Procrastination is an old friend of mine. Sometimes, I’ll invite procrastination over for tea and he’ll stay for a week. If you can honestly tell me procrastination has never overstayed his welcome, then this post isn’t for you. I don’t think I have any advice that could help.
As much as I like to think I’m on the ball, it’s only within the last few months that I’ve been battling my procrastination habit. Let me tell you, it’s a hard habit to break. So don’t think of this list as me telling you I’m perfect and have all the answers (trust me, I’m far from perfect). Instead, think of it as a friend helping a friend with strategies for productivity.
Before tackling the big stuff, it’s important to answer three questions: why do you do it? When are you most productive? And what are you in the mood to do?
From there, figuring out how to tackle procrastination and boost your productivity is a piece of cake.
Why do you do it?
Figuring out why you procrastinate is the first step in getting things done. Personally, there are three main reasons I procrastinate; I feel overwhelmed, I’m lazy, and I forget. By working on how much these three things control my actions, I’ve been able to tackle my to-do list far more effectively. It takes a little self-reflection to figure out why you procrastinate, but trust me, once you figure it out half the battle is over.
When are you most productive?
Once the clock strikes 3 P.M. the day is over. I know there are more hours in the day, but trying to get anything done after that is impossible for me (that being said – I do most of my readings in the afternoon when I feel a little more settled).
If I know I need to get things done, I’ll schedule appointments for earlier in the day or try to get to the library around 9A.M. to claim a table. While this means getting up before noon on the weekends, if I can get everything done before dinner time, I still have all night to hang out with friends or binge a new Netflix show.
For some of my friends, I’d have to promise them a million dollars to get them up before noon (and for some, maybe not even that could do it) and that’s okay. Everyone has different productive hours, find your own.
What are you in the mood to do?
Part of the problem with procrastination is that I just don’t feel like getting anything done. I’m lazy so starting a task feels impossible, but then there is the nagging feeling that I have to do something.
For days when I just can’t bring myself to get anything done, I try to trick myself into working. I ask myself what am I in the mood to do? Sometimes, that’s reading or watching a show so I’ll get work done by reading a text for class or watching some videos on YouTube that relate to a topic in class (thanks crashcourse and philosophytube!)
If you want to leave your house, run some errands like picking up toilet paper or dropping off that shirt you borrowed from your friend weeks ago. Sometimes, you just can’t force yourself to do something and that’s okay.
Now that we know when you’re most productive and we’re ready to get work done, here are some tips to stay on track.
ONE – get dressed
I told you, I’m lazy. If I can spend all day at home, you bet I’m going to spend all day in my PJ’s. Except, when was the last time you felt motivated to get work done in your PJ’s? By not going through my normal morning ritual, I’ve made this day an exception. Sometimes, having a lazy day is great, but if you want to get anything done, putting on clothes is the first step. Even if all you’re doing is changing into leggings and a comfy sweater, you’re doing something that means it’s no longer time to just hang out in bed. It’s time to get stuff done.
TWO – make a top three
List making seems to be a favourite activity of productive (or fake productive) people. Writing down your tasks for the day helps you remember what actually needs to get done, and sometimes in what order they should be finished. I include fake productive people because I’ve made a lot of lists in my life and not every one of them has been completed. Why? Because I get overwhelmed easily when I see the long list of things I need to get done. I don’t even know where to start.
That’s why I stopped making giant lists and instead make my top three every night.
Before bed I write the top three things I need to get done for the next day somewhere I’m going to see it (phone, day planner, sticky notes on the mirror, ect. – just keep it consistent). These three things can be super simple like “clean desk”, “drop off library books”, or it can be something that’s going to require a little more time like “finish essay outline”. Just pick three things from your to-do list that you need to get done.
THREE – get out of your room
Unless you’re better at separating a space than most people I know, your bedroom will not be the ideal place to get things done. If you want the room to be a place you can relax, then also making it a place you spend hours studying isn’t the best plan. There are so many distractions in your bedroom and only you as a motivator. Even just knowing someone can see me scrolling through instagram when I know I should be studying keeps me on task.
Leave your bedroom as a place to seek comfort from everyday activities. Study in a coffee shop or a library, or under your favourite tree. I don’t know why, but leaving my house seems to mean business. Working becomes more than just a side thought, it’s the main task. I’ve left my house to get work done, so I might as well make it worth it.
RELATED READING: What To Do On Your Study Break To Make The Most Of It
FOUR- book an appointment with your professor
I might know a week in advance that I have a paper due, but that doesn’t stop me from starting the night before. Despite knowing that every time I pull an all-nighter to complete an assignment I enter this mode of panic and feel terrible the next day, it’s happened more often than I’m willing to admit.
To fix this, I started going to my professors during weekly office hours to discuss the upcoming assignment in stages. This way, I had to have something done in advance and liked discussing things that related to my thesis most. Not only did this keep me accountable, but it gave me a little insight into how I could tweak my essay to really convince my professor.
FIVE – hold your friends accountable
Similar to making an appointment with professors, creating a study group holds you accountable. I book a room in my school’s library once or twice a week and invite friends to come and study with me. These friends don’t have to be in the same major as me (in fact, most aren’t) but we can still help each other with assignments or help study for upcoming tests. When I book a room it seems like more of a commitment than just showing up at the library or a coffee shop would.
Having friends study with you can mean you end up talking about things not relating to classes, but if you can find a group of people who want to be productive than it works out. Plus, having a group of friends you consistently study with means they might know when you have upcoming assignments or tests and can remind you to work on them. You don’t have to do everything on your own. Build a support system to have your back for times when you just can’t bring yourself to do anything.
SIX – treat yo’ self
Can you tell I’m a fan of treat yo’ self day? You’re human. Every single day can’t be filled with things from your to-do list. You have to give yourself some time to unwind. Self-care is so important. Make it part of your daily routine and you’ll actually be more productive. For me, self-care means giving myself half an hour to do some pilates or making sure I do have time to read for fun. If you’ve been working hard all day, you deserve a few episodes of your favourite show or whatever self-care means to you.
Let yourself have a few guilt-free hours a week to hang out with friends. You deserve it after all the hard work you do!