I hardly deliver jobs on time, and my clients are annoyed because of that.
What can I do to solve this horrible issue? Any tips pls?
1) Pomodoro Technique. Aim for something like 14-18 pomodori per day. (Assuming 25 minutes per pomodoro.) If you do the math you may think "oh that's not much" but you'll be exhausted by the end of it.
2) Install Rescuetime and religiously use it to track how your time is spent during the weekday. Use their "Stay focused" function when you are sprinting on a pomodoro.
3) Get a second device, like a tablet, which you use for surfing, reading, and leisure. Your laptop is no longer for that. It's exclusively for producing and for serious work.
I'm struggling with my own procrastination and it seems to be helping, although I find myself distracting myself via other means :-/
It drive my work time successfully now that I work as a freelancer (and I was having your same issues).
I thought for a long time that I am kind of addicted to the internet and that this is the reason I am wasting a lot of time there. Over the years I tried a lot of stuff to cut down consumption but nothing really worked.
What finally helped was the realization that the excessive internet usage is really just a sympton of more underlying problems and not the problem itself . (For example if there is no internet, I use books instead):
I use (and still use) the internet as a way to flee from reality and all its associated problems. Especially at work when I have a difficult project I automatically open the browser to hide from all the problems which comes from the project.
So in order to get to work I have to make a list of smaller task I have to do for this project and then start with the one which is the easiest one because this reduces the likelihood that I distract myself.
Some more infos on my specific situation:
I've been exactly where you've been. AND I did almost all the things that people here suggest. Thought I had ADHD and took Ritalin. Thought I had a depression and took Prozac (both of which I definitely cannot recommend, as they screwed badly with my short term memory).
I've tried gazillions of plugins, "hacks", to-do lists and the like, only to see that if you're smart (I assume you are because you're posting here), your subconcious is only smarter. If there's one universal truth I got out of these, it's: You can't shit yourself.
I've personally read Getting Things Done, The Now Habit, Eat That Frog and consumed lots more of self-help from some of the distinguished authors there are, including Tony Robbins, David Allen, Steven Covey, Brian Tracy, Keith Ferrazzi, Leo Babauta etc. (just to name a few).
I can honestly say that all of those books gave me something, some pushed me over the edge for a week, but then I slipped back into procrastination and self-pity. So here's the deal: For some of us, it's just much harder to stay focused on our goals and dreams. All that can and will change, but only with the right leverage, and your missing piece of the puzzle might be a different one that someone else needs. Anyway, I'll be listing the things from all those excellent books above that helped me most (repeating some of the excellent suggestions here), and finishing with my personal missing piece, that I only received a few weeks ago.
So what helps?
- Get rid of your TV if you have it. Completely. That's really just a senseless time-sucker and you won't miss it within a week.
- Babysteps, babysteps, babysteps. Taken from today's Hacker News: "I can not emphasize how important baby steps are. They are the key to avoiding fatal frustration. I have a law that helps define the size of subtasks: DO NOT EVER LEAVE THE COMPUTER IF YOUR PROGRAM DOES NOT RUN." http://all-things-andy-gavin.com/2011/09/11/video-game-progr...
- Fighting your urge to "procrastinate" all day long leads to lots of decision fatigue that will make everything just worse: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/21/magazine/do-you-suffer-fro... . The best way around this is to create habits, as they will get you on autopilot through difficult procrastination situations within a month. Some great thoughts on this from Leo Babauta: http://zenhabits.net/will/
My personal take on this: The key is starting out VERY slow (one habit a month at the most) and keeping your expectations really low. The habit itself needs to survive through all times and is more important than the actual outcome. Example from me: I do exercises right before showering, but the least I do is 5 pushups. That sounds like nothing, and actually it isn't but I do them no matter what - drunk, late, sad, happy. Habits will eventually carry you through everything, but you just stick to them. Suggestions for you: Not reading e-mail after or before a certain time, turning of the computer completely at a certain time. Stuff like that.
