The MOO Blog

Small Business – Procrastination Nation

28th May 2010 by Simon G

Today is the final day in our series of Small Business blog posts, just in time for the end of Small Business Week in the USA. We’ve covered topics from “taking the plunge“, through to naming your business. We’ve asked you for networking tips and ways to avoid admin and at the end of the week we’re looking at ways to help avoid procrastination. Leave your comments on the series of blog posts for your chance to win a range of prizes!

Ooo, look at that!

The internet is full of distractions and endless excuses to procrastinate. I’m sure we can all happily say it’s a lot easier to play a game of Stackopolis than it is to complete your taxes, file your expenses, send an important email or finalise a design for a client.

In order to help you stay focussed, the team at FreelanceSwitch have pulled together “10 ways to eliminate distractions” in a single awesome blog post. We thought their tips were so great we’ve shared them here on the MOO blog ‘at a glance’:

10 ways to eliminate distractions

1. Turn off your email, IM and Twitter and phone notifications
2. Turn off the Internet. Pull the plug!
3. (If you need the internet to work) find a way to block out distractions
4. Headphones – music is a great way to fall into your own little (focussed) world
5. Create a DO NOT DISTURB sign… co-workers will soon get the hint
6. Clear workspace clutter – create your own Zen Desk, free of ‘stuff’
7. Clear computer clutter – create your own Zen Desktop, free of distracting icons
8. Handle interruptions – find ways to quickly get back to the task at hand
9. Use minimal programs (without all the distracting bells-and-whistles)
10. Distraction time – allow yourself 10 minutes to unwind once every hour!

You can read the whole post over on FreelanceSwitch.com.

Getting Things Done

As well as helping you beat the distractions and wonders of the internet we wanted to share some more tips on improving your productivity‘ (from the mind of David Allen). David’s “Getting Things Done” (GTD) method and book are all about the art of stress-free productivity. He’s delivered talks at Google and other big institutions, but that doesn’t mean to say that the advice isn’t transferable to your small business. You can read more about GTD on the GTD TIMES Blog.

What are your procrastination and productivity tips?

We’ve probably taken up enough of your time, but before you head back to work and being productive, we’d love to hear how you beat procrastination. Please share your top tips for getting things done in a small business in the comments below.

The “top three” comments (as judged by the MOO Crew) will win a set of prizes from our friends at Firebox! Check out what you could win:

First Prize

- Desktop Coffee Maker
- Henry Desktop Hoover
- Desktop Warfare Kit

Second Prize

- Sharp-end
- Arm Wrestle Mania

Third Prize

- 4” tin of Thinking Putty
- Finger Drums

We’ll also be giving away copies of David’s popular GTD Book for our other favourite comments! Winners for the entire week will be announced on 1st June 2010. Check the MOO Blog to see if you’re a winner!

Read comments (27)

  1. steve:

    Don’t open emails from companies that are an excellent print company but are becoming a pain in the a%$@ thinking that the world wants to hear drivel from people with too much time on their hands.

  2. Denise:

    Steve, a very good point!
    Definitely don’t open newsletters from anyone (good or otherwise) if you’re really busy. It sounds like you might fancy unsubscribing from ours, which is a shame, but there’s a useful unsubscribe link at the bottom of the email, which will remove you from our list. If you’ve deleted it already, do drop our Customer Service team a note, and they’ll be happy to sort you out.

  3. red mum:

    If you’re in an office wear visible earphones (not earbuds), whether you are listening to something or not, people won’t disturb you as readily!

  4. Tom:

    Eat your own fingers. Procrastination-stopper, guaranteed. Has a knock-on effect on productivity, but you gotta stop playing Flash games one way or another.

  5. Samantha Vincent:

    I find that if you turn on the radio (low, just enough so you can hear it) it distracts you enough but still keeps you focused so you are not trailing off reading blogs etc! Which reminds me I have to turn mine on!!!

  6. Mary:

    Great tips here…one more: clean out your blog subscription. Keep only the ones that inspire you (ie, MOO, of course)…and/or, save the “just for fun ones” for after work. You’ll have less temptation to get distracted when there’s nothing new to read.

