Do you struggle with procrastination? Learn how you can work with procrastination instead of fighting it today!
I think we can all agree that at times, procrastination is our biggest enemy. Instead of constantly trying to fight it, have you ever tried to work with procrastination?
Whether we have an assignment due, a project to complete or simply a task that needs to be done, procrastination always seems to be there to stop us from doing what needs to be done.
- decreases your productivity
- lowers your performance
- increases your levels of frustration and stress
Procrastination is possibly one of those obstacles can never be overcome. Say you managed to fight it and beat it for one deadline, what happens when the next deadline comes creeping up? And the next, and the next… Some might say that it’s a losing battle, and so as per the definition of insanity as “doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results”, why keep fighting procrastination the same way each and every time it happens?
Now, I’m not about to tell you the secret to beating procrastination, or how to go from procrastinator to productive worker overnight. No, I’m here to tell you how you can use procrastination to your advantage.
Yes, you read that correctly, procrastination can be harnessed into something positive if you stop trying to constantly fight it.
Everyone seems to treat procrastination like an enemy, an obstacle that one needs to overcome. But what do you get out of that, other than fighting with yourself every other minute to get something done?
Nothing. All you succeed in doing is making yourself more frustrated, more agitated and frankly, less likely to actually get anything done.
So, why don’t you try to embrace your procrastination and work with it?
Instead of using your time to lounge around and watch endless episodes of your favourite tv show, why not use this time to browse the internet for your next source of inspiration? Maybe that’s just the catalyst that you need for your next big project.
Procrastination can be positive when:
- you need a make a huge decision (e.g. which degree to study, which university to study at)
- you’re in search of a creative, out-there solution
- you feel stuck and unable to move forwards
This is because procrastination allows your mind to wander, and instead of blindly focusing on the one path, your mind tries to find alternative pathways around it. Sometimes, the more determined you are to find a solution, the less likely you will succeed.
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As a student, I do my fair share of procrastinating. Especially during exam season, I find myself unable to come up with the motivation to actually do anything remotely related to what I need to get done.
When it comes to this, I tend to get a little unconventional in finding new ways to motivate myself.
I leave my work where it is and go outside
How would this work? You might ask.
Well, for me it’s quite simple. I find ways to purposely make myself more stressed so as to push myself into doing something productive. When I allow myself to procrastinate at home, I don’t feel much of my impending stresses because I’m still sitting at my laptop so some part of my brain is wired to think that if I wanted to get anything done, I would have the ability to do so.
So, what I like to do is leave the house, leave my laptop at home, and do something that’s completely recreational, e.g. go out and watch a movie, or take a stroll in the neighbourhood.
It’s at times like these when I don’t have my laptop by my side that I start to feel increasingly stressed about the work that needs to be done. This way, I’m actively thinking about what I need to get done, which in itself, pushes me to go and actually get something done.
It’s also, ironically, when I feel most inspired. Whenever I’m stuck for new ideas, they always come to me while I’m out and doing something completely unrelated.
I get creative
When I find myself not wanting to get any work done but I force myself to write down a to-do list anyway, I like to get really creative in the way that I write my goals down.
Sometimes, I write in the weirdest font imaginable, or I even mix up about 10 different fonts writing down one sentence. I also like to incorporate a lot of colour, so my to-do list at this stage is in a word, “messy”.
If you’re like me and being messy and creative helps you see exactly what needs to get done, then you might like to purchase a “wreck it” journal to keep track of your “artworks”. Sometimes, my best ideas come from these periods of insanity because I’m not actively trying to come up with ideas.
So, if you think about it, you’re still procrastinating, but in a productive way.
How can you work with procrastination?
Imagine procrastination as a boulder. A boulder that blocks your path to success, that prevents you from doing what needs to be done. No matter how much you push and shove at the boulder, it doesn’t move, doesn’t budge.
So, consider this…
What if instead of fighting and trying to push a boulder that won’t budge, you turned the procrastination boulder into a ball, a pliable ball which you could roll in front you while still moving forward?
This is what I like to call productive procrastination. Putting off the larger tasks that feel undoable, and working on smaller and easier tasks instead. Or simply using your time to find new sources of inspiration.