- Building on that, affirmations and meditation are extremely powerful as a habit too. I've written an article on this if you're interested: http://www.growinup.org/?p=5
- Gym and sports definitely helps your willpower, as long as you don't discover another way of procrastination in there. It can happen ;-)
- Knowing what you really want. Maybe you know already (I certainly did), but you're too scared and unfocused to really take action.
If you're too scared, watch this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lk0hSeQ5s_k
If you're too unfocused, read this: http://focusmanifesto.com/
Anyway, know what you wanna do and where you're going.
- All these things helped me in a way, but the final piece for me comes here as promised. I've had a huge fight with my wife for all kinds of reasons related to my procrastination, and she told me something I've never forgot. I've distilled the essence of what she told me on a paper and I read it every night. Here it is, for you all to read:
"Every time I pray, I feel you falling down this black hole, but I cannot help you. Only YOU can do it. No amount of reading or games or [insert your timesucker here] can fill that emptiness inside of you. So don't do stuff out of an impulse. Do it conciously. Whatever you do, choose to do it and accept the consequences. Don't be guilty about anything anymore - just accept that you made your choice and be responsible. There's no need to lie to yourself. It's just ok. Live, breathe, be gentle. There is one and one way only out of the frustration, anger and depression: Accept your choices. Love yourself. Leave the guild behind and FOLLOW YOUR HEART".
Since then I've been living by it and haven't gone back to bad. Truth is, I HAVE been reading Hacker News and playing a round since then. But I chose to do it because I felt like it. I didn't hide it, I didn't feel guilty about it. Taking responsibility for every single thing that you do sounds harsh, but it helps you grow enormously. Think of it: That way you also reap full honor and appreciation for everything you do. So next time you feel that urge, just do the following: Think about what you're about to do. What will it lead to? Will you accept that outcome and take full responsibility? And then just do it - or not. It works the same way if you're already in the middle of that procrastination mess. The second you see you made an unconcious choice, make a concious one instead. Will you continue - or stop and do something worth it?
I told you it's gonna be a pretty long post. So you finally arrived here, congratulations. You already took the time to read it - now take the time to do it, and you won't fail anymore. Promise.
* begin bullet pointed list
-break down steps to achieve each bullet point
-some could be as simple as "google xyz"
The habit of fighting confusion with pen and paper is for me one of the biggest productivity boosters I've ever learned.
Also, I don't like to do this kind of "brainstorming" on computer - hardware&software are too limiting, both in input and spatial presentation. Free-form noting FTW ;).
When I start to work on a task, I open up onenote and break that task in to sub tasks that are more bite sized (a la pomodoro) that I can strikethrough when I'm done. Strikethrough you can add to your quick bar in Office 2010. Using onenote I can expand subtasks if I find they're too large, and if I have to stop working on task A to go to B I know approximately where I left off. Inserting text is difficult on paper.
When all the subtasks are done I delete it from onenote and strike it through on the paper.
Pomodoro is a bit too rigid for me in the office where anyone in the cube farm can interrupt you any time of the day, but it certainly did help me crunch through my 10 page paper during my last semester in college.
2) Try using a program like VitaminR, http://www.publicspace.net/Vitamin-R/
which acts as a timer to keep you focused. You might find that working becomes a sort of game, and you will be less tempted to abort your work because you can see that you only have 5 min to go.
That being said, many (most?) people benefit (or even need) a relatively distraction-free environment. This means no TV near your computer (particularly relevant if you work from home), stopping distractions from other people and can go so far as cutting yourself off from HN and other prime sources of distraction (there are various programs, plugins and extensions for this kind of thing).
As for distractions from other people, this can take many forms. If you work from home, it means saying that certain time blocks are for work and you're not to be disturbed. It's easy for other people to fall into a pattern where they'll ask you for stuff or to do stuff simply because you're there.
In my case I can't stand people walking around me, particularly behind me. I position my monitors such that I don't really see people walking by and, where possible, position my desk such that no one walks behind me. If that's not possible, I at least ensure I don't have a thoroughfare behind me.
