I was looking at the screen working on a math problem that I hated. I started to feel uncomfortable. It was as if somebody whispered in my ear “Check your Facebook first, and come back to your task when you feel better.” I start listening to that devil. I opened Facebook, chatted with my friends, and commented on my friends’ postings. Boy, the devil was right. It did feel good. Later, however, I realized that I had spent an hour on Facebook, and I hadn’t even started on my math problem. Also, I needed to do other tasks. I began to get frustrated. I blamed myself, regretting my waste of time.
Did you ever have that experience? Dude, we should be best friends!
This problem is called procrastination. We procrastinate when start working on something – particularly something that we don’t like. The pain center in our brain lights up and causes the feeling of discomfort. Our brain then switches our attention to more pleasant activities like chatting on Facebook, texting friends, or browsing something we enjoy. Unfortunately, this pleasant feeling lasts only until we realize that we have wasted our time.
As the English poet Edward Young (1683–1765) observed, “Procrastination is the thief of time.”
Procrastination is common. Even university professors have difficulty with procrastination.
What we don’t realize is that the feeling of discomfort only occurs when we think about the tasks that we want to do. It happens for a short period of time. It’s the anticipation that causes the pain not the doing. As soon as we start on doing the task, the bad feeling will disappear.
So here’s my advice: Ignore the discomfort and just start working.
I also have some other tips for you. I have tried these myself, and Thank God, these tips work.
- Promodoro technique
The Promodoro technique is a time management method of focusing on a particular task for 25 minutes, using a timer.
Before you set your alarm, focus on the task you want to do. Then, put your phone on silent, switch off any alerts on your laptop, and get rid of any distraction. Set your alarm to 25 minutes, and focus on your task. After the alarm rings, give yourself break.
It’s very important to focus on the process not the result. During your promodoro session, never think of finishing the whole task. Just focus on the task – not on how much you can finish during your focus time.
The Promodoro technique helps you tackle procrastination because it builds the habit of focusing on your task. The more you do it, the better you are at handling procrastination.
- Make a to do-list – make an appointment with yourself
I recommend you make two kinds of to-do lists, one for the week ahead and one for each day.. First make big to-do lists for the week, and then divide those big tasks into smaller ones that you can do each day.
It’s crucial to make your to-do lists before you go to sleep. Doing this will make your subconscious mind work in the background and help you to accomplish your tasks.
Try to be consistent with your tasks and avoid add more tasks on your to-do lists. For one thing, you don’t want to have endless tasks. Of course, sometimes you have urgent tasks that are not on your list, but try to add any tasks to your to-do lists. The more you do it, the better you will be at it.
Breaks and quit time are vital. Put breaks in between in your task and decide your quit time. Keep in mind that you want to focus on your tasks as well as having fun.
- Reward yourself
After you try those two tricks, I am sure you will improve. Next, you need to reward yourself. Our habitual brain loves reward. That’s why procrastination habit can develop so fast. Procrastination gives us reward which is the feeling of pleasure (even though, it’s a temporary).
You can reward yourself after you accomplish something. For example, after you submit your homework or finish your paper. The reward can be a cinema ticket or a sweater or even a chocolate bar.
For something small like finishing your one hour-session of promodoro, you can give yourself a candy, open your Facebook, or browse your favorite website without remorse.
Procrastination is a common problem. We don’t need to feel bad about it. However, we also don’t want to let ourselves fall into it. By constantly using promodoro technique and making a to-do lists, we will beat our procrastination enemy. Rewarding ourselves will make our new habit stronger. All of this is not easy at first, but once we get used to it, it will change our lives.