Procrastination is something most people have to deal with and conquer at some point in their lives. It’s easy to fall into the “do it later” mindset or to avoid something you don’t feel like doing that might take more effort or energy than you feel prepared for.
One of my goals this year is to tackle that lazy procrastinator part of me who says “I don’t feel like it. I can do it tomorrow” because often times the “I can do it tomorrow” really translates to “I will never do this.” There’s never a convenient time to do certain things, like have hard conversation with someone, apply to a job, or go for a run. Sometimes, you just have to take a deep breath and do it, and remind yourself that tomorrow, you’ll be happy you did it today.
I would label myself as a planner. I like to plan everything, either by mapping it out in my brain or by organizing a list of things on paper. Truthfully, I work well under pressure for certain things, like writing and it seems as hard as I try I can’t truly write what I want until the clock is ticking, and then suddenly my words seem to fall into place. However, even when I’m not writing, and some might even say when I’m avoiding writing, I’m still planning out what I want my story or article to look like, and what I think I’d like to say.
I realized in college, that I was most productive at the beginning of the week, especially after I outlined a tentative plan for my time. Then, I would push hard to get work done instead of dreading it all day and keeping myself from enjoying the moment.
The work-now-play-later mentality helped me keep from having deadlines hang over my head, and while I still think it’s a great idea to put things to the side to take a break and have fun, learning not to leave things to the last minute has helped me feel more confident in my work because I’m not staying up late and rushing at the last minute, and it has also helped me manage my stress levels because I’m not letting tasks build up until they seem impossible to complete.
From my experience, I have learned to incorporate these five methods into my life that allow me to get more work done and feel less stressed:
1. Figure out when you’re most productive. For me, it’s early in the week, and early in the mornings. By the end of the day, I’ve spent all my energy and usually need to relax.
2. Schedule time for yourself to re-charge so you don’t get burnt out. If you push until the point of exhaustion, the quality of your work will diminish, as well as your mood and motivation.
3. Make a list of everything you want or need to get done, and then map out a timeline and set goals that you can accomplish. For example, instead of making your goal: “write my 10-page paper by the end of the month,” rethink it as: “write 3 pages per week, and make edits during the fourth week.
4. Take breaks. If you’re cramming for a big test, set alarms for yourself every hour where you can take a lap around the library, get some air, or stretch. It will help you maintain your focus in the long run. Know yourself, though. If Facebook is your weakness, don’t let yourself log on until you’ve accomplished your daily goal. Otherwise, it will be hard for you to re-focus and you’ll be more prone to giving up.
5. Say “NO” to the voice that tells you to push your dream or plan aside, to do it tomorrow or that it will get done eventually. This voice is not your friend, and it will not help you succeed. Even if you have to say the words aloud, tell that voice no.
Most importantly, forgive yourself for goals you might miss, and move forward. It takes practice to be disciplined enough with yourself so you’re not checking your phone every five minutes or beating yourself up for not doing something sooner.
Give yourself the proper fuel, too. If you’re hungry, exhausted, or distracted, you will continue to procrastinate. Give your self five more minutes on Facebook, then close out of Twitter, put your phone on silent, have a snack, and get started. Then, when you’re finished and have accomplished your daily, weekly, or final goals, reward yourself. You did it!