Other people can distract you by asking things they could easily find out themselves. Joel Spolsky talked about this  as a reason for giving engineers private offices. It's too easy to ask a colleague "where is X?" when you could find it in 30 seconds thus crashing them out of "the zone".
Headphones help a lot here. Some people are distracted by music. Many will argue they're not. Testing indicates otherwise . Still I find the right music with its distractions, at least for me, tends to trump the distractions of other people so it's still a win. People tend to bother you less when you're wearing headphones (it's a psychological barrier).
There's also a certain "fake it til you make it" aspect here too, which is another way of saying that your inability to focus is the sum of many behaviours. You probably have many bad habits and you need to change them one at a time. Blocking distractions like HN, reddit, etc is one way of doing this.
Another is, well, just grinning and bearing it. This can take you far but could lead to burnout. Part of this is attitude though. If you're stuck doing something uninteresting (or simply an uninteresting phase of something otherwise interesting) finding little challenges and measurable milestones in that can go a long way.
1. I am quite a verbal thinker. Anything with lyrics seriously damages my ability to think verbally about a problem.
2. Music that is too slow or relaxing is unhelpfully soporific. I don't drink coffee, so I need any non-chemical stimulant I can get.
3. Anything too catchy will encourage me to hum it in my head, which actually has a similar effect to lyrics, disrupting my internal verbal processes.
I've found the perfect thing that works well for me, which is soundtracks from RTS games. They're instrumental, vaguely electronic, and specifically designed to fade into the background and create a general sense of urgency and focus.
If you are a big starcraft player for example, playing the background music from starcraft can create a sort of Pavlovian Response, telling your brain "You are sitting at a computer carrying out a difficult task which takes a good deal of focus and mental exertion. This activity is fun and rewarding, and it is urgent that you do it as well and as quickly as possible."
Give it a try.
tl;dr Soundtracks from RTS games
I've had people threaten my job because of my similar positioning of my monitor "What are you hiding", etc.
2) When you feel like stepping away from your work (which may be immediately), attend to the thoughts, emotions and physical sensations you are experiencing at that moment.
3) Report your findings here.
You have to find the root cause of your problem in your own way. For some that means seeing a counselor or talking to a loved one or mentor who understands you.
At a friend's recommendation I started going to the gym when I feel myself drifting into procrastination. I was skeptical of the benefits at first but now it consistently clears my mind and sets me on the right track. I think it has something to do with the dopamine release that exercise provides.
It might also be worthwhile to examine -why- you're procrastinating. In my experience, procrastination is caused by anxiety about the project I'm working on.
But I need to solve this issue permanently.. as I started to lose a percentage of my income because of failed projects.
* Multiple desktops, each with ONE purpose. Alpha does email (in mutt over ssh) while Beta does web browsing, Delta gives me an IDE and Gamma gives system info.
* My email and my browsing are seperated. This lets me focus on email, then on browsing. Since I do a lot of web development, I run two browsers, Firefox for my normal everyday stuff and Chrome for my development.
* I use a little time-tracker. Teatimers and other such things are great for this. Since I use XFCE a lot of my development machines, I use the "Timer" plugin. The activities I dont want to do for long call 'xscreensaver-command --lock'. It forces me to get up.
* I regularly stand up, walk around, get my mind some more oxygen.
* I keep a todo list in Tomboy. + items are done, - items aren't, ? items are 'do I need to do this today'.
* When on Windows, I use The Guide on a flash drive to do my todo lists. I also keep track of time with a buzzer timer.
* I listen to music which lasts 5 minutes at a time (often chiptunes) which keeps me on task. This is a personal preference.
Your best bet is to sit down, allot yourself X minutes to chekcing email, Y Minutes to check news and the rest is 'work' time. If you start dwadling off on other things, stand up, take a break and just get back to what you have to do.
