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Goodbye Procrastination: Self-Management While You're Working From Home

It's almost impossible to work from home and not face distractions and procrastination. But there are methods and tips to help you concentrate better and work more productively. We'll show you how to beat procrastination bit by bit - and how to get through the day in a more structured way.

Illustration of three monkeys sitting on a tree

What this post is about

  • We procrastinate because we want to avoid difficult tasks
  • This can be easily countered by breaking projects into smaller tasks
  • By talking to your team regularly you reduce the risk of losing sight of things
  • For productive work it is important to recharge your batteries and take breaks

In the home office, distractions lurk everywhere: the dishes want to be done, the laundry needs to be folded, and the kids need help with schoolwork. Our focus on work is put to the test all day long.

Because (almost) all of us are currently facing remote work due to corona, here at Zammad we've been looking for ways to continue to get through the workday productively , and we're happy to share our conclusions with you.

What Exactly Is Procrastination?

In psychology, "procrastination" describes the habit of putting off unpleasant tasks. In other words: unpleasant, but necessary work is postponed further and further. The word originally comes from Latin and means "postponement".

So in a work context, we procrastinate when we trade a task with future successes for one with short-term rewards. Said reward ranges from a quick dopamine boost (like the one you get from scrolling through social media) to the (slightly bigger) satisfaction of a clean apartment.

The Five Most Common Types of Procrastinators

There are five types of procrastination that belong to very different archetypes. Usually, several of them always conspire to form a pattern that needs to be broken. Let's distinguish:

"Oops, a notification. "
The Internet Junkie has to check his smartphone every few seconds to see if there is anything new. He might have missed something! So his thoughts are always everywhere but never with the task at hand.

"First, let's get things in order."
In the face of a deadline, the cleaner must first clean up the mess on their desk (or in the whole apartment) before they can think a clear thought.

"Just get started? Nope, I need a plan."
The list maker feels most comfortable if he has a list for everything. However, he often loses focus as he dives into his world of bullet points and mindmaps.

"Sure, I can manage."
The multitasker is the opposite: he gets bogged down in a mountain of tasks and keeps piling on more to-dos. While trying to juggle them all at the same time, he accomplishes little and makes careless mistakes.

"How am I supposed to get this done in such a short time? "
The panicker dwindles around until the last minute. Once he realizes that the deadline is close, he freaks out and gets in his own way.

Let's continue with our guide on how to leave the endless loop of procrastination and easily increase your productivity level.

Tip 1: Define Productivity (as a Team and Individually)

It is said that work always expands to the extent that time is available to complete it (Parkinson's Law). Therefore, it neither makes sense to block endless time for projects, nor is it healthy to squeeze too large a workload into too narrow a time window.

The solution to this problem lies in doing the right tasks at the right time. Try to pay attention to your own personal biorhythms and always keep your colleagues in the loop. The more people depend on you, the better you need to communicate. Constant exchanges will result in a natural level of productivity throughout the team.

Tip 2: Start Immediately

Let's face it, to-dos rarely get better by procrastinating. Instead, it frees the mind to set up the basic framework early so that the fine-tuning can take place over time (see "Tip 7: The Perfection Myth").

And did you know that there is a magic limit of 72 hours after which you should have tackled an intention? Otherwise, your chances of ever implementing the intention rapidly decrease. This applies to projects in the office, as well as behavioral changes.

Tip 3: Don't Try Multitasking

We have already seen it in the multitasker above: Taking on more does not lead to achieving more. Instead, focus on one task at a time. This reduces stress levels and leads to higher quality and fewer loops in the long run.

Tip 4: Break Down Large Tasks Into Small Ones

Having a mountain of tasks will kill your motivation. Because what should you work towards if there is no end in sight? Therefore, be sure to take the time to define intermediate goals: Which milestones follow each other?

If you can't estimate the individual steps, then work from week to week and coordinate with your team along the way. This puts your own work in perspective and helps you to remember: Always take one step at a time..

