Procrastinating is a wonderful thing. I’ll ruffle some feathers saying this, but I think procrastinating is often a really useful thing to do. When I’m avoiding the thing I want to do least (currently? Writing a history paper), I get a ton of other things done.
However, it does get to a point when you need to stop procrastinating, and get working. When asked how to stop procrastinating, most people say “just do it!” That’s not helpful for me, so I decided to look into easy, tangible ways to get myself started on things I don’t always want to do.
Here are five tips for making that process a little easier, and to help you get started on the big, hairy projects you don’t want to do:
Define the task.
When I’m working, most of my issues in getting started come from not knowing what it is I need to do. Maybe it’s “write a paper.” Instead, break it down: A paper about what? What’s your thesis? What’s your first paragraph about? When you understand what you need to do, it becomes much less overwhelming. Procrastination is usually the forgoing of things we don’t know how to do in favor of things we’re comfortable with- break down the big stuff into smaller things you can handle, and getting to work won’t seem so daunting.
Take Baby Steps.
Don’t sit down and write the whole paper. Agree with yourself to sit down and write 50 words, or 75 words, or one paragraph. Start small- give yourself a set, small, achievable task to accomplish. It’ll make getting to work easier, it won’t take as long, and my guess is that you’ll be hooked by the time you get to the end, and staying focused won’t be so difficult. As the saying goes, how do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.
This is similar to the point above, but for a different reason. In my experience, if I have 30 minutes to do something, I do it in 30 minutes. If I have 3 hours to do it, I do it in three hours. When you’re going to get to work, do it for a certain period of time. Do homework for 30 minutes. Do research for an hour. You might not get all of it done, but setting a time at which you’re going to stop keeps you focused, and makes the task less daunting. With a few exceptions, you’ll fill the time to the task, so make the time short to help you work faster. Researching for an hour is much easier to get into than “doing my research.”
Set Up Shop.
This is one of my favorite ways to procrastinate, as well as a great way to get me working. Create a space to work. Maybe it’s at home, or a coffee shop, the library- wherever. Make it clean, organized, and with the tools you need readily available. In my experience, by the time I’m set up, I’m in the working mindset, and ready to hunker down. Neat, organized spaces that are designed to facilitate doing what you need to be doing is a huge step to actually doing it. For me it’s a cup of tea, my computer, my iPod, a pad of paper and pen, and my computer and peripherals. Nothing else goes on my desk, and I’m ready to work.
When doing something is scary, I don’t do it. I put things off and put things off, and then I end up in terrible position to get anything done. Make sure to always remind yourself that whatever you’re doing isn’t something you can’t do, and it’s something that won’t kill you to do. I tend to make tasks out to be much worse than they actually are. Using the four steps above, make sure that you keep the task in a realistic mindset, and it won’t seem so big and scary. Keep remembering you can do it!
Are you a procrastinator? What helps you get started when you really need to get down to work? Tell us in the comments.