6 Unique Productivity Tips from a Master Procrastinator
Updated: Jun 8, 2020
I’m a procrastinator. There. I said it. Be it starting this blog or working on a college assignment, I always procrastinate. Which means every time there’s something I need to be doing, I don’t do it. I leave everything till the last minute possible (usually not past a deadline, though).
For example, if I have to submit an assignment in a month, I’ll wait 29 days to start. And then I’ll do the entire thing in a frenzy in a few hours.
It’s stressful, but hey! It works, right? I work best under stress, after all.
Well, most people who have the ‘procrastination disease’ believe that. But the thing is, it isn’t true. Just imagine how much better that college assignment may have gone if you’d had just one more day to research. Imagine how much more you would have remembered if you had just started studying for that test one day earlier.
Here’s the thing. Procrastination and the ‘stress’ thing may work if you have a deadline. As the deadline approaches, you get more and more stressed, right? And even if it’s shoddy work and you know you could have done better, at least you finish it, right?
But what if there’s no deadline?
What if you want to apply for a new job because you’re unhappy at the current one, but you’re procrastinating? What if you really want to start a business of your own, but every time you sit to do it, an irresistible urge to see cute panda videos comes over you?
Often, the things you want to do for yourself don’t have deadlines; not really. Like starting a business. Or fulfilling your lifetime dream of writing a novel. So, if you’re a procrastinator, you may never end up doing it. And you’ll end up staying unhappy at your job till you're old and grey, or the world will miss out on your brilliant business idea. Or you’ll never finish that book.
But here’s the thing: the usual productivity tips don’t work for us, because we procrastinate even when we try to implement them. For example, a popular tip is, “Make a daily plan!” But if you’re a procrastinator, you’ll sit down to make a plan and suddenly want to re-read Harry Potter. Or worse, you force yourself to sit down and make a plan, and you don’t follow it!
What a waste.
But here are some things you can do to finally get your shit done. I know they work because I’ve tried them, and I procrastinate less now!
1. Set a deadline and tell the world
We’ve established that we work best under a deadline, right? So set one! I do this quite often. I tell myself I’ve GOT to finish a task by the end of the day or the end of the week, or something. But that’s not all. What’s the point in just setting a deadline? It’s just like making a plan. You’ll never follow it.
Tell someone about it. A loved one, maybe, or a close friend. Or better yet, post it on social media. Tell random strangers you’re going to complete this and this by tomorrow and see how that motivates you! “Log kya kahenge (what will people say)” is not exactly a healthy way to think about things, but it works in this case, at least.
2. Get someone to keep you accountable
This goes one step further than #1. Don’t just tell someone about your task and your deadline. Ask them to check in with you. Tell them, “If I don’t study two units by tomorrow, you can yell at me (or something like that).” The person here usually has to be a friend or a loved one, because it’s a commitment on their part, too.
If approaching them is not an option, try an accountability buddy (yes, those exist). Find someone you work with or someone who does the same thing as you. For example, if you’re a blogger, find another blogger and make a deal with them. You’ll keep track of their progress and they’ll keep track of yours. On the plus side, it’s also a great way to make new friends :P.
3. Make a list
I know, I know. Plans don’t work. But lists do. And they’re completely different from plans. Plans are those pesky long-term things you make for the things you want to do. It takes a long time to make them, and depending on how vague you are, they can be difficult to follow. But lists? They’re just a set of small tasks for the day. They’re a way to break down your goals into little pieces. For example, if ‘Creating a blog’ is your goal, your list could be a simple one like this:
See how easy it looks when you make such a list? When you just decide to do one tiny thing at a time; something that will take hardly half an hour, you won’t feel like procrastinating. And you won’t believe how very satisfying it is to tick items off a to-do list. I swear it’s the best feeling in the world!
Pro tip: Don’t just ‘tick’ things off. Instead, colour the boxes in.
That way, you can track exactly how much you’ve accomplished that day, and a half-coloured box is way more satisfying than an empty one waiting to be ticked.
4. Get rid of distractions
Remember that time you sat down to study and your phone ‘pinged’ with a notification from Insta? And remember how the urge to check that one notification turned into an entire hour of aimless scrolling?
That’s the problem, isn’t it? Aimless scrolling always trumps work. So, remove the temptation to scroll. Keep your phone in another room, or on silent. Download those apps that tell you to “stop scrolling already!” (Yes, they do exist.) Do whatever you need to kill your distractions, even if it means using earplugs when you’re working.
4. Plan your breaks
If you’re in the habit of planning your day and then never following your plan, this will definitely cut down your procrastination. The problem here is usually that we make an ideal plan and try to stuff all the work possible in the plan. Such a plan would look like this:
See what’s wrong with it? There are no breaks at all! The plan has literally let the work swallow your entire day, and you have nothing to look forward to. Instead, make a more realistic plan. Add 10 to 15-minute breaks every hour or so, or decide on task-based breaks.
For example, “I’ll take a 10-minute break when I’m done with one page of my college assignment.” Then you have something to look forward to, and if the urge to look up cat memes comes over you, you can tell yourself to “wait for just 10 minutes more”.
6. Don’t do it
I don’t mean, don’t do that college assignment that counts for half your grade. I mean, prioritise. If you’ve left something hanging for a few days and it’s not all that important, cut it off your to-do list. Don’t do it. When you’re trying to get stuff done, knowing what not to do is often more important than knowing what to do. So if it won’t make much of a difference whether you do it or not, just don’t do it!
There. That’s my awesome list of simple things you can do to stop procrastinating right now. I know that all this works, because they work for me, and believe me, I’m a pro at procrastinating. I make a task list every day and send a picture to my friends. I have accountability buddies for writing. I keep my phone on silent every time I sit to do work. And I prioritise.
And the best part is, if you do just one thing at a time until it becomes a habit, there may come a time that you stop procrastinating at all!
That time hasn’t come for me (yet), but one can hope, right?
Do you procrastinate? If so, how do you try to stop? Let me know in the comments!
P.S: If you want to know a bit about why we procrastinate, read this article by Tim Urban. He's hilarious, and if you procrastinate, you'll DEFINITELY relate to his article.