“Procrastination is the thief of time.”
First, let’s talk about why we procrastinate. Your first day of school, your professor gives you a description about an assignment due at the end of the semester, but informs you about it now. It’s a big project and you need to read a few books to thoroughly research for it and compile it. It’s due three and a half months from now, you have plenty of time to do it. In high school, you started reading that book for a report, a week before the due date.
A month and a half into the semester, you sit yourself to really start your research but an ad pops up and makes you realize, you really do need a new book bag. And before you know it, you’ve fallen right back into the hole. We’ve all been there. It’s not you, it’s your brain. Your brain is a drug addict – when you started looking for a book bag, dopamine was released in your brain, which is produced when you’re doing an activity that pleases you and makes you want to continue doing it. You went from doing something you dreaded, your assignments, to doing something a little more interesting which then becomes a gateway to other ‘interesting’ possibilities.
Now, while those shoes are better for running and that world map would fit perfectly on your wall, you do really need to snap out of it or you will not have a wall to hang a map on. A little too intense, I know, but you get the point.
And like me, you’d start by making a list and procrastinate again by listing every little thing, from writing a paper to picking up Hot Pockets from the grocery store. No really, now you should stop and get started with this list of ways to eliminate procrastination.
1. Stay Fueled
Before you sit down to start, make sure that you have had something and have a full water bottle with you. You will now have one less thing to procrastinate about. If your stomach is full, you definitely have the energy to sit through this and complete your task within the assigned time. Maybe even keep a snack handy, so you really do not have a reason to walk out.
2. Hand your phone to your roommate
One buzz from a news app on your phone, and you’re ‘keeping up’ with your friends on social media. You need to give your phone to your firm roommate/friend and set a time at which they should return your device to you. Pick someone who will not break despite repeated suicidal requests from you to return the phone before the said hour.
3. Make a list
While the activity of ‘making a list’ is one of the biggest facilitators of procrastination, because you travel back in time to remember everything you can and go so deep, it’s hard to come back, it still is necessary in order for your brain to focus on a couple of to dos. This will help in registering these tasks in your brain so that it lingers and you know you have to get to it by the due date.
4. Manipulate your brain
Set a new due date that is prior to the actual date. This will put an added pressure on you which in turn will haunt you until you start making progress in the assignment. Set deadlines for smaller tasks contributing to that project. Take care of small things and the big things will automatically fall into place.
5. Countdown to the finish
Instead of saying to yourself that you have to read this book in a few weeks, start counting down the days till a date, that you decide upon. Having a quantifiable amount of time as a deadline, as opposed to setting a few days aside to do a task, is more effective since your mind is on its toes to complete the task within the time remaining. A great tool that assigns countdown timers to your tasks and projects is Vista List. Set a due date and Vista List will automatically create a countdown timer for you.
6. Adjust your ambiance
Clean, organize and make sure you maintain your desk. It’s important because a messy desk or any ambiance that’s disturbing, will make your mind wander and all over the place. And let’s face it, the thought of reorganizing your desk is one of the most common ‘procrastinators’, if you will. Maybe even go to the library to be around people who are studying or to an isolated place where you feel comfortable with minimum distractions.
7. Make a Study/Work Bud
You have a group of friends you go out to parties and hang out with. So why not have a group of friends you study/work with? This will make you caught up with class and solve most your doubts if not all. And hey, they will check you when you procrastinate. They’ve got your back.
8. Play tunes that calm you down
Music has proven to help facilitate work. It keeps your mind on a single track. Play tunes that would cheer you up and set you in a good mood. It will calm your brain, keep it awake and make it more active and attentive. Now, if music doesn’t work for you while reading because you always wanna sing along, play relaxing sounds to soothe your mind.
9. Set goals with incentives
Break your task into smaller tasks, and set a reward to motivate you to complete the task. Now you can watch LeBron’s winning basket. Do yourself a favor and set incentives that you’d go to far lengths for, for each goal. A little greed is key. Make sure you leave the biggest reward for finishing the work.
You made it this far with a little self control and a lot of this article. You deserve a 10 minute break. Go get your phone back and set a time to use it. Let yourself and your imagination go wild in your land, but only over the course of the break. Maybe, to test how far you can go, take a bigger break at the next designated break time and skip this one. It feels very rewarding and well deserved.
Now, you’re no saint and will not master the eradication of procrastination in one go. Depending on how easily you get distracted, it will take time to perfect self control and knocking the distractions out of the park. You’re just now finally getting out of the vicious circle of stress and frustration caused by you postponing your work for another day, when in truth, you’re not saving time for today but only losing time for tomorrow. With time, it gets better.
Yes, you are allowed a ‘cheat hour’ every once in a while, where you can have the luxury of being lazy and as unproductive as you want. You can call it, ‘me time’.