Each morning I wake up, do the dad thing, have a bowl of cereal (food is important) and try my hardest to sort my email on the laptop/phone before heading into my office. Inbox zero is something to be proud of when you can keep it up. When I say sort my day, i mean not only email but take the bigger tasks of the day and block them into my schedule around phone calls, lunch and all. This gives me a clear overview of ONLY what im concerned of for one day, and is very liberating when you've got more than 3-4 things on your plate at any given time.
I start my day by leaving my calendar up on my laptop/device on my desk and focus in 1.5hr chunks on projects at a time. If I have to bump something I will, but try my hardest to stay super focused for that block of time. This means I do not send email from my work machine while in that 1.5hr block (productivity move) nor do I pick up the phone. Voicemail is there for a reason and i can send from my laptop on the side quickly if it's important but code/work stays visible all the time to help me get back into it quicker.
5-10 mins before that 1.5 hr block is over (changes daily of course) I notate where im at and stop working. That's a hard thing when you're on a roll, but it's key to feeling better about focusing. Spend 15 mins to get caught up on email or anything I missed and the last 15 to get up, get a drink, walk outside, etc.
I'm a week into this new routine and it's helped a lot. I stil have the fatigue of having too much with not enough time, but teamed with a whiteboard for the macro level, I really enjoy the day-by-day structure and feel much more accomplished by dinner.
If this fails for you, then it could be a multitude of reasons, and you should consider some of the options recommended here (maybe change your job?).
Rather than thinking in terms of how much time you do or should work, set your objectives and make sure to finish what you started.
Second, you've chosen a path that aggravates your seemingly short attention span. I was in a similar situation, working alone and producing very little. After much trial and error, including trying therapy, medication, and numerous self management techniques, hiring an assistant proved to be the simplest solution.
My assistant helps with everything not directly related to what I do to generate value. She schedules appointments, nags me, runs errands, and a wide variety of more complex things. It took some practice getting used to working with her, but my productivity shot through the roof my and more than covered the costs of paying her. The most important part is that she works right beside me, and I sublet a small office space for this reason.
My email is in my profile if you want more info.
Here are some links:
some counterarguments: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/05/27/health/research/27budd.htm...
I am using (the first few chapters of) "Full Catastrophe Living" with the tapes.
update: the situation you describe indicates that you just don't like your job. You have no joy in doing what you're supposed to do. So, consider the possibility of changing your job to something you're really like and enjoy.
Working on Classical OOP languages (c++, java) all the time ? Try prototypal oop languages like JS/Lua.
Working on too much higher level/web application stuff ? Delve into the linux kernel.
If none of these work, take a break. By break, I mean ABSOLUTELY no computers at all. NO BOOKS either. Go off to play some ping pong, go to a movie, or better - go someplace where you don't do ANYTHING for around 1 week except roaming and watching nature or any kind of beauty.
Maybe it's 1 week, maybe it's 2 - but if you really enjoy hacking - you will find yourself raring to get back to your PC and begin hacking away after this break.
Then I just decided to quit! And got into my own startup. Boy!!! Now I am not finding time to do anything that does not help my goal of building a company ground up. I can see through my own eyes that it is just lack of a passionate goal and a worthy cause that has just tricked my mind into surfing & wasting time on internet.
So, my suggestion for you would be to take up a goal worthy of you. If you want to continue in the same job revisit your goal and one that is extremely challenging as if you are running your own company and not working for another one. Good luck!
If I'm wrong and you are just easily distracted, then consider getting rescue time. I used a similar iPhone app to condition myself to work for most of the day. After a few weeks I would feel not feel accomplished if I didn't see in my reporting that I worked for the allotted period that day.
Now I'm finally getting better, but it took several things:
1. Baby steps. Spring 2010 was the first time that I understood that taking less courses means that I have more energy per course. So I started with one, then two, then three. Now I have five ongoing courses at the same time, and I don't (quite) feel overwhelmed. My studies progressed last year at modest speed that is about 1/3 of the speed usually recommended, but my grades improved significantly.
