Should you be working right now instead of reading this?

Dear Procrastinator. This is for you.

Tick tock. Tick tock. Yes, your clock is ticking and once again you have lost 30 minutes of your precious final hours to a series of pointless cat videos. Your deadline is fast approaching and you are blaming yourself for starting so extremely late. You stress, you suffer, you hate your past you for letting you be so irresponsible. You promised yourself –once again- that you would never do this. But then it happens over and over. Sounds familiar? It has to.

Welcome to the exciting life of a procrastinator! This term does not refer to not doing anything at all. It is about avoiding your main useful responsibilities and switching them up for other random activities, whatever they may be.  While growing up, did your mom ever tell you to clean your room? Such a drama; you were never in the mood for that. But oh how things changed when you had a presentation deadline due the next day. That’s right, then your room  was spontaneously spotless.

If you think this behavior is characteristic of our lazy media-obsessed generation, think twice. The art of procrastinating is not new. It is not a consequence of social media or computers. Just as a fun quote, back in 1949 Robert Benchley, an American humorist said “…anyone can do any amount of work, provided it isn’t the work he is supposed to be doing at the moment.”

However, considering the time of the year it is, our essential work has to be done. So here are some top 11 tips and ideas on how to stop procrastinating and start doing.

Have a calendar, a to-do list and a done list: Making a schedule and keeping track of your duties with a to-do list is quite a classic. But remember to actually do it and keep it updated. A nice idea is also to keep a done list. Put simple things in your lists and cross them out as you finish them. It will boost your ego and make you feel productive.

Does size matter? The smaller the better: Divide your major tasks in smaller challenges. Simpler activities are more manageable and it will feel so much better as you go accomplishing them. It will also help you organize your time in a more efficient way.

Meet up with your friends: This is a dangerous suggestion, I know. It can be very helpful or end up being an eternal fika. If you find your right study buddy, meeting up with that person can force you to get going. Also, it allows you to look forward to a nice break every now and then. Just be careful the pause does not end up being the whole day!

Structured procrastination: This is actually a thing. Procrastinating is about doing something else to avoid what you have to do. So let that something else be useful. John Perry, a professor at Stanford suggests creating a list of goals. At the top of the list, put the most demanding but not necessarily urgent tasks. At the bottom, everything else. Just to avoid the first thing, you should start doing all the other ones.

Limit the time you invest in a specific activity: Before you start, decide how much time you think you need to perform a specific task and stick to it. This should get you motivated and make it seem like a challenge, a personal race against time. Also, this method will help you avoid wasting your time if the task was not that crucial.

Think about your task in the most random place: The reason behind your procrastination might be that you do not feel inspired and lack motivation. To make things more interesting, try and think about your project while you are walking around town or commuting. You might get unexpected and fresh ideas, that even if they are too crazy they might get you excited and want to dig into them. Having our phones with us all day also helps here, so you can take notes on the go.  

Bribe yourself: Keep the rewards coming! If you fulfill an activity, give yourself a treat. It can be a funny cat clip on YouTube –but just one!- or that chocolate ice cream you have been craving for hours. Remember though, to stick to your goals.

Write outlines or ideas on Post-it notes: If you are suffering from writer’s block, this could be a good start. Write a basic outline or just independent ideas on the page. Anything is better than leaving a blank space. You can also try using Post-it notes to start with the creative process. Walk around and scribble a couple of ideas!

Get the right posture: Make sure you have a nice environment and a comfortable chair. Not having an ergonomic posture will prevent you from focusing. But beware,  getting too comfy might lull you into a peaceful sleep. A typical Swedish thing is to work standing up, keeping the blood flowing; give it a try!

Start with something randomly: Sometimes you have so many things to get done, it’s hard to know where to even start. You waste more time thinking what to do first than actually working. So get over this by taking your to-do list and selecting something with a random criterion. Prioritize by alphabetical order or just roll a dice.

Get yourself in a good mood before starting: If you love funny cat videos, go and enjoy them. Watch something fun during a specific amount of time. But do not jump from one YouTube video to the next! Put a timer on, enjoy and then get to work!

With all this said, dear lazy you, 1328573995. Sure you did not even bother to read the whole number. But, if you got this far to read through all these tips, there is a high probability that you should be doing something else more productive. So go ahead, put my wise advice into practice and get to work! •

Written by: Jessica de Loma Olson
This article was previously published in: Medicor 2016 #2


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