"I should get up and complete the assignment," Anne mumbled to herself.
"But it's too cold out there, and I just don't want to get out of the warm cosy blanket of mine," she soothed herself with words, as she snuggled further into the cosiness. She has a choice to make, either get up; sit on the desk and complete her goddamn assignment or stay where she was snuggled up in warmth. Which would you choose? The comfort of the blanket sounds enticing, right? But that won't help her GPA, would it? Which is important? The work that will ease your future or the one which will give you comfort now? We know the answer but still, we tend to choose the one which will give us comfort now. This is called procrastination. Procrastination is something very mundane that we go through. Some people even opine to be a chronic procrastinator. However, it's certainly conquerable. Here are some very easy and practical steps.
1. The itsy-bitsy push
Let's get back to the scenario of the student. Obviously, getting up to complete any task takes a lot of motivation. The task which may have taken just an hour takes as long as 8-10 hours, which is a total blunder. While snuggled up, that student must have this thought, "But that assignment is important!" If that happens what should she do? At this time she needs a little push. In her book The 5-Second Rule, Mel Robbins gave a very intriguing rule that relates to the issue we are dealing with today. Now can you guess the name of the rule? According to this when the situation that we discussed above arises, give yourself a countdown of 5! 4! 3! 2! 1! and shoot! Say it aloud, this gives you a sense of urgency for a moment, and when you are out of bed, then you have no other option but to start the work.
2. The Journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step
Now that you are up and out of the comfort of warmth, all you have to do is start it. How to start if you aren't motivated at all?! Right? Nuh-uh! Don't get back to the bed, sit right on your work area—and start. That's all. Just start. The journey of a thousand miles always begins with a single step, and taking that simple single step is hard. Doesn't matter what your work is. You may be a student, an entrepreneur or an office worker, or a writer. Just start. How? You may ask? Read the first line of the assignment. Make small goals, start small. Don't put a lot on yourself, because you will get overwhelmed and get right back to your distractions and start to procrastinate again.
Now let's take the example of Anne. She is sitting on her desk fiddling with all the assignments that have been piling up and now she needs to complete them. It's getting overwhelming for her but she has to start. So what she does is, she takes a pen and a paper and writes down the assignments she has to complete in an order of their highest priority. Great! Now she has a list, but oh no! The first assignment is of History and she isn't a big fan. What will she do? "OK, what is second on the list?" she sees the list, "Aha! Mathematics. My favourite subject!" And, she gets herself to at least start with the first sum of the assignment. And there you go! The completion of one problem leads to second and then completing it leads to third. Now Anne has got good momentum! She can complete her tasks smoothly now.
So what did we learn? Make a list, let yourself know how much is there to be done. Then, start with a task which seems exciting to you, from the list. Make your goals small. It may start by studying just for 5 mins. Then tell yourself, "Just next 5 more mins, I will do this." Remember, consistency is the key.
3. “Art is long and Time is fleeting”
In a social experiment, two groups of 13 students each were taken and these students were given 3 weeks to complete three assignments. Group A was to submit 3 assignments all together after 3 weeks, whereas group B had to submit one assignment, after each week. The students were of the same batch, with the same workload. So what do you guess must have happened? The average work done by group A was just 50-60% whereas group B, who had been given a tight time period to complete, showed better performance with the average of whooping 90-95%!
When we differentiate our tasks in small time periods, the work starts to look easier, that's what happened with group B students. As for group A students, they had a thought in the back of their heads, "We still have a lot of time until the deadline."
The problem is we think that we have enough time to complete our task, and we also overestimate ourselves, ending up screwing our task. The solution? I think I know of a saviour. Let me introduce to you the Pomodoro Technique. The Pomodoro Technique is one of the best and well-renowned ways to tackle dallying. This is a technique where you split your task into 4 slots of 25 minutes each, followed by a 5 minutes break. The problem is, people tend to take this five minutes break for too long and end up doing nothing. So what should you do in this five minutes slot? You should plan what you are going to do in the next 25-minute slot, or listen to motivational speeches, which will help you to stay in momentum and not break your focus from your task. Or you could simply do nothing. Don’t believe me? Read this article that talks about the power of taking efficient breaks.
4. Taming the demon
In the contemporary world, we are surrounded by distractions. Television, new web-series, YouTube, SNS, name it! We get tempted to watch the new movies released just by hearing the name of it by populous, and are ready to throw away our work in the trash, no? Well, it is pretty normal. To resist these attractions is not easy. It's like the forbidden fruit, the more we resist, the more tempted we get. And the cage where all these demons reside is, none other than your smartphone, right? But what if I say that you can use this demon as your accomplice and complete your task? Here's the trick again.
Open the alarm clock application, and set alarm for every hour. Let's say, you need 4 hours to complete your task, and you start it at 12 pm. So set an alarm for 1 pm, then 2 pm and so on. Now, when you are distracted and use your phone, the alarm will ring after an hour and help you realize that you have wasted one hour. This will allow you to keep track of time you are actually doing your work.
The next trick is to use the focus mode. There is a feature called focus mode in many smartphones these days which blocks the distracting apps for the time being. This will allow you to complete your work without distractions.
5. Wreck-it to make a new one
Ever thought why do you actually procrastinate? There may be a lot of reasons, but the vital one is that you are habitual of procrastinating. Delaying the task has become your habit. In his book, Atomic Habits, James Clear has precisely explained how bad habits can be changed into good ones by just a little change. It's called the ripple effect. Just like a small ripple in the pond can turn back into a huge wave, similarly, a small change in our daily routine can bring out significant results. Want to get a good GPA? Start studying 30 minutes every day with consistency. Want to be a great writer? Start writing at least 50 words every day. The most important point here is 'every day.' If you keep on procrastinating every day, you will build a habit and this habit will seep through your personality and further, your identity. Conversely, if Anne wants to become a straight-A student, she has to study 'every day', sounds simple right?
It's true that one cannot be motivated all the time. Not all the time one can sit up and start doing. But once you have formed a habit of completing the task, you will be able to complete whatever you desire to. It's bizarre how this little head of ours can be tricked and tempted. But is procrastination always bad? Not certainly, sometimes procrastination is a requirement. Having a break from your task and delaying it for some time, puts your brain on restart mode and so it can function efficiently, hence giving a boost to your creativity. You don't have to cage yourself like a mountain beast but unleash that beast to prove its worth. The more you restrain yourself, the more uninterested in anything you become. No matter what type of time table you are making or 'To-do list' you are making, make it in such a way that you don't get burdened by your own work. Remember, don't restrain, but unleash.