apps like Facebook and Instagram have been my biggest time-wasters. The FOMO (fear of missing out) symptom makes me want to drop everything and read about the latest news and status updates, even if they won’t help me pay my bills. It was hard to stop this bad habit on my own, so I knew I needed an app to help me.
Cold Turkey is an app promising to “block digital distractions” so you can concentrate on the tasks at hand. I swear by it, because once I started using it, productivity took a noticeable upswing. What it does is use daily time limits (weekly recurring if you prefer it) to block certain websites, apps, or even the entire Internet if you choose. Trying to unblock these takes a vexing amount of time, so it’s a foolproof way to not get distracted.
4. Divide your tasks into manageable pieces
By this time, you probably have an idea how fast you can complete certain tasks, and if others need more research and some time to master. Using this knowledge helps me come up with a manageable to-do list, which I try to follow to the letter.
Too often though, I get overwhelmed by an ambitious project. I initially thought that tackling the hardest tasks first would get me ahead, but with the learning curve involved, I ended up wasting more time on it and with more manageable tasks unattended. Then I stumbled upon 135List, which helps me categorize three kinds of tasks per day: a big item, 3 medium-sized items, and 5 small items. With it, I can make a checklist of what needs to be done, and how much time is needed for each task.
5. Don’t forget to take breaks
Staring too long at a computer screen can give you eye strain, and typing on a keyboard for hours can result in carpal tunnel. This is why it’s important to take breaks - for meals, to clear your head, to stretch your legs, and to prevent body parts from cramping up. Micro-breaks won’t eat up too much of your daily schedule anyway, and it’s a lot better than overexerting yourself and ending up too sick to work.
To avoid Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI), I used Workrave, a program that sets a timed break application. It prompts you to take little breaks and do exercises so your back won’t ache, your legs won’t sleep, and your eyes won’t feel strained.
Discipline needs to be established from Day One of working from home, but since I sometimes lack it, I definitely need all the help I can get. Any app that lessens or ends procrastination altogether is something I’m willing to invest in. I personally love using Chains.cc because it’s helping me visualize how long I’ve been disciplined enough to finish my tasks while developing good habits along the way. Cold Turkey is also legit, as it makes it really hard for me to waste time on online distractions, leaving me no choice but to focus on work.
Ever slacked off from work and had to pay for it? What steps and tools did you use to overcome procrastination? Please share your tips and recommendations with us.