I’m all for doing a good job, and I never totally blow off responsibilities, but here’s the thing: if I spy an unscheduled sliver of time in my day, I am probably going to use it to rest, read 45 BuzzFeed articles on Friends, or watch 5 consecutive hours of Netflix in lieu of working on some required task that’s due the day after tomorrow. What can I say? Doing absolutely nothing is extremely appealing to me—especially so, it seems, when I should be working.
Does this mean I'm a procrastinator? Maybe (definitely, yes). But even the most driven and hardworking people can find themselves in some sort of slump. And that's okay.
I don’t think that procrastination occurs because of lax morals or a weak work ethic—it’s just that our fears, anxieties, and (somewhat ironically) ambitions can be so overwhelming that they paralyze us and stop us from doing what we know needs to be done.
Trying to be a more conscientious worker is an ongoing struggle. Over the past few years, I’ve figured out ways that allow my tendency to delay to work with me instead of stopping me from working entirely.
1. No time to waste.
You have an entire quarter’s worth of notes to cram into your head. Or maybe because you’ve been shoving crap into whatever empty spots you can find in your closet instead of cleaning everything out, the likelihood of a devastating avalanche is all too real. Don’t beat yourself up. Everyone procrastinates sometimes. If you’ve waited until the last minute to get to work, you don’t really have time to waste feeling ashamed of yourself. Try as hard as you can to push those negative thoughts to the back of your mind, take a deep breath, and get started.
2. Do some mental preparation.
Use the days leading up to your deadline to mentally formulate a plan of attack. Even if you aren’t producing something tangible until the night before your project is due, that doesn’t mean that you haven’t been working. This takes a minimal amount of effort, but it can really help you cross that threshold into doing the actual work.
Jot down notes in your mind on your way to class (or DWIB meetings),
During commercial breaks when you’re watching television, or even while you’re sitting on the toilet.
While we’re on the subject of bathrooms, you can also bring your study materials in there if you have an upcoming exam. That way you can take care of business while you’re taking care of business, then go back to the trifling activities you do whenever you’re procrastinating.
3. Create smaller, less intimidating goals.
Setting that smaller goal can jumpstart you and push you past the emotional or mental hurdles that might lead to procrastination.
If a huge-seeming task is scaring you off, make it less frightening by breaking it down into smaller, manageable tasks. Telling yourself you’ll work on a big project in nonnegotiable 15-minute chunks is a lot less intimidating when it comes to thinking about a looming deadline. It’s better than not doing anything at all, and whenever I do this I sometimes get in the zone and work for much longer than I’d planned to.
4. Set personal deadlines.
Procrastination is all about delaying everything until we absolutely have to get it done, we will just never do the things we don’t absolutely have to do. There's no deadline for cleaning your room unless someone gives you one. But that someone can be you! No more “I’m going to clean my room by Friday,” & more “I invited a bunch of friends to hang out, I should probably get my sh*t off the floor.” It’s important to attach some real-life weight to your own imposed deadlines.
Harnessing the power of procrastination requires us to strike a subtle balance between not hating ourselves for putting things off until the last moment—because the last thing we need when you’re toiling away at three o’clock in the morning is to feel like a complete failure. We have to focus on our intentions so that they can propel us forward.
Written by: Juliana Beduschi