There is one thought that continuously streams through a procrastinator’s mind: I’ll do it later. I have plenty of time. Whether it’s because you’re distracted easily, you’re busy, or you just don’t feel like it, putting work off to the side for temporary pleasure can cause a lot of stress down the line. For example, I created this article on the day that it was due, as I felt that I didn’t have the inspiration to turn any of my ideas into an insightful piece of writing. What I didn’t know then was that my first job would schedule me for an extra two days, my second job would also give me overtime, and all six of my classes would assign egregious amounts of homework due at the end of the week. Jump forward in time to me writing this article while pulling my hair out and trying not to scream. So here are a few tips to stay organized and get your work done as soon as possible:
- Set a Schedule
Oftentimes, procrastinators think that they have plenty of time before an assignment is due. Your project isn’t due until next week, or your boss doesn’t need that paper for another month. However, if you actually formed a visual representation of the time that you have and what areas are already blocked out due to sleep, work, or prior obligations, you’ll find that you have significantly less time than you thought. If you’re stalling while working on the task at hand, the necessary work time that you need blocked out is going to expand. So don’t freak out about ten things being due on the same date. Chances are, they were assigned, or hinted at being assigned, at varying points, but you chose to acknowledge their existence at the same time. Create a timeline for yourself, highlighting due dates and periods of time where you’re actually free. I keep all my to-do lists on a free website called Milanote or write on a piece of paper, keeping in mind that, while some projects are due sooner than others, certain ones are much larger and therefore have to be started earlier. Once you’re organized and have a plan, it’ll be easier to stick to your schedule and get things done.
- Block Out Distractions
Short attention spans are the Achilles’ heel of most procrastinators. Notifications about the newest content, messages from friends, and the temptation to engage in various hobbies can easily pull you away from unappealing tasks. Even cleaning your room can be preferable to tackling certain subjects. Acknowledge what trips you up and remove it from the room while you’re working. Put your phone on silent or even keep it in another room. If the internet itself is what’s distracting you and you need to type something up, try writing it out first before transferring it to your computer. It may seem longer to physically write everything, but it may actually save you time by preventing you from being sucked down an electronic wormhole.
- Jump Around If Need Be
Certain procrastinators feel like they have to complete tasks chronologically or fully finish them in one sitting. Instead of getting started and saving time later, you end up not starting at all. Instead, trying starting at the place where you feel most comfortable and will likely be most productive. It’s like the old test-taking adage: if you’re not sure what to do, skip it and come back. Whether that means taking on the intended third paragraph of your essay first or working backwards on an upcoming project, do what’s necessary to make progress. Once you actually see bits and pieces completed, you will be emboldened to work on the rest.
- Break Up Your Breaks
Oftentimes, what we as procrastinators tell ourselves is that we’ll take a “short break.” I’ll watch this one video, and then I’ll go back to doing my homework. Let’s be real, those “short breaks” can turn into hours of plunging into the depths of Youtube or social media feeds. Instead, try setting a phone timer and alternating between your projects and brain breaks. That way, you can make incremental progress while also still getting to enjoy yourself. If you’re on a roll, try and skip the breaks, as you can end up regressing back to an unmotivated mindset afterwards. Scheduling in these periods of time can help keep you on track while also serving as a sort of reward system for working hard.
Staying on task requires mental self-control and determination. Avoiding your responsibilities in favor of having fun can feel satisfying in the short run, but pleasure is temporary and often unfulfilling. Now that you’ve come to the end of this article, you can quit procrastinating (we know the real reason you’re here) and start diving into your to-do list. Good luck.