We all know that feeling: It’s Sunday night and you’ve spent the weekend doing everything in your power not to get your work done in hopes that either a) it would magically do itself or b) you would somehow experience a major attitude shift and all of a sudden find it in you to pump out all that stuff that’s due at 8am on Monday morning. Alas, neither or those scenarios came to fruition and here you are, once again, pounding coffee and kicking yourself for letting your laziness get the best of you. As a chronic procrastination sufferer I know this feeling all too well. I dread Sunday more than anything because I know that instead of watching football or reading a book, I’m going to be at the library until all hours of the night trying to finish up the things I should have done last Wednesday. However, there is a solution to this seemingly endless cycle of putting off work until the last minute; it’s called ‘time management.’
We’ve all heard the term before but for some unknown reason, the whole idea of planning things out and getting things done well before they needed to be never really stuck with me. That all changed when I finally got fed up with the long nights full of work and self-loathing. I planned out a whole new schedule for myself (ironically I did this while trying to distract myself from the work I had to get done) that would allow me to escape the cycle of procrastination and to finally enjoy a Sunday afternoon.
In order to get anything done effectively, you have to have a plan. I’ve found that there are couple main planning methods that really work for me in order to get things done in a timely fashion.
The first is the use of a simple daily planner. I carry it around with me at all times and use it as a friendly reminder of the things I have to get done during the day. I don’t just use it to plan out my coursework either. Anything can go in the planner. Don’t want to forget to go to the gym after class? Put it in the planner. Have a family dinner later in the week that you know you’re going to forget about? Boom. Planner. Want to remind yourself to plan out your next week’s activities in your daily planner? You guessed it, put it in the planner. Consistent ‘plannering’ (add that one to the dictionary) will not only allow you to keep tabs on the things you have to get done, but the constant self-heckling you’ll put yourself through every time you read through your planner will motivate you to get things done faster!
The other method of planning, and my personal favorite, is the sticky note method. As a goal-oriented dude I love working towards an end-game. Something I’ve recently started doing in order to get my work done on time is something I call ‘Sticky Noting’. It’s real simple: just get sticky notes, on each sticky note write one thing that you want to get done and when it needs to get done by, and then put them in a place where you will constantly see them. You might be thinking to yourself, “Well this seems exactly like a planner but in sticky note form, why bother?” A valid question from someone who hasn’t sticky noted before.
However, few pleasures in this world compare to the euphoria experienced when looking at that sticky note with “Write 15 page paper” written on it, staring it down, yanking it from its comfortable home on the wall, crumpling it into a little ball and, just before tossing it in the trash, looking at the other notes on the wall and whispering so only they can hear, “Tell your friends.” Theatrics aside, nothing makes me feel more tingly inside than ripping a sticky note off the wall and showing it who’s boss. Just the process of removing a task from the wall and physically seeing that I have less work is enough to keep me going.
Crappy school work is not a fine wine, it does not get better with time. Prioritize your list of tasks so that you’re always getting the stuff you want to do the least done first. No matter what you want to tell yourself, you’re never going to magically want to do your calculus problems if you leave them to the last minute. Sometimes you just need to suck it up and get ‘er done. Think of it this way, if you get the worst part of your day done first, things can only get easier as time progresses. Instead of letting something hang over your head for hours, ruining your day, get it done ASAP and have the rest of the day to do better things like play squash or knit a nice new pair of mittens.
In the same way you wouldn’t just stick a fork in a roast pig and start going to town, you don’t want to just dive into huge tasks and try to get them completely done in one go. Sure you may need to do this from time to time if your workload is especially bulky, but most of the time you can divvy up a big assignment into little bite sized chunks that are more manageable and easier to swallow.
A 10-problem Circuits assignment may seem like a daunting task, but doing two circuits problems a night for a week doesn’t seem nearly as repulsive. While there is some satisfaction in getting things done all at once, an prolonged, uninterrupted work session can sometimes result in a “I really wanna just get this done” mentality which can lead to shoddy, error-filled, lifeless work. Doing a little bit, a lot will ensure that you always put out your best work when working through each part of your divided task.
Everyone loves a good treat. I’m personally a sucker for funfetti cupcakes and beef jerky. So when I have an especially hard task that I need to get done in a week, I make a promise to myself that the second it’s completed I’m going to rip open a bag of Jack Link’s. It may seem a bit primitive but the promise of food is surprisingly motivating. If food isn’t really your thing (weirdo), reward yourself with some alone time throwing a boomerang in a field somewhere or making candles out of crayons to sell on Etsy. As long as your reward is safe and legal (remember it’s only illegal if someone finds out) then feel free to hold that proverbial carrot in front of your nose until you get your work done.
Procrastinating isn’t worth it. You refuse to complete your work all week, knowing in the back of your mind how terrible it’s going to be to get it all done last minute. All while holding onto misguided hopes that you’ll find it in you to start working if you hold out long enough. Truth is, you’re never going to want to do homework. It’s just not going to happen. So stop fooling yourself, put both hands on the wheel and take control of your work schedule. Plan out tasks on a daily or weekly basis and aim to have them done as quickly as possible, well before their due date. Prioritize so that your worst tasks are done first.
This ensures that they aren’t hanging over your head, stressing you out while you’re trying to get easier things done. Remember to divide up big tasks so that you don’t tire yourself out or lose interest in your work. Finally, remember to reward yourself. It’s hard to motivate yourself if there’s no light at the end of the tunnel. The promise of something good at the end of a hard day’s work is usually enough to get you through even the most difficult of challenges. That’s it. That’s all you need to know to break out of your habit of procrastinating. Now get out there, do your work ahead of schedule and bask in the glorious laziness of a work-free Sunday afternoon.