  7. Gareth Rees:

    Stay as far away from a television as possible. Or hide the remote controls.

  8. Mark Johnson:

    Assuming all tasks are of equal importance working on the smallest or quickest tasks first. That way you quickly get into a roll of feeling like you’re getting things done instead of crushed under the pressure of having so much to do. By midday you feel like the king (or queen) of productivity and with that positivity you can hit the big tasks!

  9. Noel Hannan:

    As a photographer there are hundreds of blogs I am interested in, but to follow the ones I read regularly I use Google Reader. You simply set up a google account, log into Reader and add the blogs you follow and then when you want to check for updates, you simply log back into Reader and a list, with the updated in bold is there before your eyes, click on the topic and you can read the entry without ever leaving Reader. Simple. No more wasting time trawling through link after link…

    Good Luck
    Noel

  10. Tiggothy:

    It may sound like a really scary “back to basics” thing, but have you ever thought of changing operating system? I’ve got my computer set up so I can boot into either windows (like now) or Ubuntu (one of the many flavours of linux, for those who’re unfamiliar with the name). The great thing about ubuntu (and possibly other OSs, I don’t know) is you can have multiple desktops – so you can set up one lot of shortcuts, browser tabs etc. for work and one for ‘relaxing’ time.

    Umm… I’ve not explained it very well. Sorry. Once you’ve seen it, it’s obvious, but otherwise…

    It’s a bit like having more than one monitor, with different things set up on each, but you only see one at a time.

    Anyway, I found it really beneficial when I was spending hours setting up our online shop (which I’ll have to do again, due to the server crashing) – I could spend a couple of hours tweaking settings, then click the ‘change desktop’ icon and pootle about for half an hour or so to let my brain have a rest.

    And as far as general getting things like taxes and accounts done the only method I’ve ever found is to tell myself they’re due the week/month before they actually are, so then I get them started in reasonable time and don’t have to stay up all night!

  11. Bobbi Jo:

    I have a decorative wall that I post my two do list on it with a sticky note or was a dry erase board. I try (which is hard) to pull off one sticky note with a to do item and work on that one item until done.

  12. randi:

    while your website (well mine) is under construction it’s a great time to re-organize contacts, images, check links, surf the web for new ideas…actually go outside and see what’s going on in the real world. Especially take new pictures for a new set of moo cards..maybe that’s procrastinating, it’s all a matter of perspective. :)

  13. Colleen:

    Stop opening twitter… clicking on links… finding competitions… reading blogs and leaving comments… oops

  14. Jade:

    make sure you eat before you get focused so you dont start to think “ooh i’m hungry” and waste a lot of time making/buying food.

    i love the idea of visible headphones!!

  15. Matias Singers:

    Inspired by AJ Jacobs article: http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2010/may/22/multitaking-unitasking-aj-jacobs – I found that tying myself actually helped in the beginning. The Mac application “Concentrate” helps too, you can set up profiles for the kind of work you are doing.

    So I have a couple of different profiles:
    Deadline: Shuts off internet, closes applications, hides them, opens text-editor. And so on. :)

    Now I’m much more conscious about when my brain starts wandering away.

  16. sarah:

    Hire a babysitter. I’ve never packed so much work into four hours than when I’m paying for it.

  17. Tiffany:

    Since I work from home, I find that change helps to keep things interesting in my design office. Worked on redesigning my whole office last weekend, moving furniture, etc. Changing things around makes me feel refreshed and ready to dive into work again.

    Plus, I used to face the window which led to lots of distractions and a “rear window” syndrome. Now I sit next to the window, still get lots of light and can no longer see when dogs start digging up strange things in the garden. :)

  18. Becky Bryant:

    Loving the headphones tip! I have a set of Sennheiser noise-cancelling headphones. I LOVE them… my co-workers think they’re a bit anti-social at times, but they really do help when I’m working on a big project and peace and quiet :)

  19. Gretel Parker:

    I used to be terrible at getting round to things until I realised I was only wasting my own life and creativity. Now I think weeks ahead and imagine that my deadlines are just around the corner, thus making me work with a greater sense of urgency. Not only do I beat deadlines, I get far more productivity out of myself. Procrastination is robbing yourself of valuable creating time, and if you are working for a client, letting them down too.