"As a developer, you're used to thinking in {brackets}. This means that a parenthesis is always a context that sort of stakes out a task. For example, "Solve Issue X { ... }" or "Review Blog Post { ... }“. You have to be quite careful that you don't forget to close the parenthesis again and that the block in the parentheses doesn't get too big. That's why I'm always motivated to define small parenthesis blocks to prevent headaches.
In addition, closing a bracket is the same as checking off a task - you get the nice feeling of having accomplished something. So when I'm tired, exhausted, demotivated, or disoriented, I always look for my closing bracket and next time I'd better make sure to keep the bracket small and close it again quickly. "

  • Thorsten Eckel, CTO at Zammad

Tip 5: Determine Times and Places to Work

Top athletes know: if you have to deliver top performance, you also need rest periods. It's the same with working from home. We should organize the day along our physical and mental performance level and set clear boundaries for private things.

This includes being available during core working hours - and not having to be afterwards. And to take conscious breaks to refuel, get some fresh air, and recharge the batteries. A spatial separation (if possible) also helps to enter the work mode.

"I have recently been trying small meditations. Just close your eyes for five minutes and dream away. A short trip to the roof terrace also helps. Breathe the fresh air, get some pigments, and shake out your arms and legs. "

  • Johanna Kiefer, Head of Sales & Support

Tip 6: Start With the Most Unpleasant Things

One truth of procrastination is that we are all too eager to avoid unpleasant, stressful, and overwhelming work. To avoid temptation in the first place, it is advisable to tackle these tasks right at the beginning of the day. That's when the mind is still awake and our work output is at its highest.

For unpleasant or extensive tasks, I sometimes block a few hours in my calendar. This way no one bothers me when I'm really focused and I know when I have to start (which is as early as possible, because I like to work without pressure). But right before that, I complete one or two smaller things - that motivates me and makes me feel like I've already accomplished something today. With this mood, I can then dedicate myself to the big, tough project. "

  • Jessica Traupe, Content & SEO Marketing Manager

Tip 7: The Perfection Myth

Do you already know the Pareto principle? Also known as the 80-20 rule. It states that 80% of a task can be completed with 20% of the effort. Or also that 80% of the revenue comes from 20% of the customers. Applied to everyday work, this means that those who work smart accomplish the majority of their job in a fraction of the time.

With the right priorities, you thus consciously create free space for yourself, which you can use in your further education and yes, even sometimes to procrastinate. After all, on occasion you have to be allowed to think a little more intensively about what to do next....

"In my case, productivity actually doesn't suffer at all. On the contrary, I have the feeling that I can work even more productively in the home office. The commutes to the office are gone, in the breaks I can do little things around the house, or prepare my own lunch, go for a walk, or just sit on the couch for a while. Overtime, should any be necessary, is also more pleasant, since you don't have to worry about the drive home or the time of day. The fact that the work itself is also motivating and challenging helps even more, and I am not tempted to watch Netflix on the side.".

  • Mustafa Tongul, First-Level Support Agent

So the rule is: don't be too hard on yourself and act smart! Then working productively from home will be easy as pie.

Summary

The same rules do not apply in the home office as in the office. There, you literally have to reconcile work and private life. However, by setting clear limits and times for one and the other, it is possible to keep focused. If you are in danger of losing yourself in procrastination, you should set yourself shorter project milestones and be in close coordination with your team. Through the exchange, you'll receive an insight into your own actions. In addition, it is advisable to start the day with the most unpleasant things and thus, at best, to have already accomplished them by noon.

  1. What Exactly Is Procrastination?
  2. The Five Most Common Types of Procrastinators
  3. Tip 1: Define Productivity (as a Team and Individually)
  4. Tip 2: Start Immediately
  5. Tip 3: Don't Try Multitasking
  6. Tip 4: Break Down Large Tasks Into Small Ones
  7. Tip 5: Determine Times and Places to Work
  8. Tip 6: Start With the Most Unpleasant Things
  9. Tip 7: The Perfection Myth
  10. Summary
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