(This is a cross-post from Facebook)
I am no stranger to procrastination. Luckily, in
spite of my laziness and general irresponsibility, I do have a few
tricks for getting things done. Let's suppose I need to get a
4,000 word paper done, but I just want to watch YouTube videos (this is
based on real-life experiences). I haven't done any work yet, so it
would help if I could just get started.
(1) Consider what's
stopping me from getting started. In the case of my 4,000 word paper, I
had to write it using a program called LaTeX. As silly as it sounds, the
act of starting up a program can be a tedious experience, particularly
if it takes a long time to load. Then I need to get my research notes
out of my binder, and that could mean *gasp* walking all the way across
the room. Once I've identified what's stopping me, I make a deal with
myself: if I open LaTeX, and get my notes out of my binder and within
reach of my computer, I'll allow myself to watch YouTube videos
guilt-free for half an hour afterwards (consider using an actual,
(2) Identify the smallest bit of work you
could do that would still count as progress. In the case of my 4,000
word paper, writing one sentence technically counts as progress. If that
seems too intimidating, consider writing one word, or one letter. My
next deal with myself goes as follows: if I write one
sentence/word/letter in my paper, then I'll allow myself to watch
YouTube videos guilt-free for half an hour afterwards.
great thing about this step is that it uses your flaws to your
advantage. If you're like me, then sometimes you finish watching one
YouTube video, tell yourself the next one will be the last, but then
trick yourself into watching another one anyway. The same principle
works with writing the paper. I find myself saying "I'll just write ONE
sentence, and then it's back to YouTube." But once I've finished that
sentence, I start thinking "Well, I might as well write the NEXT
sentence, since it's pretty much continuing the same idea..."
(3) Take a step back and consider what you're actually doing when you
procrastinate. Changes are you're not just sitting still doing nothing.
You're still doing something, it's just not what you're "supposed" to be
doing. If you take time away from your work to do something you enjoy,
try to make it something productive, or something that challenges you or
makes you a better person somehow. This brings me to my third deal with
myself: I decide in advance some alternate productive task (for
example, cleaning my desk) and give myself a choice: at any moment, I
may work on my 4,000 word paper, or I may clean my desk. Once I get
bored of one task, I switch back to the other. In effect, I'm pitting my
procrastination instincts against each other and hacking myself into
being more productive.
These have worked for me in the past.
However, I take no responsibility for any damage caused by anyone else
trying these techniques for themselves.