Procrastination.

The feeling of, “I should be productive, but I also want to read this Wikipedia article about potatoes.”

Procrastination can slash your productivity, increase stress, and even make you sick.

Don’t worry, it doesn’t have to be this way. You can chase procrastination away with these 6 simple productivity must-tries.

Try the Pomodoro Technique

The Pomodoro technique came from a guy named Francesco Cirillo in the late 1980’s. It’s a simple method, based on breaking up your tasks into smaller increments.

Here’s how it works:

Take your tasks, and chop them up into 25 minute blocks of time. Every time you finish 25 minutes, take a 5 minute break. Once you complete 2 of the 25 minute blocks, take a 15 minute break. Rinse and repeat. You can use a regular old kitchen timer, or an app. No fancy equipment needed!

Pomodoro centres on the idea that it’s easier to focus on a single task, if it’s in defined increments. For example, it’s easy to clean up your email inbox for 25 minutes. Trying to do it all at once can be daunting, which makes us not want to start at all. By taking a large task and turning into bite-sized pieces, you’ll find it much easier to focus.

Turn Off the News

Reading, watching, and browsing the news is a massive black hole that hoovers up your time. The design of news websites sucks us in as we read article after article. Before long, a “5-minute” news check turns into a half hour.

If you find your fingers flying to CNN or BBC, you may want to consider a URL blocker for your browser. These extensions can block the websites you define, and most of them allow you to schedule it. You can block distracting websites while you work, and read them later.

An Alternative to The News

Instead of browsing the news on your break, take a few minutes to learn a new language with a tool like Duolingo. You can spend less than 10 minutes picking up some new phrases, and it’s completely free.

Put Your Phone Away

Is it such a surprise that smartphones are distracting? Take a look around in a restaurant, and you’ll see faces illuminated by dull-blue glows. In fact, the average US consumer spends 5 hours a day on their smartphone. That’s 73 days a year!

No big surprise, then, that smartphones are sucking up our productivity. When it comes to getting work done, try putting your phone on silent and away from your reach for a little while. Or, go all the way and leave your smartphone alone for a whole day.

An Alternative to “Smartphone Breaks”

Instead of turning to your smartphone for a break, why not go old-school and try a crossword puzzle or Sodoku? Both help keep your brain sharp, alert, and engaged!

Do The Hard Stuff First (or last)

There’s an idea that doing your hard tasks first helps your other tasks seem especially easy. Coffee in-hand, you put the hammer down and finish your least favourite tasks first. After that unpleasantness, everything else you need to get done is a joy.

The argument against this method is that it’s very difficult to begin a day with unpleasant tasks. You may find it nigh-impossible to begin with your least-enjoyable work.

Great news, there’s a second school of thought!

Try completing your easiest tasks first. This can help you build momentum, and when you hit the hard stuff you glide through it. Like a snowball rolling down a mountain, you build speed until you plow through an alpine resort. (Okay, shaky analogy.)

Downsides to doing the easy stuff first? You may dread the hard tasks the longer they sit on your plate. When it comes to do them, you may try and put them off until later.

Which one is right for you? Well, (you’ll hate this), it depends! Try both, and see which works best for you.

Make Your Task-List The Night Before

To be clear, I’m not advocating that you work into the night. Everyone needs a break, so do your best not to bring work home with you. It’s very unhealthy.

But, if you find yourself feeling overwhelmed in the morning, a few minutes at night may help. Give yourself 5 minutes (and limit it to 5) to write down the tasks on your mind. Then, carry on with your evening. When you wake up in the morning, you’ll already have an idea of what you want to get done.

Bonus tip: try writing it down in a pocket notebook. Using an old-fashioned notebook can be great for productivity!

Have a Better Sleep

This could be the best tip in this entire post. From better health to better memory, good sleep benefits more than your productivity.

Here are some quick-tips to quality zzz’s:

  • Don’t look at screens 1 hour before bed, and don’t leave the screens on at night. Blue light disrupts our sleep patterns.
  • Have a bedtime and wake-up time. A set period for sleep puts your brain in a healthy sleep-routine.
  • Cut back on caffeine. Limit your caffeine intake during the day, and don’t have any caffeine after 12pm.
  • Get active. Studies show that people who do aerobic exercise at least 4 times a week have better sleep.

It’s Up to You

Look in the mirror. You are your own best ally in the quest get more done! Try implementing these tips in your life over the next couple weeks, and see what happens. You may surprise yourself with how easy it is to increase your productivity.