We all know the feeling. Picture this: you’re sitting at your desk, trying to focus on your work, but deep down, you’re just not feeling it. So you think to yourself, “Well, I haven’t done that much yet, but I’m just not in the right headspace
I’ll just watch that quick YouTube video…” Suddenly it’s 11 am, you’ve done next to nothing, and you’re deep in a YouTube rabbit hole about something you’d never heard of before an hour ago. How
does that happen? Is there a way to prevent it from happening in future? And how can time tracking come to the rescue?
Being a serial procrastinator can cause endless frustration, but it’s not how it has to be. Time tracking can help. So, let’s find out how it can make a difference.
The what, the why, and the importance of managing your time
What is procrastination?
Procrastination is just putting off a task until later, usually despite knowing that it’ll harm you in the long run. A classic case of this is when things get much more stressful as a deadline approaches and you haven’t done enough work on the project yet.
But procrastination isn’t prioritizing something urgent over what you were about to work on because you realized the other is more pressing. Rather, it’s delaying working in favour of YouTube, the new game on your phone, or rearranging your plants for the fourth time that day (no? Just me?).
Why do we do it?
Despite what some might have you believe, procrastination is not to do with being lazy or just unwilling to do the work. The clues as to why we procrastinate lie in how we feel right before we start procrastinating.
According to research, procrastination occurs when we’re working, or about to start working, on something we feel negatively towards. Usually, this takes the form of an emotion or feeling that’s difficult to deal with.
Whether it’s anxiety about doing a bad job; frustration because of slow progress; or just plain boredom, we procrastinate because it provides short-term relief from those feelings through distraction. Procrastination, then, is much more about emotion regulation and unhealthy coping mechanisms than laziness.
The importance of time management
When you procrastinate less and manage your time better, it does a world of good. Managing your time well makes you more efficient and productive, which means you can get more high-quality work done in less time. This will make your business more profitable while also allowing you a better work-life balance.
Managing your time well and getting things done in advance is much less stressful.
While the allure of an all-nighter the Sunday before a deadline is tempting (maybe not!), avoiding that pressure is a lot better for you and the quality of your work.
How time tracking can help
Clearly, procrastination doesn’t do positive things for your work, and good time management does. So how can time tracking help you stop procrastinating and start managing your time better? While there are some things it can’t do (we’ll get to that later), there is certainly still plenty that it can do - let’s take a look.
Identify your distractions
You can use time tracking to show you what distracts you most often. Once identified, you can put barriers in place to stop you from spending so much time on them. For example, if the tracker is showing that you’re often going to Instagram instead of working, then you could block their website using Google Chrome’s blocklist.
Or if you have a tendency to daydream, you could download an app that notifies you after your computer has been idle for a certain amount of time, giving you the jolt you need to get back to work. If you make procrastination more difficult, you’re much less likely to do it.
Time trackers will also show you very clearly how you spend your time and keep you accountable as a result. It’s much easier to hold yourself accountable and actually do the work when you can see right in front of you the significant amount of time you’ve spent procrastinating
If you can see how much of your day that takes up, you know how much time you spent not working, and use that to motivate yourself to focus more. Plus, if your time tracker allows anyone else to see how you’re spending your time, you’ll have an even greater sense of motivation from accountability. This is especially true if it’s your manager or an important trustee.
Know when you get distracted
Time trackers will also show you exactly when you do things during the day. If you know that you always start getting distracted at certain times, schedule breaks at that time instead. That way you can recharge and come back refreshed, rather than procrastinating and feeling bad about yourself.
If you’re always getting distracted mid-afternoon, just schedule a break to make yourself a nice hot drink, allow yourself that time, and come back more focused after. If your focus starts waning just before lunch, take an earlier lunch and feel good about the morning rather than spending your lunch hour stressed after having procrastinated for too long.
Though simple, it’s something that can really change the way you work for the better.
Schedule your tasks
Having a hundred things on your mind at once or trying to do multiple things at the same time is extremely stressful. Stress leads to procrastination which is what you want to avoid. This is where scheduling your tasks comes in to avoid context-switching or multitasking.
You can use time tracking to see when in the day you’re most productive and make sure to do your most difficult or most important tasks around that time. Similarly, time trackers help you identify
the hours when you are most distracted and procrastinate. Schedule your easiest tasks at this time so that you can still be getting things done.
That way you only have to think hard about one thing at a time, and you can work your way down a list of things you’ve already planned out rather than juggling everything at once.
What time tracking can’t do
While time tracking can be a helpful tool to decrease procrastination, it is not always the definitive solution. As mentioned, procrastination is at its core an unhealthy coping mechanism, so addressing it might require more than a time tracker can provide.
Deeper causes of procrastination, such as fear, perfectionism, or lack of motivation can’t be fixed by time tracking. Making the task at hand feel more comfortable and therefore something you don’t want to avoid is key. Therefore, to effectively combat procrastination, a comprehensive approach that combines various techniques is often required.
Procrastination stems from avoiding negative emotions rather than laziness. While time trackers can’t help with emotion regulation, they definitely can be beneficial in minimizing procrastination.
They aid in identifying distractions, allowing you to remove or find solutions to combat those distractions and the procrastination that goes with them. Time tracking provides accountability by helping you to see clearly how you’re spending your time, and sharing the data with others adds an extra layer of accountability.
Additionally, time trackers can tell you when in the day you’re getting most distracted, which allows you to plan breaks around those times and come back refreshed, rather than succumbing to procrastination. Similarly, scheduling easy tasks during known procrastination-prone times will reduce the negative emotions you feel at your least productive hours of the day and therefore lead to less procrastination.
Now, which YouTube rabbit hole should I go down before I do my next task…