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As humans, we’re amazing at procrastinating. We put off doing mundane tasks, we move deadlines, we make up excuses for why things haven’t been done; all because we get carried away doing something else we’d prefer to do, and everyone is guilty of doing it.

When you’re at home, I’m sure you can think of 127 other things to do instead of cleaning the windows or ironing your shirts; some of which might be watching “just one more episode of Friends”, or scrolling through Instagram for just “5 more minutes”, but at the end of the day, those tasks still need to be done.

When you’re at work, that doesn’t change. However, a lot of the time, the distractions aren’t your fault. You could be halfway through getting all your paperwork organised and suddenly an invoice comes in that needs paying, or the phone rings or the printer ink needs changing. All of which will take you away from the first task at hand; getting your paperwork in order.

I’ve got a couple of tips for you to ensure you stay focused on everything you need to do and minimise the distractions/excuses for why tasks aren’t being completed.

Write it down

I’m sure you’re all aware of to-do lists. They’re a brilliant tool to write down everything you need to get done and it’s a fantastic method to get everything out of your head and onto paper, freeing up more brain space to smash through the list. You could also use the “traffic light” system for your list, enabling you to prioritise tasks by importance or time-sensitivity.

Red – Urgent – This task needs to be at the top of your list; get it done, no excuses.

Amber – Important – Quite often, amber tasks are time-consuming and need actioning relatively quickly, but do not take priority over red. You need to set time aside for amber tasks. 

Green – Low – These tasks tend not to be very time-sensitive but are often the reason that red tasks aren’t completed. Save these for the end of the day as “quick wins”.

Rid yourself of distractions

Mobile phones, social media, weekend gossip, the radio station… all of these things can be a distraction when you’re busy in the office, and sometimes it’s tricky to focus on your tasks because, quite simply, the stuff you need to do is quite boring. However, don’t you love the feeling of finishing your day with everything done and you can switch off from work for the whole evening to enjoy The Great British Bake Off without having to think of an outstanding invoice? So, to put it simply, leave your phone in the desk drawer, turn off your Slack notifications, put your headphones in (if you’re like me and need music to concentrate) and you’ll be surprised at how much work you can get done!

Get organised

For years (and years), people have said “tidy room, tidy mind” – this statement needs no explanation as we all know what it means and how true it is too. Similar to the feeling of getting into bed with new bedding, arriving at work and sitting down at your clean and tidy desk is pretty much the same feeling.

Imagine this; you walk through your office to find your desk with paperwork spread out, your notepad open on a random page, post-it notes from a month ago and pens with no lids (I’m uncomfortable just thinking about it). And on top of all this, you’ve got a thousand things to do before 9:30, one of which is finding an important piece of paper to sign, writing the all-important to-do list, finding a pen that works and putting a letter in the post tray; all the while your desk still looks like it’s been hit by a small tornado.

Here’s what I suggest you do to make your life a little bit easier for the morning.

  • Write your to-do list before you go home in the evening, it’s a great way for your brain to switch off in the evening as you know it’ll all be completed the next day
  • Set up your own little filing system, there’s nothing worse than the sinking feeling of thinking you may have put an invoice through the shredder. You could also use the traffic light system for this too.
  • Get yourself a desk tidy… and use it! It’s a great way to ensure your work station remains organised
  • Make sure that you leave the office only when your desk is all organised, trust me, the next day will be a doddle… (Do people still use that word?)