The pursuit of productivity in the workplace has become its own national pastime. Success is often synonymous with the ability to squeeze the maximum amount of productivity out of each day. As the renowned management consultant Peter Drucker once stated: "Nothing else distinguishes effective executives as much as their tender loving care of time."
Drucker’s philosophies and practices now infuse the institute that bears his name. According to the organization, the tools to tame and manage time have exploded into amultibillion-dollar industry. Experts and their blogs, along with books, apps, and wearables, are all geared to track and grade every hour. However, the challenge of focusing and prioritizing remains.
That’s because we humans have a penchant to procrastinate.
Franklin Covey, another time-management training and assessment provider, conducted a six-year study of over 350,000 global workers. Among the findings, respondents reported that 40% of their time was spent on nonessential things. At large companies, that translates to 832 hours wasted per person each year.
Luckily, Fast Company has the pro tips to help you push past procrastination and get back to your most productive self.
If reading this is making your palms itch because you’re putting off work, you’re not alone. There are deeper reasons driving the distraction. As Fast Company contributor Laura Vanderkam writes, "One possible reason is that you really do want to do the project, but you feel you just can’t do it justice yet."
But if it’s not about maintaining standards, it may be because your intuition is telling you the project or task simply isn’t right for you or your career. "If you look hard at the situation and realize that’s what’s going on, this can be liberating—and ultimately help you break away from procrastination’s clutches," she advises.
Read More: The Real Reason You’re Procrastinating
Bob Nease proposes going deeper still. The former chief scientist of Express Scripts explains that procrastination is the result of a cognitive tug of war between the brain’s neocortex and the limbic system. Put simply, the neocortex is responsible for measured reasoning, and the limbic system is only concerned with immediate gratification. You know you need to achieve a goal, yet checking social feeds feels so much better in the moment.
Therefore, Nease suggests, it’s better to make the task more attractive in the present, such as by turning on music or taking it to a different location.
A couple of bits of advice from Jan Yager, time-management coach and author of Work Less, Do More can turn the impulse to stall into forward motion. Yager told Fast Company in a previous interview that making a task a top priority and setting a timer for 10 minutes can give you just the focus you need. "A lot of times, people who have been putting something off for various reasons find that 10 minutes can become an hour," says Yager.
Read More: How to Push Through Procrastination
Should that tactic fail to motivate you to focus and complete the big task at hand, author Frank Partnoy says don’t sweat it. Partnoy should know, as he’s written two books based on the productivity of procrastination.
He contends that things still get done if you can structure time and complete smaller tasks while lollygagging on a larger project. As Partnoy points out in his book Wait: The Art and Science of Delay, "Not every email requires an immediate response. Not every closet has to be cleaned every day."
So go ahead and give in to your urge to stop pushing toward a deadline. Just be sure you don’t fall down the rabbit hole of time sucks, and still do a less essential but necessary task.
If you still find yourself slipping off track, it may be time to work the buddy system. The popular principle often used to stick to a diet or exercise program can be just as beneficial in the workplace.
A side benefit to such productive peer pressure is that it can draw coworkers closer. We’ve recently reported on the importance of having friends in the office, which can increase our happiness as much as earning a fatter paycheck. A recent survey of global workers found that over 26% said discussing success with colleagues motivates them. High-fiving your cube mate after you press send on a pesky project may be the best procrastination buster of all.