I have a problem. A procrastination problem. Each assignment I tell myself that it will be different and that I won’t procrastinate– but even when I try to start early, I can’t seem to focus at all and I still end up doing almost everything at the last minute. I know that procrastination is bad, but do you have any advice for me besides, “stop procrastinating”? Because that approach is definitely not working…
–Peggy the ‘Pro’ Procrastinator
I can definitely relate. I am a ‘Pro’crastinator myself. I’m sure you’ve heard the “break it down in to smaller pieces” and “set goals” spiel as part of the “just don’t procrastinate” approach. So, I’ll offer a few different, yet odd, tactics that worked for me, and just might also work for you.
The first is what’s called the Pomodoro technique. Sometimes when you’re working, it’s hard to get in the zone and work for hours straight (especially when you only have hours left until it’s due). In general, we’re not meant to work that way. We are much more efficient when we take breaks. The only problem is that when we take breaks, our breaks sometimes end up being longer than our actual work time. Here is a solution. Set a timer for 25 minutes. Work on your assignment, task, whatever your objective is and block out all distractions—no Facebook, no phone calls, no texting. Then, after that time is up, you set the timer for 5 minutes and take a 5 minute break. After four 25 minute work sessions (also called pomodoros), you reward yourself with a longer break of 15-30 minutes. The idea is that instead of working against time, you work with it! For more information you can check out this site (http://pomodorotechnique.com) and give it try!
The next, slightly unorthodox, technique is to inspire your productivity with peer pressure and fear! Publicly announce your goals and describe the things you’re working on. Your friends are bound to ask, “So how’s that project going?” Maybe you can tell a family member who’s willing to nag you about it until it’s done? It can be awkward and embarrassing if you say, I will write a book by next summer to all your friends and family and then when the time comes around you have nothing to show for it. This way you have an audience, and with that you will have both pressure as well as support.
The last method is my personal favorite, I like to call it Productive Procrastination. A lot of us at some point have engaged in productive procrastination even if we didn’t know it. It’s like when you have so much homework to do, but you decide it’s time to clean your room! You might even do your laundry! Heck, you could read through all 1,874 of your unread e-mails. Any task that, if it were at the top of your list, would seem mundane and you would probably put it off for a later time. However, because your paper is due in two days, and you really don’t want to do it, and just can’t come up with a topic anyway, cleaning your room sounds like it might be a lot more fun and effective about now, as long as it keep you from doing your paper for just a bit longer. I have sometimes felt really inspired to work on a project that wasn’t due for a month when I should be dreading working on the project due in less than a week. However, I tell myself, “No, I can’t rationalize working on a project that’s due in a month when I have this project due first. This stinking project that’s due in 4 days is higher up on the priority list and I should work on it right now.” Then I proceed to go on Facebook, watch Netflix, or just sleep. In the end, I end up doing the project at the last minute and when that other project comes up my motivation is gone. So in the end, it would have been better to work on that other project while I was procrastinating. I would have at least been working on something productive. This is where you harness your procrastination. I love this method because you can turn your weakness into a strength. Take all your enthusiasm for anything but the most urgent deadline, and instead of battling against that dread and procrastination, and instead of wasting your procrastination on non-productive things, channel it into something else productive. It might not be the most important thing you have to do right now, but it will be later, and when it is, you won’t want to do it. If you ever become un-motivated, switch tasks. Just keep being productive and tell yourself, “at least I’m getting something done.”
Well I hope at least one of these works! Best of luck, and take naps with reckless abandon.
If you would like some advice for your awkward moment, comment or send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org