Here’s an example:
If you have an assignment due, laundry to wash and dishes to clean, try to complete them in the most time-efficient way that allows you to work with your procrastination.
First, break down your assignment into smaller steps.
- Look over the assignment specifications
- Note any required resources (e.g. textbooks, academic papers, articles from journals)
- Format your document with all relevant pages (e.g. title page, references, appendix), titles, format and spacing
- Go online to browse for resources, skimming through and keeping the tab open if you want to use it
- Copy and paste any text that could help inspire your writing and contain information useful to your topic
- Gather a list of quotes that could be included in the assignment as evidence (if required)
- Make dot points of the important concepts and ideas that each paragraph with cover
- Start writing the actual body of the assignment, leaving the introduction, conclusion, opening and concluding sentences to the end
- Once all the actual information has been written, move on to completing your opening and concluding sentences of each body paragraph
- Finally, write your introduction and then the conclusion
By breaking down a huge assignment into smaller, more actionable steps, you are able to feel a sense of accomplishment every time you tick off a task on the list, which will motivate you to keep going so you can keep ticking them off.
Your second step should be to put the laundry into the washer.
This will take you a maximum of 5 minutes and so in the next hour while waiting for the cycle to end, you’ll be able to work on your other two tasks and not waste any time.
Then, alternate between working on your assignment and completing other tasks
To prevent yourself from losing all motivation and burning out, work on your assignment by following the steps above until you start to feel restless and in need of a break. This is when you should move on to washing the dishes so that you can take your mind off the assignment.
Sometimes, it is when you’re doing such a mundane task that new ideas will come to you because you don’t need to focus on washing the dishes. Next thing you know, you’ll suddenly feel more motivated than ever.
Now, all three of these tasks might seem like huge pieces of work, but as long as you focus on doing them one at a time, remembering to take breaks in between, then you’ll be able to work with your procrastination rather than against it.
- Break down all of your tasks into smaller and more achievable ones
- Complete the task that requires the least time first
- Alternate between working on larger projects with smaller, easier tasks
It’s perfectly okay to take some time off here and there to watch a tv episode, read a chapter of a book, or play a round of a video game, as long as you’re still ticking things off your to-do list. Don’t berate yourself for needing to take a break now and then.
If you really don’t feel like doing anything except browsing the internet, try to make that time worthwhile instead of spending 2 hours watching cat videos. Look up new recipes that you want to try, new DIY projects that look interesting, or new books that you want to read. These all keep your mind active and in the creative zone, which makes it much more likely for an epiphany to come to you.
How has procrastination helped me?
I use to be a horrible procrastinator. I would spend hours battling myself to study and all I got out of it was 8 hours of watching television and going to bed mad at myself.
This cycle would repeat, day in and day out, until I got to the day before the deadline. This was when I panicked, raced to finish whatever needed to be done, and I ended up producing work of really poor quality and going about the rest of my day on less than 6 hours of sleep.
I knew that I wouldn’t be able to do this before every exam or assignment. It was extremely impractical.
So, I started brainstorming. I asked myself, what’s stopping me from achieving these goals I set for myself?
The answer was simpler than I originally believed. I honestly believed that I wasn’t capable of doing it unless I had the deadline breathing fire down my back.
I stubbornly believed that it was ‘like climbing Mt Everest’, a mountain that I couldn’t go over or around. And that I needed the looming deadline to push me up and over. All because I refused to envision my task as anything other than the burden I perceived it to be.
This was when I decided that I needed to change my mindset.
I was going to stop fighting my need for procrastination and instead try to work with it. I was going to change the way I viewed my challenges.
Rather than one huge mountain, I decided to see small sloping hills. Going over them all at once would definitely be too much for me, but taking them one at a time? Now that was something I could get on board with.
I still leave plenty of time to myself to read, watch my favourite tv shows and browse the internet, but I no longer feel the all-consuming guilt that I used to. AND, I feel more productive.
I was never going to be able to change my personality, but just by changing the way I saw my tasks, I learned how to work with procrastination instead of against it.
So, this is how you can work with procrastination rather than against it!
Do you have your own tips for working with procrastination? Share them down below!
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