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This article was originally published by Body + Soul

By Dr. Amantha Imber

March 25, 2022

Research from Rescue Time revealed that the average person checks their email or instant messenger every six minutes… sound familiar?

On average, we spend four hours per day on our mobile phones, with half of that time dedicated to the top five social media platforms. This is the equivalent to spending six weeks per year we are on social media (assuming you sleep for eight hours every night and the glow of Instagram isn’t keeping you awake).

And in the world of working from home, there are many more distractions to grab our attention. Putting a load of washing on, having our 14th snack of the day, and Netflix binges.

Is it any wonder that procrastination is a problem for so many of us? There are dozens of fun things to do during work hours other than our actual work. And all of this is available to us without even setting foot outside. Here are four strategies to help kick your procrastination habit.

1: Turn your phone into a ‘Forest’

When we are trying to get work done, the desire to do the “just check” of our phone every few minutes and check every incoming notification dramatically reduces productivity.

To remove the urge to do the “just check”, we need to break the habit. One reason habits form is because the behaviour is easy to do. As such, one way to break a habit is to make the behaviour harder to do.

If you are serious about reducing the amount of time you spend using your phone as a procrastination device, try installing the app Forest. When you want to spend time doing deep, focused work – and no check your phone every two minutes – open up Forest and program in how long you want to work for. While you work, Forest will grow a digital tree. But here’s the thing – if you check your phone while the tree is growing, you kill it. And who wants to kill any sort of tree?

2: Give yourself ‘Freedom’

If you want to step things up a notch, check out Freedom. Freedom allows you to block yourself from accessing certain websites and applications, or if you are game, the entire internet. You simply decide when you want to get deep, focused work done, and Freedom blocks you out of all potential distractions.

I’ve found for myself that while my willpower is strong in the morning and I can generally avoid digital distractions, afternoons were much harder. After using Freedom to lock myself out of Gmail and other distracting and addictive websites between 1-4pm every day, I was able to be far more productive in my afternoons.

And if you think you might end up wanting to simply hack the system, you can use “Locked Mode” which literally makes it impossible for you to switch off a Freedom session prematurely.

3: Set yourself a focus goal

Let’s face it – distractions can be fun. There are hours of entertainment to be had on Tik Tok, endless entertainment options on Netflix, and even stacking the dishwasher can seem like fun when we have a challenging work task staring at us in the face.

Rather than immediately succumb to the siren song of Instagram, try setting yourself a “focus goal”. Make a deal with yourself where if you stay focused on work for an hour, you’ll give yourself permission to scroll through Instagram for ten minutes as your reward.

4: Boost your energy through taking the right kind of breaks

We tend to procrastinate more when our energy levels are low. As such, kick your procrastination habit through boosting energy through taking regular breaks.

Psychologists have uncovered that there are ideal conditions for taking effective breaks. For example, research from the University of Colorado has shown that in contrast to one 30-minute break or no breaks at all, hourly five-minute walking breaks boost energy, sharpen focus, improve mood and reduce feelings of fatigue in the afternoon more effectively.

Try out any or all of these strategies and you’ll be well on the way to kicking your procrastination habit.

Dr Amantha Imber is the founder of behavioural science consultancy Inventium and the host of How I Work, a podcast about the habits and rituals of the world’s most successful people.