In an office environment, there’s very little room for procrastination. Your boss is almost always nearby, you don’t have access to your own possessions, and your mobile phone is in your bag, suitcase or locker. So, why is procrastination such a huge problem in a virtual staffing position? You’re in your home environment.
As a virtual assistant, you are not generally required to work in an office. While some people might choose to work in a communal workspace, the majority of self-employed VAs work from the comforts of their home. While this is convenient, it can prove to be troublesome for your motivation. You may find yourself completing housework, skipping work to meet with friends, spending too much time on social media and doing almost anything else other than work.
It can be hard to break the cycle and form a routine that involves you treating your home as an office and nothing more, but it can be done. Below are five ways you can stop procrastination in a virtual staffing environment.
Write lists and schedules
The job of someone within virtual staffing services is to complete a range of different tasks for employers around the world. These jobs may vary, but they’re all important to your employer and must be completed in a timely fashion. So, when you’ve got a long list of jobs to be completed, why are you browsing the internet or folding washing?
You haven’t got enough structure, that’s why. In order to gain a clear understanding of what’s required of you and when it’s due, you need to get tough on yourself. Write a daily list and schedule of jobs that must be completed, and stick to it.
In fact, many people swear by lists to get through their working day, even when they work in a less-distracting office environment. Even though you’re surrounded by distractions, you need to align your working day by the same principles.
Your list and schedule can include:
- The name of the employer
- The name of the task
- The due date
- The time you will start
- The time you will finish
The best way to structure your list is in a grid or table. Some people prefer to complete their list in Microsoft Excel or similar, whilst others are more visual and like to draw it up on a whiteboard situated near your workstation.
With an organised list in any form, you are sure to notice a dramatic difference in the time you waste procrastinating.
Set strict working hours
The best virtual assistant is one who works their assigned hours – no more, and no less. Of course, there is always going to be room for flexibility when you’re working on end-of-month tasks and large projects, but for the majority of the time, you need to be strict.
Setting working hours can be beneficial for both your work and home life, as well as your problems with procrastination. Knowing you have to clock up a certain number of hours will motivate you to spend less time browsing the web or talking on the phone, whilst it could enable you to finish earlier in the day, as well. For example, if you spent two hours in your working day procrastinating, which meant you didn’t finish until 7pm, you can now finish at 5pm because you’re not wasting so much time.
However, it also helps to get to the bottom of the reasoning for your procrastination. Is it rearing its ugly head at certain times of the day? Are your working hours not fitting in with the times you’re more productive? If it’s possible, work out the times of day your productivity is at its peak, and schedule your hours to suit.
For example, some people prefer to get up early in the morning and work while watching the sun come up. Others prefer to work at night and watch the sun go down. Find out what kind of worker you are, and set your schedule to suit. As a virtual assistant, your hours are generally far more flexible than other industries.
Set regular breaks
It doesn’t matter whether you’ve got a big pile of work sitting in front of you, or just a few tasks remaining, it’s important to set regular breaks. If you’ve decided to set up the timetable system mentioned above, you must schedule breaks into the system as well.
When you’re working on a project, it can become all too easy to skip lunch, afternoon tea or even breakfast. The ultimate goal is to get the work done, and you try and do it by all means possible. However, by skipping meal breaks, you are increasing the risk of procrastination setting in. You haven’t had a proper break from your desk, therefore you may be more inclined to start browsing the internet, check your phone and fold the odd pair of socks from the washing basket.
Avoid these two-minute breaks and focus on regular time slots set aside for break time. This will enable you to be more productive when it comes to focusing on the task at hand.
Turn off social media
On average, Facebook is known to grab your attention for a minimum of 50 minutes a day. That might not seem like a long time, but if you factor in how many times you picked up your phone, checked notifications, replied to comments and put the phone down again, it’s a huge chunk of time you’ve wasted.
When you’re battling with procrastination, social media is not a way to fix it. In fact, social media adds more fuel to the fire. If you’re an avid social media fan but you can’t stop yourself from checking it during working hours, you need to get hard on yourself. It’s not enough to just say you won’t check it, you need to remove it from the equation. Put your phone in another room if that’s possible, or disconnect your internet connection from your computer if you’re working on local tasks rather than server-based tasks.
Get strict on house chores
When a business hires you for virtual staffing solutions, they aren’t paying you to fold your socks. They are paying you to complete their work. It pays to remember this as you head for the washing basket in the middle of an important data entry task. When you battle to stay on-task, the best thing you can do is take a proper break and get back to work in the correct mind-set. This will stop you from leaving your seat every five minutes to correct a painting on the wall, or rearrange flowers in a vase.
If you’re worried that you won’t be able to restrain yourself from doing housework, set a strict schedule for yourself. This can include a ‘to do’ list after work, of all jobs needing to be completed before you relax. There’s no reason why you can’t include this on your daily work schedule. After all, it’s a form of work as well.
Procrastination is a serious problem for some people, and it can be the difference between a successful virtual assistant and one who fails to complete tasks on time. You need to get tough on yourself and put a plan in place to remove the temptation. Have you struggled with procrastination? What did you do instead of doing the assigned work? Get in touch and share your stories!