Procrastination – what causes it for me, and how do I avoid it?

Procrastination is something universal, I don’t know a person who doesn’t experience it. I think it can be worse when you work from home, and your home is full of shiny things to tempt you away from work. This was definitely the case for me anyway. Luckily, my self-control has grown over time, and I can be pretty strict with myself. However, I’d be lying if I said that I avoid procrastination 100% of the time. I’ve come to know when it’s okay to give in and when it’s not. Below is a list which either shares the items that tempt me or gives advice on avoiding the need to procrastinate.

TV

Ah yes, the TV. That magical screen on my wall, staring at me throughout the day. My partner loves his tech, and we seem to have an account for every streaming service going, which just makes it worse! So many things to watch, not enough time… Oh go on then, just an episode… 5 hours later you’re yet again shouting “WE WERE ON A BREAK” or crying at Bambi. Yes, I know. So how do I avoid it?

If I get the urge to have something on in the background I use the Spotify TV app. I’m lucky that I find music helpful while I work, so I always take a couple of minutes to find a good playlist. I then don’t really care about Netflix because I’ve got my tunes to accompany me. 

If you don’t have Spotify, would a radio station work for you? Or some other form of background noise or imagery? It could be anything from nature sounds to playing a slideshow of your photos, as long as it doesn’t cause distraction. Another thing that could be helpful is working somewhere else. Having a space with no TV could stop the need to procrastinate. You might also subconsciously associates different rooms with different things, e.g. your living room with watching TV or your bedroom with sleep. If this is the case, your mind might just want to follow the norm.

Setting timers

If I know I need to focus, but I’m struggling, sometimes I’ll use a form of working more widely known as the Pomodoro Technique. Traditionally you set a timer for 25-minutes, and you work for that amount of time, then have a 5-minute break. Repeat this 4 or 5 times, then give yourself a longer 15-30 minute break. This way, you don’t push yourself to work solidly all day. I might increase the 25-minutes if I want to, but the idea remains the same. In that 15-30 minute break, I can do what I want.

Mobile

Mobiles are a blessing and a curse. They’re obviously pretty essential for most people, I wouldn’t be without mine. But sometimes, the need to scroll can completely take over your work, and before you know it you’re on Amazon looking for garden furniture, or 5 years deep into some random persons insta feed. I mean, I hope it’s not just me! Either way, mobiles can completely take you off-topic, out of focus, and into procrastination heaven. How do I avoid it? Out of sight, out of mind. Take it to another room, honestly sometimes if I could, I’d transport it to another time — as long as I got in back in an hour or two of course! My point is that if it’s in your sightline, it’s 100% going to tempt you at some point. 

Resist the urge!

I list why I love my work, what drives me.

If I’m feeling fed up, or a little unenthusiastic, and it causes procrastination, I remind myself why I do what I do. I make a list of all the things I enjoy about my work, or the reasons as to why I chose to become a proofreader and editor, and then it can inspire me a little more to get back on track.

Social Media

For me, social media is how I get my name out there. It’s how I gained my first few clients. I adore what social media gives me, but not when I need to focus on my work. Sometimes, I feel like I have to reply to comments or messages at all times. Really though, sometimes it’s just an excuse, and it’s just that need to procrastinate kicking in. I have found ways to try and avoid this. Firstly, I plan some of my posts, so I know that I will consistently update my followers, and it removes the need to do it while I’m focused on editing. I also turn off notifications. Getting a notification always makes me want to click, read and respond, so I remove that option. I also try to structure my day with specific times to go on social media. It’s good for me to take regular breaks anyway, so I try and combine my breaks with this. 

I set myself deadlines

With every project I work on, I set myself a deadline and try my best to stick to it. Every Sunday, I set my tasks for the week ahead and plan what I want to achieve each day. Having deadlines makes me less likely to procrastinate because I know I have to get the work done, and I also don’t have time to twiddle my thumbs, not knowing where to begin. I stay pretty strict with this, but if things happen that are out of my control, I don’t beat myself up about it. It’s more about making sure I try to stay on track and give my working life more structure, so I’m not tempted to just do whatever I want every day.

Food and drink

I enjoy eating and drinking. I don’t just enjoy it, I love it. My mealtimes are some of my favourite times! Food and drink brings me so much joy. But alongside that comes the opportunity for procrastination. Oh… I’m just going to go and stare aimlessly into the fridge for no reason. Hmm… Should I just bake some banana bread? Those bananas kind of have some brown patches. Yay, iced coffee time! And before I know it, I’m not sticking to an organised day with mostly set snacks and mealtimes. Of course, when I’m hungry, fair enough, that’s not procrastination, that’s a bodily need. 

The way I curb food and drink procrastination is by making a timetable, and sticking to it. I give myself a midmorning snack break, a lunch break; which I usually just have when I feel hungry, and a mid-afternoon snack break. This way, I won’t feel the need to go and make a coffee any old time, because I know I have that set time coming up to do it.

I split my time wisely

I don’t think I could have a life of just work and no play, although it can be really tempting to work all the time when you love what you do and you’re passionate about being successful. I find that with my work, some weeks are more full-on than others, but I don’t mind as long as I don’t end up burnt out. I do always try to give myself at least one day a week to just enjoy life and not work. I also make sure to ease off a little in the evenings after tea, and put on a film or bake, or have a nice long bath. Being sure to give myself time to do the things I sometimes crave whilst working can lessen the need to procrastinate.

Sometimes I give in

Sometimes, you’ve just got to give in to the need. It can be kind of obvious when you do need to just step back and let yourself have a longer break, or even just finish work for the day a little earlier. If you’re truly not getting anything done, and your mind really is elsewhere then it really is okay to give in and watch the tv, or play a game. Just learn to gauge when you have to do this, it shouldn’t be all the time.

I make sure to socialise and have hobbies.

If work was all I ever did, I probably would end up on the procrastination train much more. I love that I have a life outside of my work, the variety that my interests bring makes me sure that my work remains exciting, something that I want to do with my life. I also give myself the time to see my family and friends, and have a day off with my partner. My hobbies include singing, baking, walking, reading and cycling, and I love making sure that I have the time to do all of this so I’m less likely to become unfocused or bored in my work.

So, there are some of the things that cause me procrastination, and some of the ways I avoid it. I hope it helps you. I want to remind you though, that it’s still okay to have those days where all you want to do is play Animal Crossing or have a movie marathon. Realistically, life is pretty short, so you’ve still got to incorporate what makes your soul happy. It’s okay to be strict with yourself too, and refuse to give in to procrastination, when you know that your hard work will pay off and make you proud of your achievements. It’s all dependent on how well you know yourself and the boundaries that you can set and stick to.


Published by Amy Ollerton

Hi! I'm Amy—a professional copy editor and proofreader living in the beautiful Scottish Highlands. I provide friendly, personalised services that boost writing while retaining the author's unique style and voice. I write a little myself, shown through my blog. Alongside my work, I read books, enjoy baking, and explore the Highlands with my partner and my dog, Lula. If you've ever any editing queries, feel free to get in touch!

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