The modern world is busy and loud. Maybe it exhausts you and you feel pulled from one obligation to the next. Or maybe it excites you and the world seems rife with opportunity. Either way there comes a point where you must commit to the work in front of you, when you need to focus, but you’re tempted to procrastinate. As a generation that believes we can change the world, the obstacle can sometimes be our own concentration. If you tend to procrastinate, then this is for you.
Clarify your motivations
No matter how many tips and tricks you know for fighting procrastination, they won’t work if you’re unmotivated. You actually have to want to do the work. But staying motivated is difficult. So how can we do it? The question to ask yourself is, why? Why do you do what you do? Nietzsche said, “He [or she] who has a why can bear almost any how.” However in reality our motivation is often not singular and simple, but multifaceted and complex.
We have many reasons for why we do what we do. For example, your motivation for working as an accountant might be that you’re interested in business; you have an affinity for numbers; you want to earn so that you can provide for yourself or your family; you feel called by God to work in the financial sector; you enjoy working in a fast-paced, hard-working environment, and so on and so forth.
As well as natural, it is good to have a variety of motivations. We need them. When starting out at a job, the newness will pique your interest and give you a sense of adventure. But what about when you’ve gained experience and the work is pressing and demanding? You may feel like giving in, but your other motivations will sustain you; perhaps your responsibility to your family or your sense of a God-given call.
Define your boundaries
Miraculously, tasks tend to fill the time you allot them. If you give yourself a week, you’ll do it in a week. Give yourself a day and you’ll complete probably to around 90% the quality of a week’s work! If you have strict boundaries, you’ll be able to work well and rest well. Because let’s be honest, procrastinating isn’t exactly relaxing; your work is still lurking at the back of your mind.
If you unnecessarily punctuate your day’s work with coffee breaks, scrolling on Instagram, or yet another ‘toilet break,’ try instead to set yourself the challenge of finishing your usual day’s work by lunchtime. Even if you go over by an hour or two, you’ll be surprised how much you can accomplish with the focus that comes from a tighter deadline.
Most importantly, have a fixed time at which you stop work for the day. Keep your evenings and weekends free, to spend your time how you wish. If you are tempted to let work spillover into the evenings, make other plans instead. See friends, head to the gym or go to an art gallery . Do anything, so long as you don’t work. You might even have fun!
Attune your life
If your life is cluttered and chaotic, it will be almost impossible for you to do your work with the kind of order and discipline that it deserves. Which is why, if you are struggling to concentrate at work, I recommend you examine every aspect of your life. Have a holistic “check-up” with yourself. How are you doing?
You are an integrated whole. Each part of who you are feeds into and informs the others. Your personal life will influence your professional life, your physical health will affect your spirituality, which will affect your emotional health, and so on. So be attentive to yourself. Does your life sing like a symphony or clash in cacophony?
When you examine yourself, write down your observations as clearly as possible. Then decide upon some minor adjustments, only a few, maybe only one or two, which you can make to your daily or weekly routines. Perhaps you need a day off every week to re-energise, or a scheduled evening of fun with friends, or to exercise a couple times a week. These minor adjustments are endless and changeable, so start small and be flexible.
More than a ‘to do’ list
This hasn’t been a quick and easy listicle of advice, but an invitation to dig deep, examine yourself and consider the underlying reasons why you tend to procrastinate. If you want to take action, clarify your motivations, define your boundaries and attune your life. Do all of this prayerfully, as you walk with God, and I believe He will give you the wisdom and grace you need.
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