I have many bad habits, but the worst one has definitely got to be procrastination. And I’m definitely not the only one out there. It’s so easy to just put things off until you have no choice but to do them. Even if it just ends up making you more stressed, and results in sloppy work. As a not-quite-adult who has procrastinated their way through most (cough all cough) of school and life, I know how detrimental to your life chronic procrastination is. I mean, let’s face it, it feels real nice in the moment, but then reality inevitably hits, and you’re suddenly crushed under the weight of all the work you put off.
Over the years, I’ve tried out a lot of methods to try to make myself do what I’m supposed to do, and here’s the tricks that worked (at least somewhat) for me.
- Use a freaking schedule already. You’ve heard this one before. We’ve all heard this one before. When you have a plan for how you can finish whatever it is that you’re supposed to be doing, the task becomes more manageable and you might be more motivated to actually do it. This worked for me pretty great in high school and college. I would plan out when I would do each thing on my to-do list, and then color-code the shit out of my google calendar. This way, I know exactly what I’m supposed to be doing at any given time, so I did that thing.This doesn’t work quite as well now that I am (supposedly) a working adult and don’t have the structure of classes and homework. My schedule is much more vague now than before, so I’ve mostly abandoned this option unless I have a lot of things to do on a particular day.
- Break it down. Large projects are scary. It’s hard to know where to start when your work is just “write a paper.” I always try to break down large projects into smaller chunks that I can do in one sitting. Like “decide on a topic,” or “read these 3 articles,” or “make an outline.” And then “write a draft of the intro,” “write 3 pages,” etc. I’m hoping to make research my career, so I’m no stranger to papers. They don’t get easier. (At least, not yet, for me.)
- Treat yo self. This one is my personal favorites for larger projects. I take that detailed list of smaller chunk of project, and then I decide how I’m going to reward myself for completing each one. This works no matter what the timeframe. If you’ve got two weeks to write that paper, your rewards can take up more time (like “go to that party on Friday”). Just a couple of weeks ago, I had a draft due, and I had one day to finish a whole bunch of stuff I put off (college students, you get me, don’t you?) So I had five smaller chunks of project left. And so the rewards for finishing those were like “read 2 chapters of my current book” and “20 minute tumblr break.”
- Positive visualization/meditation. Sometimes all the stuff on your to-do list gets overwhelming. When I realize that I’m getting really panicky and anxious about it, I try my best to calm myself down. Depending on what exactly I’m feeling stressed about, I might go over some positive affirmations about myself (“you are awesome and I know you can get through this”), or take some deep breaths, or imagine myself going through all my tasks and rocking it.
Obviously, sometimes I’ll try to do all of these things, and I still procrastinate. Sometimes I just cannot dredge up the motivation to do anything. And that’s okay. We are all human, and we can’t just go at 100% all the time. Even though procrastination is not a great habit, I also don’t think you should beat yourself up if you are unproductive sometimes. We’ve all been there. I just try to tell myself that it’s okay, and you just have to let things go sometimes. Bad days happen, bad things happen, but I just keep reminding myself and it’s not the end of the world if I slip up. It will be okay.