Three Ways To Stop Work-From-Home Procrastination

Eliminate procrastination when you work from home with these three steps to productivity.

When you work from home, it feels like a novelty. A luxury, even. There’s no long commute, no annoying traffic, snacks to hand whenever you want them, and you can even stay in your PJs all day long. However, when you’re in charge of your own schedule as an entrepreneur, blogger, freelancer, or remote worker, it’s very easy to get distracted and procrastinate the day away.

Procrastination is a crime we’re all guilty of. When you’re in an office, you do it with ‘busy work’ – looking like you’re checking your emails (while actually listening to a comedy podcast), for example – but it’s much easier to get away with when you’re your own boss. Working from home provides welcome distractions from boring, challenging, or so-big-I-don’t-know-where-to-start tasks.

Why Do We Procrastinate?

Before looking at how to stop procrastinating, consider WHY you’re procrastinating. What is it that you’re putting off? Why are you subconsciously, deliberately, impacting on your productivity?

For many people, procrastination when working from home comes first from the novelty (laptop on the sofa in front of Desperate Housewives on the TV while eating cereal straight from the box, as a totally-pulled-out-of-the-air-and-not-a-personal-experience example…), and then from the boredom.

You’re staring at the same walls every day. You don’t have anyone to talk to, unless you pick up the phone to call someone – which, unless you’re calling a colleague, you’ll feel guilty about the whole time. You’ve walked the dog four times already this morning, but are contemplating a fifth just to get some fresh air.

We procrastinate to distract ourselves from doing something we dread. It’s as simple as that. It just feels different when you’re working from home than when you’re in an office, because it’s like you have permission to procrastinate, to not feel guilty about wasting time, because you’re the boss of your own time so you can do what you like. Except… you can’t. If you want to get stuff done, you need to stop avoiding work.

Step One: Establish A Routine

Coffee by the sea? An ideal scenario for your morning routine.

The worst thing you can do when you’re working from home is have a lie-in. It’ll make you groggy and unmotivated for the rest of the day.

Instead, set your alarm to go off at a reasonable time every morning. (That is, whatever you deem reasonable: mine is 5.30am but then I’ve always been a lark). Get up. Have a coffee. Read the paper or your favourite blog. Shower. Please.

Do whatever it is that you need to do in order to establish a comfortable, easy, and repeatable daily routine. That routine needs to always result in you placing your backside on your chair and switching on your computer to start work. That routine does not need to include three hours of a Netflix binge before you switch on your computer (and no, turning on your laptop in order to watch three hours on Netflix first doesn’t count, either).

A routine not only helps you to avoid procrastination, but helps other people to take your job seriously, too. If people think about you, they probably have in their mind the stereotype of a freelancer who doesn’t start work until 3pm, never gets out of comfy tracksuit pants, and lounges in beer gardens on sunny afternoons instead of working.

Show them that’s not the case: turn up to your desk fully dressed, breakfasted, and ready to work just as you would for any office job. Don’t phone your clients – Skype them in all your office-get-up glory. Show them that you take yourself seriously, and they will too.

This step towards a routine and establishing your professionalism when working from home will give you a sense of pride in your work. If you’re proud, you’re confident – and your confidence will extend to motivation to complete those challenging tasks you always used to put to one side.

Step Two: Make Two Lists

Challenge your productivity levels with a daily Must Do and Must Not Do list

First thing in the morning, while your laptop is firing up and your next coffee is still too hot to drink, write down two quick lists. Every morning. This is an essential part of your routine.

On the first list, write five things you absolutely must complete today. They can be small or big things, but make sure there are at least five and no more than ten. This’ll help you maintain focus and stop your flitting from task to task, which is a fast-track route to poor productivity. If you have a really big project to work on, break this down into discernible chunks, and allocate each section a new line on your Must Do list.

For the second list, write five things you absolutely must NOT do today. That could be not turning on the TV before 4pm, not going on Facebook for longer than 15 minutes, ignoring emails until lunchtime, or having your phone data/Wifi switched off. Write down anything that you know could be a distraction.

The second list might be the same every day. If you find that becomes the case, stick it up near your workspace. That is a list of promises you have made to yourself. Are you really going to break them?

Step Three: Start Big, Get Smaller

Tackle the biggest task of the day in the morning and become a productivity boss

The biggest, nastiest, most looming task is the one you need to tackle first. If you get this out of the way, the rest of your day will run far more smoothly. By doing it at the start of the day, you’ll also have plenty of time to dedicate to the task, should it end up taking longer than expected.

Just as breaking up big projects into smaller chunks on your Daily Must Do list works to help you move through a task with more ease, getting the biggest thing out of the way first will help you to relax the rest of the day. You’ll not be distracted thinking about the huge task you should be doing – instead, you can focus on the next project in hand.

Remember To Reward Yourself (For Not Procrastinating)

After a long and productive day, remember to get your rewards in. Whether you want to listen to your favourite album or surf your social media feeds, allow yourself a reward for your #productive day.

At the end of your Daily Must Do list, write one thing that you WANT to do today, that isn’t work-related.

Once you’ve ticked everything off your daily list, this becomes your reward. It might be taking a jog around the local path, calling a friend for a catch-up, or cooking a three-course gourmet meal just for yourself. Whatever you feel is a reward, make sure you have something at the end of the day to work towards.

If you haven’t crossed everything off your Daily Must Do list by the end of your working day? Well, sorry, but no reward for you! (Just kidding, it’s entirely up to you – but if you reward yourself for not achieving, can you really motivate yourself when the going gets tough?).

