It’s Sunday night and your essay deadline is tomorrow morning, you’re only halfway through and you’ve already taken too many liberties with your tutor so there’s no chance of pushing it with an extension this time. You’re sat at your desk – laptop open, Solange playing in the background for emotional support, books at the ready. You’re just about to get into the swing of it when you decide a cup of tea would be great. Two hours later after trying to choose between three different teas, being unsatisfied with all of them, leaving your house to go to Sainsbury’s local, getting back, offering your housemate tea and then having an in-depth conversation about yesterday’s episode of First Dates – your essay still remains finished. Procrastination can get the best of anyone.
“I tend to do just about anything before doing the important tasks at hand”
The stress of important deadlines or achieving tasks in a set amount of time has led me to do some ridiculous things. Whether it’s cooking an elaborate four-hour lunch (even making pasta from scratch) instead of checking my emails or deciding to get lost in the depths of the weird side of YouTube over completing a job application; I tend to do just about anything before doing the important tasks at hand.
Although procrastination is usually unhelpful and time-consuming, as someone working in a creative industry, sometimes it helps me get over artistic blocks. Stepping away from your work and doing something completely different can help you come back with fresh ideas, motivation and a new focus. The problem lies in taking a step back as an avoidance technique. So if you’ve found yourself reading an article about procrastination because you’re on a procrastination bender, here’s my step-by-step guide to combating it:
Don’t be hard on yourself
If you’ve got 53 unread emails, you haven’t texted your mate back in days and your library books are overdue by a week, it’s okay. Deadlines and responsibilities can be overwhelming. The harder you are on yourself for not completing tasks the more likely you are to avoid it all together. It’s okay to be overwhelmed, but try not to wallow in guilt. The more you guilt yourself over procrastinating the higher your levels of stress are going to be.
Set yourself realistic goals
Know yourself and how you work. For me, because I know I have the attention span of a goldfish, sitting down and attempting to write continuously for three hours would be unrealistic and counterproductive for me. Instead I’ll set myself an a amount of words to do in a given time.
Prioritise your workload to the best of your ability.
Try and finish one task before you start another one. If you’re anything like me you might think it’s a good idea to start something, get bored or find and aspect of it difficult and begin something new (this is why i currently have thirteen tabs open over two browser pages). Try and complete one thing at a time. If setting goals doesn’t work – bribe yourself. Maybe there’s a new top you want, so treat yourself to it if you finish an important task. You could also look into restricting your social events until you’re done with one of your tasks.
Be honest and ask for help
If you’re drowning in silence let someone know. We all know how awful the feeling of repeatedly ignoring the same person’s email is. You could set up an out of office-style email explaining that you’re a bit behind with everything and you’ll reply as soon as your can. Or similarly, posting in a space you trust on social media just so that people know that you’re okay, or may need help. Although asking for help can often feel like one of the hardest things to do, most people are very understanding. If your tasks are starting to become overwhelming, reach out to a loved one and let them know that you need support.
Take yourself out of distracting environments
I’m more likely to procrastinate if I’m surrounded by distractions. This isn’t to say you should lock yourself away with nothing but your computer. But you could put your phone on silent on the other side of the room for a bit. If you find your home quite distracting try working in a library, cafe, or a public area where you think you’ll be able to get on with things. Or perhaps working with a friend could serve as a way to encourage both yourself and someone else to stay on track.
Whatever you do, don’t beat yourself up about it. Procrastination happens to the best of us.