  20. Petrina Reyes:

    Ways to stop procrastinating while working from home:

    1. Put up creative “Get Back To Work” signs on everything that could possibly distract you. So, when your mind wonders to TV or your Cell phone or the refrigerator, you’ll be politely reminded to GET BACK TO WORK!! (Change the designs every other week to keep things interesting)

    2. Take EARNED work breaks. Once you finish an important task, take a 15-30 minute “I did it!” break to bask in your progression glory and adequately clear your mind for the next large task ahead. (Use this time to check e-mails and randomly surf the net).

    3. Set a “Shouldn’t you be working” alarm during all EARNED breaks to politely remind you to GET BACK TO WORK!

    4. Bring healthy snacks into the work area. I find I get a lot more accomplished when I’m not feeling hungry.

  21. Adriana Lemus:

    I find that listening to music is a very good way to not distract yourself with different things. However, I reckon that listening to different types of music for the different types of jobs you may do works better. For example, if you’re a journalist, or have to do a lot of written work, listening to music that you’ve never or barely heard before can be better than music you already know. All this because one tends to sing along, think of the next movement in a song, etc. And end up distracting yourself with it. Another example, when you do more visual work, music that gets you in the mood you’re trying to show in your work gives you better results :)

  22. Cyril Hanquez:

    You can try to do some pomodoros (www.pomodorotechnique.com) to stay focused on a task for 25mins: It’s working well for some of my co-workers and I still have to experience it myself.

    As a developer, listening to the right music can definitively improve my productivity: not too loud, but not too low :-)

    You MUST HAVE a phone displaying caller’s ID to do some manual filtering or you could spend hours in phone calls!

    Finally stop dreaming: no one will ever send you millions of dollars by just asking some information about you! So those emails should go straight to the trashcan :-)

  23. kT:

    whilst on a break, read+loved aj’s article.liked the post-its on the wall idea too.
    i do lists on bits of paper (back of envelope,postit(large) anything), that i then cant find, so i start a new one. get really inspired that i’ll be able to tick things of as i go along… i usually get started alright, but then, somehow i click on a link (justifying the action by saying to myself i deserve a break) or get up to make a drink (when in doubt, nothing better than a cuppa) – justified that one cannot stare at the computer all the time… i’ve just spent a year as a mature student and have 4 weeks left. there is a lot of work to be done, so, i’m sorry, but i have to get back to it otherwise i’ll be in big trouble. before i do that, i must have a cup of tea to help me wake up and concentrate… and i should do a list for today!

  24. Sam:

    Make a list of the things you need to complete in the day. It prevents you wasting time pondering several times “What do I needed to do today?” as well as making sure you don’t forget to carry out important tasks.

    Don’t cheat the list by doing everything small and easy things first, otherwise you are likely to procrastinate when it comes to the larger and more complicated tasks. Perhaps start with something small and easily achievable but then move your mind on to the main tasks of the day. That way, when you’ve finished all the big jobs, it’s a lot less rushed and stressful towards the end of the day. With only small tasks left you can treat yourself to a little time to tweet, design more cards with moo.com and give your keyboard a little vacuum with Henry (I want one!).

  25. Dan:

    Great tips.

    For implementing GTD you can use this web-based application:

    http://www.Gtdagenda.com

    You can use it to manage your goals, projects and tasks, set next actions and contexts, use checklists, schedules and a calendar.
    Comes with a mobile version too, and with an Android app.

  26. Bea:

    My best tip for avoiding “distractions” is to face the monitor to the hall. People are walking behind you and seeing what you’re doing so you won’t be tempted to play or visit blogs!!
    And I put a lot of motivative post-its around me so they encourage me to end my job!! :D

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