6 practical tips to help you stop procrastinating and start being more efficient in 2024


Man throwing piece of paper instead of working

In the hustle and bustle of life, staying focused on the task at hand can be challenging when you’re supposed to be productive. This can lead to wasted hours, and you may spend more time than necessary on menial tasks. 

If you frequently succumb to procrastination, you’re not alone. A study from Legal & General reveals that 52% of the UK population believe that procrastination has affected their life in one way or another.

If you’d like to stop procrastinating, continue reading to discover six practical tips to help you be more efficient in the year ahead. 

1. Remove any distractions from your workspace

Perhaps the most common way to avoid procrastination is simply to remove any distractions around you, as they can be silent productivity killers. 

Indeed, if you’re frequently distracted by something, this can derail any progress you’ve made towards completing a task. This can stress you out even more, which halts you from being productive, and the cycle continues. 

So, it may be worth setting aside any distractions, such as your phone or your favourite book. You may also want to turn off the TV, and tidy your workspace before starting any important tasks.

Understandably, you may need to stay connected through a device if you work from home. Though, even the “ping” of a notification can distract you, so it may be wise to allocate set times each day to check your work emails and messages. 

This way, you can stay focused on a single task while remaining in touch with your colleagues and clients. 

2. Set false deadlines

Many people often state that they work better under pressure, usually from a looming deadline. This could be because pressure gives you a rush of adrenaline and cortisol that supplies you with energy and helps focus your attention. 

Of course, this isn’t for everyone – the additional strain could simply stress you out even more. Even so, if you feel that you work better under pressure, you could set yourself false deadlines to complete any tasks before they actually need to be finished. 

There exists a paradox called Parkinson’s Law, which posits that tasks expand to fill the time you’ve allotted to them. That means, in theory, the less time you have to complete a task, the quicker you will get it done. 

So, you could reduce the amount of time you have to complete a task to put more pressure on yourself. This could even turn your activities into a challenge that leaves you feeling rewarded after completion. 

By setting false deadlines for your work, you’re essentially tricking your brain into being more productive. Additionally, since you’ll complete your work quicker, you’ll have more time to finish other tasks. 

3. Attempt the “2-minute rule”

Procrastination isn’t always caused by an unwillingness to get something done. Sometimes, you may simply avoid the initial push to start a task. 

It may be worth attempting the “two-minute rule” to beat this early apprehension. 

To do so, you should identify the part of your task that will only take around two minutes to complete, and then do this immediately. Afterwards, you should isolate the next two-minute task, and repeat the process. 

This could help you break up your most daunting tasks into smaller bites, potentially making it easier to start them.

Moreover, if you commit to working for just two minutes, there’s a good chance you’ll continue working past this allotted time without even realising it. 

4. Treat yourself after completing a task

If you believe you’re procrastinating due to the thought of not making any progress, it may be worth setting attainable targets and goals, and then rewarding yourself when you reach them. 

Science says that humans tend to be intrinsically motivated more by instant than delayed gratification. So, to get around this, it may be prudent to create “small wins”. 

For example, if you’re working through a stack of paperwork, you could commit to completing a quarter of it and celebrate in a certain way. This could be anything from a well-deserved cup of tea or a walk to clear your head. 

Doing so could ensure you’re incentivised to continue working. Also, after completing several of these small wins, you’ll likely feel more rewarded and could end up forming positive habits in the process. 

5. Prepare for the day ahead before you go to bed

Each decision you make throughout the day – be it an insignificant choice, such as deciding what to wear for the day, or something more momentous, such as applying for jobs – can sap your decision-making energy.

This is called “decision fatigue”, and it occurs due to the mental exhaustion from having to make too many choices throughout the day. 

As such, it may be worth preparing for the day ahead in the evening before you go to bed. By doing so, you could reduce the number of decisions you need to make during the following day, which could, in turn, prevent procrastination. 

For instance, you could take some time in the evening to decide what you’re going to wear the following day. You can also organise your schedule ahead of time, choosing the most important tasks and allocating a fixed time to complete them. 

This could free up your energy and help you stay focused on more meaningful tasks during the day. Even spending 15 minutes organising before you go to bed could make a significant difference. 

6. Consider the “nothing alternative”

As you can imagine, it would be difficult to stay focused when you’re writing a book. Though, crime-fiction novelist, Raymond Chandler, purported the “nothing alternative” to help him stay on task. 

He said that, when he was writing, he wouldn’t set a predetermined number of words that he had to write each day. Instead, he set time aside to either write, or do nothing at all. 

This may sound slightly counterintuitive, but he essentially told himself that he didn’t have to write. Though, if he wasn’t focused on completing a novel, he wasn’t allowed to do anything else meaningful. This could involve anything from staring out the window to standing on his head, so long as it wasn’t positive work.

This helped him focused on his writing, simply just to stop himself from getting bored. 

You too could employ the nothing alternative to your work if possible. For instance, you could tell yourself that you’re going to complete an important task during a set period of time. 

If you find your mind wandering and you aren’t being productive, you can’t do anything else – you shouldn’t tidy your home, check your phone, or watch TV. This threat of boredom could help you stay focused and boost your productivity. 

This blog is for general information only and does not constitute advice. The information is aimed at retail clients only.

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