What do you do to stop procrastination from creeping in when you work from home? Leave a comment below and join the discussion!

63 comments

  1. Interesting read! I like the tip of making two lists rather than making a to-do-list. It is important to remind yourself of and be aware of the things that usually distract you from doing your tasks. Otherwise, although you make a to-do-list at the beginning, you are still likely to lose your concentration. Breaking a big project into small pieces also help reduce the pressure of completing the project and make us feel more relaxed and willing to do it.

    I am doing a campaign to encourage students to overcome procrastination. Check my page if you are interested in the topic.🙂
    https://nomoreprocrastination2017.wordpress.com

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  2. Loved this little read!! You know it’s engaging when you are on a train on holiday and relate to the detail so much that you had to grab your pen and pad and start writing those lists straight away. Breaking it down into tasks and getting my start up tasks onto a “must do” list has really boosted me 🙂

    Thank you!

    Ali

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    • Thanks! It’s amazing how writing down something you’re not allowed to do can really help set your boundaries – those boundaries existed anyway, but writing it sometimes seems to make it more ‘real’. Thanks so much for reading and taking the time to comment 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you! Blogger procrastination is definitely one of the biggest obstacles when you’re just starting out – there’s so much to do, and learn, and figure out, that it’s overwhelming knowing where to start. Good luck with your blogging venture 🙂

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  3. This was such a great article, I work from home so this was very helpful to me. This definitely puts it into perspective, procrastination is not a good thing and I’m definitely bookmarking this so I don’t do it. Thanks for sharing!

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    • Thank you so much! 🙂 I never used to prioritise, and would often procrastinate by writing lists of lists, but doing a limited must-have-only-ten-or-fewer-items list has really helped to focus my days. Thanks for stopping by to comment 🙂

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  4. Love this post. It’s so easy to get distracted. Your suggestion of writing a list of what not to do is brilliant. I need to practice this. I can see how identifying those issues will keep me from falling victim to them.

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  5. The post is very informative and this list making thing is the best part. I believe if we start writing out things, we will stick to it and the chance of missing out some important task is also reduced to a great extent. Will bring this to my routine for sure.

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    • Thanks so much for your comment, Sayanti 🙂 I’m glad you found it useful! Yes, writing something down always seems to help. If I’m stuck on a project I also like to write key questions such as “what is my aim?” “Who is the audience?” “Why do they need to know about XYX?” – even though I already have the answers, writing it down can really help to clarify and get a focus.

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  6. Great post! I gotta say, routine is huge for me. If I get out of routine, I’m like a dog distracted by squirrels – I flit about from one thing to another while not really finishing anything. It annoys my husband, and it annoys me too; however, when I’m in that place I can’t seem to wrap my brain around finishing anything for some reason! I make lists too but have never tried making a list of things I must not do – thanks for the tip!

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  7. This was a really great post! I really needed to read this, because it is an area I struggle in. My job allows me to work from home, so I try to take advantage of the opportunity, but I always find myself doing everything but working! I am bookmarking this post, because the tips were so helpful and I believe they can make a difference for me! Thank you!

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    • Thanks so much for your lovely comment, I’m so pleased you found the post helpful. The temptation to do everything BUT work is so strong, isn’t it?!? You’ll find a change in routine really helps though 🙂

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    • Thank you! It’s all about the little baby steps – if you suddenly launch into a big routine change, it won’t stick. Change one thing, stick at it for a week, add another change in the following week, and so on 🙂

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  8. I’m infamous for procrastinating. I’ve always wondered why but never took the time to actually try and figure it out. I really like tip 2 about making a list early in the day to accomplish. The list is your blueprint plan for the day and I believe that will definitely help me. Thanks for the helpful tips.

    Xoxo
    Miss Monèt
    http://missmonet.net

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Miss Monet! The list is something I started doing more recently, and it makes SUCH a difference. Instead of having a weekly To Do, where you just look at ALL the urgent tasks on your plate, it’s much less daunting and far easier to get motivated if you only have a handful to focus on, day-by-day. Thanks so much for reading and taking the time to comment 🙂

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  9. This is very helpful, thank you for sharing this post. I’ve been terrible the past week and reading your key points I feel like I can take more control again. I couldn’t agree more about the lists and routines!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks very much indeedio 🙂 I’m so pleased you found this blog gave you the inspiration (or a little shove!) to get back in control. It’s easy to fall down the procrastination spiral after even a few days of it, so I’m glad you feel positive about tackling it again. Thanks for taking the time to comment 🙂

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    • Thanks so much for your comment! I’m still guilty of procrastination too 🙂 having this kind of gotta-get-it-done-anyway attitude that you have is surely the best mindset to adopt – I’m going to have to try that next time I feel the day slipping past…

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  10. This is exactly what I needed to read today, thanks for sharing it! 🙂 I absolutely love the idea of these lists. I sit for so many hours in front of my computer and travel a lot, so it’s hard to establish this routine, but the list: THAT I can take with me wherever and have something constant even when everything else is changing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for stopping by to comment! A routine is so essential, but I found it to also be the hardest thing to implement when I started working from home. When I told myself ‘no, this is your job, treat it like one,’ it definitely got easier. I still procrastinate though from time-to-time! Hah.

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    • Thanks so much! Yes, when I started out there was far less of this information about, so hopefully it’ll help some people on their new ventures. Hopefully you found it interesting too, despite being a seasoned freelancer 🙂

      Like

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