In the professional world, “my dog ate it” is not a viable excuse. We all use flimsy rationale to explain why we didn’t finish a certain task, but a lot of the time, the real culprit is procrastination. It’s a common disease, but luckily, it’s curable—with the right tools.
These actionable strategies and digital tools can help to kick your procrastination habit. Some are specific to writing, but most of these tips will make a difference for professionals in any career.
The downside of procrastination is that sinking feeling you get at the end of the day when you realize you didn’t accomplish what you wanted to. Knowing what needs to get done and when—and holding yourself accountable to those deadlines—is the first step in curing procrastination.
Breaking your big goals down into smaller, more manageable chunks can complement your list-making and help you stay on track. After all, it’s a lot more satisfying to check off “Write Introduction,” “Research Point A,” and “Find quotes for Point B” than waiting until you can cross out “Write 20-page research paper.”
Live by lists
Lists help you track your goals, big and small. No-frills task managers like Todoist and Things will help you get the job done, but there are also apps designed to kick procrastinators’ butts. Fantastical 2 keeps you on track with a calendar interface that displays due dates for certain tasks, and Carrot gives motivations (or sass) to inspire you to finish your goals.
Edit as you go
Keep an editor with you at all times—specifically, the Grammarly editor. Grammarly catches a wide range of mistakes and highlights them, which means you can keep writing without worrying about using whose instead of who’s.
What about when you’re not at your desktop? No problem. If you want a proofreader for texts, tweets, notes, and other writing on your phone or tablet, Grammarly’s mobile keyboard has got you covered.
No matter what device you’re using, having a built-in proofreader can help you write effectively—and save time.
There are plenty of tools out there designed to boost productivity and force you to focus. With add-ons like Leechblock (Firefox) and StayFocusd (Chrome), you can block different sites and customize days and times you can access them. Use x.minutes.at to set a timer for yourself on certain sites. If that’s not serious enough to kick your habits, download an app like ColdTurkey or SelfControl, which function on a computer level rather than a browser level.
Yes, there’s an app for that, too. Procraster gives categories of what might be slowing you down—”I don’t know where to start” or “My task is too big,” for example—and offers tips and encouragement based on what you select.
These tedious adjectives have got to go. #cleanwriting https://t.co/fl4eLVZeb2 pic.twitter.com/IxKeKea96K
— Grammarly (@Grammarly) April 11, 2018
Use templates for emails
If you often find yourself getting bogged down by work emails, message templates that you can tweak and recycle can save you a lot of time. For example:
- An introduction template explains what you do to new colleagues and partners
- A request template asks coworkers for information, updates, or results.
- And the most important template of all: one that asks for vacation days.
Having templates can save you the time of starting from scratch every time you have a similar message.
Just make sure you get the information right if you’re copying from a previous email. You can remind yourself to revisit parts of a message with bold or italic font or color-coding.
Free write for longer pieces
Set a timer (like Tomato Timer or Strict Workflow), put your pen to the paper (or fingers to the keyboard), and don’t stop writing until the alarm goes off.
A free write, also known as a word sprint or write sprint, is a great way to force yourself to put ideas on paper. It doesn’t matter whether they’re your best ideas or how articulately you put them. What matters is getting words on the page and not letting your internal editor slow you down. (Of course, if you want to accept Grammarly’s suggestions as you go, we won’t stop you.)
Make the write choices
Yes, Grammarly caught the contextual misspelling, and no, we’re not giving up on the pun.
The choices you make about how you spend your time are crucial. And we don’t just mean big choices like whether to take a certain job—it’s also the little things, like whether you choose to spend two hours looking through your college pictures on Facebook or editing the article you’re working on.
When it comes to kicking your procrastination habits, the bottom line is choosing to focus. These tips should help you pick the tools and strategies that work with your style, but it’s up to you to put your nose to the grindstone.