It’s been 3 hours… and I’ve been on Pinterest

You know the feeling, you have so much work to do (at work or for class) and yet you find yourself staring at the computer.  The Pinterest sirens call to you and you can’t get away, or you just keep refreshing that Twitter feed and before you know it you’re reading about Grumpy Cat’s latest adventure.  You look at the clock and somehow 3 hours went by and you’ve made no progress. You’re thinking (or whining) to yourself, “Why is my midterm tomorrow? I just need one more day.”

You: I can't escape Pinterest Grumpy Cat: Good. Source: grumpycats.com

Source: grumpycats.com

Joel Stein recently released a video for Time where he tried to be a Millennial for a day. HeJoel Stein Millennial was pretty much an epic fail, but it was definitely entertaining to watch and further proved how easily it is to get distracted. The distraction, however, doesn’t always come from the social media addiction, but rather because you’re paralyzed with so much work, completely overwhelmed and not really sure where or how to start. The result: you procrastinate on social media or analyze your fantasy team line up for the next 2 hours. I’m sure you can relate.

Many of the clients I meet with feel similarly when they’re searching for jobs.  They end up spending hours on social media or on sites like Indeed and SimplyHired, but often don’t feel like they made any progress.

Here are my 5 tips to help kick it into gear and only check Facebook 5 times in an hour as opposed to 15.

1. Make a plan.  Whether it be job searching, homework or whatever, have a schedule and a to-do list.  This will give you something concrete to follow so you don’t loose track of what you’re doing or get distracted.  Plus it’s super satisfying to check stuff off when you’re done.

2. When you turn on the computer, DO NOT OPEN GCHAT, otherwise it’s over.

3. As a matter of fact, just stay off the internet all together if you don’t need to use the internet.

4. If you have to do “research” open minimal tabs and write down the sites you want to use to help do research.  For some reason, writing things down seems more permanent, like you’re more obligated to stick to it.  It’s like when you tell somebody you’re running a 10K or going on a diet, if you don’t do what you said you would, you feel bad about yourself.  If you need to find scholarly articles, no need for Google, don’t get tempted, just go straight to http://library.northeastern.edu/

5. Give yourself a timeline, I found this to be extremely effective.  It feels like a race against time.  As a competitive person who likes to win and works well under pressure, completing something by a certain deadline feels satisfying.  If you’re super daring, tell somebody when your deadline is so they hold you accountable.  I’m a sucker for the guilt trip I guess.

For more advice, check out this great Freelance Switch article, and hopefully your next daunting project only takes you a few hours instead of a few days.

How do you stay productive?  What is the biggest distraction you encounter?

Kelly Scott is a Career Advisor at Northeastern University and social media enthusiast.  A Gen Y, she enjoys writing about workplace culture and personal online branding. For more career insight, follow/tweet her at @kellydscott4.