By Renee Masur
Just do it.
If only it was that easy, none of us would do it, right?
Even sitting down to write this article was a huge production. Set up the chair on the sunny porch, put on a pot of coffee, pick the perfect album to listen to, oh, tidy up the kitchen a bit. These are all things that can be done later but I insist on getting them finished now. All in the name of putting off the inevitable. As a University student, I am the Master Procrastinator - but in order to get a way with it I have developed 8 useful techniques to getting work done without the panic attacks.
1. Reward with Food and Drink
Set yourself a mini goal - when you finish one task go grab a fresh cup of coffee. If your stomach gives its first gurgle of the day, don’t immediately remedy it with food. Wait until you finish whatever you’re working on (within reason) before getting up to grab a snack. Don’t let yourself give into pleasure immediately - the wait makes it more worth it - and maybe you’ll work a bit faster trying to get there!
2. Don’t Spend Time Looking for Something Small
Ever get side-tracked on a Wikipedia article because you just HAD to know the year that a certain someone took part in some random event? Yep. Or thesaurus-ing another way to describe the colour black? All those little bits of time end up taking away a huge portion of your day. What seems like a minute or so quickly becomes several minutes as you read up on the article of the day or forget exactly what it was you were looking for. Leave all that stuff for another time, which brings us to the next tip:
3. Create a To-Do List
I love lists. It’s a way to see exactly what I have to do (and also is it’s own form of procrastination). Break up your day into all of its parts, from the tiny insignificant tasks (check on wikipedia for date) or big stuff (finish blog post). If you have a lot to do and are feeling completely overwhelmed, add tasks to the list that you’ve already completed. It’s feels motivating to see a few things already ticked off.
When you have to write something and have no idea where to begin - just begin. Write about not being able to write, don’t stop for typos, don’t even pause to think, just write exactly what your brain is spewing out. Sometimes the act of just writing, whether by hand or keyboard, gets us into the right groove for inspiration. It’s more useful than staring at an empty page.
There are some days when you can’t seem to focus on anything. Before it gets to that point in the day where you throw your hands up and surrender, give yourself structure. Set a timer in short intervals - start at just 7 minutes and don’t stop working until that ding goes off. When it does, give yourself a minute to read from you favourite site, or check your email. Then set yourself up for another 7 minutes. Eventually, that few minutes won’t seem like enough time to work.
6. Leave It On A Productive Note
A professor gave me this advice and it’s been my absolute favourite: don’t stop working when you’ve run out of things to do - leave it on a note so that if you were to come back later, you are full of ideas and inspiration. When you return a few hours later or the next day, you will have renewed energy to go even further.
7. Go! Don’t stop.
Now, this rule will contradict the previous one BUT sometimes you have to keep pushing. There is a fine line between coming back when there’s inspiration and ditching a project because you’ve had one great idea. A couple times I’ve been hit with a brilliant idea and then ditch the project until later and go celebrate. No. At the inception of an idea, stick with it until you are in a safe place to come back. You’ll know exactly what’s been done and what still needs to be completed.
8. Don’t count on the last minute
I’ve heard this over and over. “All my best ideas come to me last minute.” Well, of course they do! You’ve had no choice but to just do it! Procrastination works because we are forced to sit down and produce. Get yourself producing to the point where you feel comfortable enough to walk away for a time. There will be plenty of time (or not) for the rushed routine later.
You do it. I do it. Take comfort in the fact that you are not alone in your procrastination. Just get it done. Good luck!
"Procrastinate now. Don’t put it off"—Ellen DeGeneres