2. Seeing psychologist. She told me about the benefits of taking it easy at first. And my friends didn't have to listen to all of my troubles.
3. Doing something really interesting. I switched to mechanics. I'm particularly into product development. I really don't seem to mind a single course that is not so interesting if it gets me closer my goal (this was actually a big surprise to me).
4. No TV. But movies with friends is a big YES.
5. Getting good IRL friends. I don't feel the need to IRC anymore.
6. Clear shift between work and leisure. If I walk 800 meters to school and spend there 8 hours I can count that I get something done. I might check HN few times, but I just cannot browse the Internet for the whole day.
7. Might seem counterintuitive, but no work on Sundays. Jews we're right. Having at least one day a week when you just don't do anything productive can boost your productivity a lot. And it surprisingly helps to actually have really good time when you're not working, you might think that it drains your energy, but it doesn't.
8. I don't really know if it truly helps or not. But I often think about what I want in life, and how I'm going to get there fastest.
9. For some reason, it seems that getting older helps a little. Maybe it's because you get a stronger feeling about wasting your life.
10. There is no word "should". You either do, or you don't. Sometimes you might do something. Some stuff you haven't yet started, but it's stuff you're going to do, not something that you should do.
11. & 12. Make starting easy for yourself and plan what you're doing. I find it easiest to start by planning. So I plan what I do today and I actually start doing it tomorrow. Planning what I'm going to study tomorrow takes like 30min so it's not a biggie. I feel like I have started so it's easy to continue. And I get sense of control of what I do. Planning counts as doing!
13. Don't ever plan to grind through everything at one go. Those 14 hour work days are going to ruin your motivation to the next job.
14. Get a calendar and a clock. Use them. Then get completely rid of them when you have a day off.
Everything here actually just boils down to three things. Remember to have free time and make it good and remember to plan really well what you're doing.
Where do you work? (industry, firm size, position, geographic location, etc.)
What are your coworkers like? Do you enjoy being around them?
Has the problem come up lately or has this been ongoing? Did it start with a current project? Office organization? For as long as you remember in your life?
What are the consequences going forward? What have they been in the past?
How old are you?
Here are a few ZenHabits articles that help too:
Not sure of the original source, but it's just a paragraph or so, easier than reading a whole book. Some discussion of it on reddit here: http://www.reddit.com/r/seduction/comments/h7cce/the_purpose...
If you are thinking a lot and have unresolved issues in your mind, get a notepad and write out everything EXACTLY as your mind is thinking of them. You don't have to do any analysis just because you are writing. Keep writing until you have nothing else to write about. You should find yourself thinking a lot less about those unresolved issues now that you've taken inventory of them by writing.
The easiest way I'm able to finish things is by working with others. People I care about, and who in turn cares about getting the work done. I.e. caring by proxy. 
I was bored and not doing what I really wanted to do. I was suppressing my dreams and taking the safe (and boring) path.
I never used such an app before, which is very important to remind that you have something to do.
Changing an existing pattern is much harder than starting a new one. Strong associations in your brain link things together.
Creating new pathways may not be as easy as following old ones, but is more flexible. And it helps keep your brain young.
Best of luck.
1.Getting things Done
2.The Now Habit
If it's just getting mired up in what to do, the first will help
If you have agreed to do silly things, the second one will.
don't stress about it - happens to everybody
Aside from that, the Pomodoro technique helps me quite a lot. Not only do the 25-minute stretches provide a clear, definite period of focus, getting yourself to think about tasks in 25 minute chunks forces you to more deeply plan how you'll spend your time. Often, we don't get started on tasks because we feel overwhelmed, because we don't have an actual plan or scope. As a side benefit, I'm seeing my time estimation skills getting better as I work on this.
I don't know where my next paycheck is coming from, but god I'm smiling.
(Yes, that in itself causes some awkward feelings, but I'm dealing.)
I say take a holiday somewhere nice and peaceful without a computer or book in sight. Just sit and think. Let the noise in the mind pass.