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Overcoming Procrastination When Working Remotely

Tuesday, October 3, 2017 - 12:45
Overcoming Procrastination at Work

Everybody does it. In fact, you may be doing it at this very moment.


Maybe you’re reading this blog post instead of plunging into the tedium of a monthly report.

Possibly you’re stalling because you were asked to develop three creative solutions for three intractable problems facing your organization – and deliver them in three days.

Or perhaps, you’re a member of today’s rapidly expanding mobile workforce, and you find yourself operating from remote locations – such as hotels, cafes, libraries and home offices – more than ever before. If so, you’re among more than a billion people around the world who are confronted by the requirements and challenges of functioning outside of a typical office, which is an environment primed for procrastination.

3 Ways Remote Work Settings Can Introduce Procrastination Creep

1. More Lag Time

Yes, as providers of Unified Communications solutions we make connecting with colleagues, customers and partners inside the building or around the world fast, easy and productive. One price we pay for collaborating at this scale, however, is a relative loss of immediacy. If a co-worker is a few cubes away or down the hall, getting up and walking to them for an impromptu meeting is relatively more immediate than scheduling an online session. Sure, you and your colleagues may connect within hours or even minutes. But, meantime, you may set aside your project and wait.

2. Tighter Schedules

Being a mobile worker means some portion of your time likely involves moving from place to place on a regular basis. Whether by trains, planes or automobiles, traveling limits the kind of work you can do, as you may not have the best space, device or network access to do your best work. So, putting off certain activities until you find better circumstances is reasonable but isn’t always conducive to meeting deadlines.

3. More Available Distractions

Working remotely, whether traveling or working from home, offers distractions that you typically avoid in office settings. While modern offices and work spaces are becoming more and more like homes, with leisure, food and entertainment options, there are still co-workers and superiors holding everyone accountable in real time. The distractions associated with working from home are more life-related – a quick chore at lunch time could end up seriously cutting into work time, it's way too easy to take a quick nap in your own bed (that turns into a not-so-quick nap), etc. Working from the road offers myriad and varied distractions depending on where you end up working for the day. Simply put, remote workers don't always have the luxury of a structured work day, leading to distractions, leading to procrastination.

Dealing with Procrastination in Remote Settings is More about Mindset than Methods

While researching this post, we found dozens of articles offering long lists of tips for beating procrastination. Techniques vary, but we noticed three common themes:

Whenever we find consensus this strong, we recall what we learned from Matthew E. May’s best-seller Winning the Brain Game. When tackling problems like procrastination, business people can fall victim to a thinking flaw known as “fixation,” which is when we address new challenges with old ways of thinking.

One of the best ways to avoid this mistake is “inversion,” which encourages us to imagine an “Opposite World” where conditions are the reverse of the current reality.

So, we searched for positive perspectives on procrastinating and found this quote from Adam Grant, organizational psychologist and professor of business management:

“Procrastination gives you time to consider divergent ideas, to think in nonlinear ways, to make unexpected leaps.”
Adam Grant

Viewed in this light, procrastinating isn’t wasted time; it’s an opportunity to innovate your work style.

3 Steps for Productive Procrastination

“The truth is, ridiculously productive people face the same procrastination challenges as the rest of us,” Emotional Intelligence expert Travis Bradberry writes in one of his columns for Forbes magazine. “The difference is, they beat procrastination by using a calculated approach.”

So, when you feel the minutes slipping away, we calculated this three-step process to help you become a more productive procrastinator:

1. Reflect - Why am I Procrastinating?

As befits an EQ guru, Bradberry advocates self-awareness as the pivot point for turning procrastination into self-improvement. “Procrastination is telling you something important,” he explains. Could be something simple, such as you’re hungry or you need a break. Or could be something complex, such as you feel overwhelmed by business responsibilities. Whatever the issue, addressing it effectively is impossible without first identifying the cause.

2. Research - How do I Stop Procrastinating?

Once you’ve classified the problem, you can launch a focused search for solutions. And there’s no shortage of them. Business blogger Jane Dizon, for example, offers a list of 15 Productivity Hacks for Procrastinators. But whichever direction your quest takes, exercise discipline. Set a time limit to your exploration.

3. Restrict - What Tactics Will Work for Me?

As noted above, advice about avoiding procrastination abounds. So, set a target for the number of solutions you seek. We suggest gathering information about three to five tips. And then, pick one and start practicing that technique immediately. In his Forbes piece, Bradberry captures the wisdom of the last step: “When you dive right in no matter what, your mood quickly improves, which helps you to stay on task.”

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