If you have found yourself playing fetch with your dog; re-arranging your sock drawer; repeatedly assessing the contents of your fridge; falling into the world of Facebook and all the layers it has to offer with friends, friends of friends, friends of friends of friends; or repeatedly tailoring your ‘Study Session’ playlist instead of actually studying…you may in fact be a Serial Procrastinator.
Most of us will be familiar with the phenomenon of procrastination, at least to some extent. You know, the whole thing of putting off tasks, especially those that are important or require immediate attention and busying ourselves with other non-important or non-urgent things. But for all of us, there is always one person we know who is a chronic procrastinator.
And whilst we might not all be chronic procrastinators we have all been there and experienced the crippling presence of procrastination. Have we not all had those moments where we find ourselves cleaning a house we would never otherwise clean, suddenly becoming overcome with a desire to learn guitar (did I mention you have never played a musical instrument before?) or we find ourselves writing a letter to our Uncle Bob (wait, I don’t even have an uncle Bob?!?) to avoid paying our bills or writing our next university paper?
Now, I have just about had enough of battling a paralyzing case of procrastination whilst attempting to write a piece on this very topic. Oh the irony! In fact I am rather looking forward to escaping this irony and getting back to completing the quiz ‘What Disney Dog Are You?’, after I conclude this piece.
You see, I’m not a mental health professional who can write about the in’s and out’s of procrastination and its root cause, but I am a student which has brought with it a fair share of procrastination experience. And whilst I am not procrastination free, there are a few things that I have learnt over the last few years of study about how to look procrastination square in the face, push it to the side and get back to the task at hand.
Thus, these are my 5 suggestions for beating procrastination:
1. Remove Distractions
It only takes a second to check our social media, maybe a few minutes for some mindless web-browsing or possibly 30 minutes to play some ridiculously addictive game such as our good friends Candy Crush, Doodle Jump and Farmville. However, I’ve found that all it takes is for there to be a message that someone has left for you on social media and a few seconds turns into 10, 20, 30 minutes; and only takes something interesting to catch my eye and suddenly a few minutes of mindless web-browsing launches into an hour of online shopping as I start designing my new bedroom; and I’m guessing that the ridiculously addictive game speaks for itself and soon 30 minutes on your latest gaming addiction has spread to who knows how long.
So understandably, if like me, these are genuine distractions that are pulling you away from the task at hand the best place to start beating procrastination is by eliminating these.
Do whatever you can to avoid them. Why not turn your phone off, onto flight mode or turn off the data on your phone so all you can receive is text messages and phone calls. If you can, turn off the WIFI on your computer to cut off mindless web-browsing all together, or at the very least close your Facebook and email tabs in your internet browser and make every effort to not open them again until you finish the task at hand!
2. Find A Good Workspace
We all work differently, so find a space that works for you. Look for a workspace that inspires you to complete the task that you are working on and limits distractions from the task at hand. For you, this might mean avoiding working in crowded places or coffee shops. Think about the task that you are working on and switch up your workspace until you find where you work best. This might take some time to figure out but will set you up for a win in completing the task.
3. Set Goals
From smallest to largest, write down your goals. Writing down your goals will help you understand where you are going and what you need to accomplish. Put these somewhere where you will see them regularly to help you remember your end goal and keep you motivated.
4. Break Tasks Down
From your goals, write down the tasks that need doing. Now, we can all relate to the feeling of looking at a large task and feeling overwhelmed. However, if you can take some time to break down big tasks into smaller achievable steps and prioritise these, suddenly the large task we are facing becomes a whole lot less overwhelming.
5. Find Your Rhythm
Find out what makes you most productive and do your most difficult or time-consuming tasks then. Everyone works differently and figuring out what makes you tick and what puts you in a productive space of mind may take some time but when you find it, embrace it and utilise it!
Maybe you are most productive when you are listening to music? Maybe for you, your brain works best after you have done some physical exercise or had a coffee? Maybe you are most productive after you have eaten, or maybe this is when you are less productive? Find your rhythm, do the things that help you get into a productive mind space and time your bigger or more important tasks to be in those times where you are naturally more productive.
So there you are, I’ve followed my own advice and here is the article I was putting off writing. And now, to reward myself I’m off for a horse ride.
Proverbs chapter 12 verse 24 [The Message] “The diligent find freedom in their work; the lazy are oppressed by work.”
(If you would like some more creative ways to beat procrastination why not check out this video by Miranda July: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yc57X0j_UwM)