If you ask the successful folks in your life how they manage to avoid that awful feeling of procrastination they will most likely respond, “I don’t!” In a study done by Cal Newman (author of How to Become a Straight-A Student: The Unconventional Strategies Real College Students Use to Score High While Studying Less), he discovered that the most successful students had no strategy for avoiding the feeling of procrastination. Instead, they had found ways to keep going anyway. This post will give you 10 creative ways to work through the mind-numbing sludge commonly known as Procrastination.
One: Ask yourself HOW TO do something not HOW TO AVOID IT
Let’s face it. Finding a reason to avoid writing that paper is way easier than breaking down the paper into doable steps. Don’t make a list of every thing else you have to do – make a list of how to accomplish this task. An example of this is when I wake up late for class. My immediate reaction is “Why even go? I don’t have time to eat first and my hair is a mess” and so on and so on. I fight that thought process with this one, “How fast can I brush my teeth? I can take the stairs today instead of the elevator to save time!” It takes energy for either one, but the second kind doesn’t usually come naturally. The more you start implementing “how can I get this done” instead of “how can I avoid this” the faster you’ll see your life become crazy productive and satisfying.
Two: Get a Planner That Works for You
There are a million kinds of planners out there (trust me, I went through every single office supply store to find the perfect one) and there are just as many different personalities and lifestyles. Finding the one that works for you can be challenging and even a bit frustrating, but having everything you need to do laid out will make it easier to stick through the boring times. If you can’t find a planner that fits your life, you can always try making a bullet journal. They’re all the rage right now and I’m really enjoying making mine exactly what I need it to be. I’ll post more on that once I get in the groove.
Three: Keep Your Focus on Your End Goals
The planner is supposed to help you keep track of all the little things because you need to stay focused on what you’re really working on ultimately. An exam in a gen ed class may seem trivial but it is all part of you getting your degree and getting your degree is a huge step towards making your future what you want it to be. Remembering this can give you the courage to wade through the mucky busywork. Make a list of your big dreams and goals and maybe even post pictures that around your room or work space that remind you of them.
Four: Stop Being So Hard on Yourself
Perfectionism counts when you’re trying to put a man on the moon, but in day to day life it can be a crippling disease. It is an oppressive task master that takes the joy out of your work. One way to fight this urge is to set time limits on your work. Say, you have a ten page paper to write – break down each part into smaller tasks (finding sources, writing the intro, writing each argument in your body, writing the conclusion) and then limit each section. It helps to have an accountability partner who can make sure you’re not “cheating.” I find this particularly helpful when I have to do a take-home test. Without the structure of a in-class exam I have been known to spend hours upon hours writing an essay exam that was only meant to take 75 minutes. So go get a buddy and a timer and get started!
Five: Schedule Time for Yourself
Sometimes it can feel like if we don’t take a break now we’ll never stop working. After days of the monotonous work-eat-sleep routine, a boring assignment can seem absolutely impossible. It’s important to schedule free time. You don’t have to even do anything during that time. Sometimes I schedule time just to curl up in my bed and play games on my phone. It sounds silly, but knowing I have that waiting for me helps me to fight through a mundane or difficult task. I don’t like working out, but knowing that if I stick to my schedule I’ll have some time to kick back and relax afterwards makes it doable.
Six: Plan Ahead to Win
My dad used to say this all time when I was growing up. It goes along with the “get a planner” and the “focus on the main goal” sections. Keeping track of the daily tasks and remembering why you’re doing all those little things are a big deal and will help you stay above water in life, but planning ahead to win means having a master plan that directly connects the little things to the big things. The master plan says “these classes I’m taking are worth it because they will lead to this knowledge/degree/certificate that will mean that I can get that job/promotion/business so that I can spend more time with my family/doing my favorite hobbies/traveling the world.” If you don’t make this master plan, it will be easy to push aside the unsavory items on your to-do list right into Neverland.
Seven: Streamline the Basics
Make the daily stuff as routine as possible. Get up and go to bed at the same time, eat meals at the same times, write in your journal at the same time, exercise at the same time, etc. Laying out your clothes for the next day every night can help a lot too. Some people even plan out their outfits for the entire week ahead of time.This may seem like your life will become too regimented or boring, but it actually will free your mind from remembering all those little things, allowing you to spend your brain energy on more creative and interesting things – like starting that pillow shop you’ve always dreamed about.
De-clutter. Not just your possessions but also your schedule. There just isn’t enough time or energy to do all of the things. It’s time to pick quality over quantity. Also, just because you don’t have time to learn how to play violin right now (because you’re working two jobs and going to school full time) doesn’t mean that there won’t be a point in your future where you will be able to. (Make sure you make a place for it in your master plan!) When your living space and working space have only what you can reasonably use, there will be fewer distractions to tempt you from THAT THING YOU DON’T WANT TO DO. Plus, there is always someone who could use the stuff you’re keeping in boxes right now. It’s truly freeing. Trust me.
Nine: Learn How to Say No
I’m a people-pleaser. I hate telling people I can’t help them out or that I’m too busy to spend time with them. My first response to every invitation and request is “Yes!” and I have to consciously force myself to hold back and actually consider if I really have time to commit to it. Every time someone asks you to do something – no matter what it is – they are asking for your most valuable commodity: your time. It’s okay to take time to consider how exactly you want to spend it. I’m getting better at taking a moment to really consider if what they’re asking is wise or if it’s just impulsive on my part. The reality is, you’re going to get asked to do a lot of things in your life. Make sure that when the big ones come up, you haven’t already overloaded your schedule with the trivial things.
Ten: DO. THE. THING.
Okay, so this is a little bit of a lame one, but it’s really true. You’ve read this. Great. Now your job is to GET THAT THING ACCOMPLISHED. Right. Now. No more excuses. The only thing keeping you from getting it done is YOU.
Comment below with any additional ideas for pushing through life version of writer’s block!! 🙂