With more and more things to do we often find ourselves not ready to commit to a task that requires focus, attention and time. And while the latter seems to mysteriously disappear, the work load does not. This article attempts to provide useful tips for overcoming procrastination and being more productive.

1. Realize you are procrastinating

If you are reading this article, chances are you have already realized that you are procrastinating. However, procrastination can be sneaky. When you are thinking "one more episode and I will start my work" or "I am just going to make tea first and then I will work" you are trying to convince yourself that whatever it is that you have to work on can wait until the ideal conditions present themselves. If you realize that you are doing this - you are ready to move to step 2.

2. Motivate yourself

Procrastination appears from putting instant pleasure before long term results. So to overcome this, long term results have to be really clear. This is why you can cram the night before the exam - it is obvious that if you do not - you will fail, but not so much two weeks before. Thinking of your goals, how you will feel if you do not do your task, might help you to realize how important it is that you complete the task. If after thinking about the outcomes you come up to a conclusion that it is not worth it - better now than after procrastinating for 5 hours. Maybe now you will get to do something that is more important.

It can also helps to choose a couple of quotes or pictures that inspire you and give you something that you want to strive for. Since I work on my laptop a lot, I have set a quote "Action expresses priorities." by Mahatma Gandhi as my wallpaper. I have also created a board on pintrest where I put all of the pictures and quotes that truly inspire me to go back to studying, I find it does not shame me into working as much as it makes the whole process more appealing. That way whenever I know I am procrastinating I can go back to the board and feel more motivated.


3. Choose a productive environment

This is really personal and the truth is sometimes home is just not where you are going to get the most of your work done. Experimentation is the key when determining what is the best for you but there are some key elements that you might want to explore:

  • Sounds. While some might want music to drown out their thoughts or distracting sounds, other will not be able to fully concentrate while listening to lyrics. Some people might love to have a lot of "white noise" around them, while other need complete silence. This also changes from time to time (I used to listen to music but now I prefer nature sounds or silence) so if you are feeling extremely unproductive, maybe try to turn off the music or wear headphones so you would not hear your neighbours baby cry.
  • Light. Natural light stimulates and helps to fight fatigue, while a desk lamp with all the other lights off can help to get rid of additional distractions. This is something else that you might want to consider when ensuring that you know when and where you can be the most productive.
  • Setting. Do you prefer to work in a cafe or at home? In a group or by yourself? This can affect how well you are able to concentrate as well.
  • Organization. A clean, organized space can often be less distracting than a messy one. However, some say they need their "creative mess".

Even though these are some of the things that might affect your productivity and I do recommend experimenting with them, do not get too caught up in making sure that everything is perfect. It will rarely be.

4. Write the right kind of to-do list

Not all to-do lists are created equal. While electronic ones might work for some, I generally find that they do not make me feel responsible to complete them as much as the ones on paper.Whichever way you prefer these tips should help making a to-do list that is easy to follow:

  • Small tasks - short lists. You probably have heard this a number of times. Break down your projects! When "Write an essay" may seem like a dreadful task to start, "Brainstorm topic sentences" or "Read the chapter 1 for the essay" are not nearly as scary. Also keep your lists short, more than 10 tasks can be quite overwhelming.
  • Prioritize. Doing some easier tasks to get you going might be a quite productive way to procrastinate, but your main focus should lie on the tasks that you MUST do that day, week, etc.
  • Give yourself a time limit. It is easy to blame the clock. "Oh, it's 15:01, I'm just going to start on 16:00 then. " Instead, give yourself a time limit - when to start and when to finish. Add 15 minutes to write the list, but other than that make sure you have time restrictions. This helps you not only to plan tasks, but it makes you do them ON TIME, as you will feel more motivated to not fall behind, one task behind - all tasks behind. For this you need to give yourself a reasonable time as it both makes you feel proud to have accomplished what you wanted on time and not stress about not having enough time.
  • If all else fails, make it a game. The times when I find it extremely difficult to  get started, I like to make it seem like a game. For this I use two websites: a Timer and a Random Choice Generator. Simply plug in everything you have to do in the generator and set the timer to beep every 20 minutes. Once it beeps, generate a new task, no matter if you have finished or not, and get on with it. This helps me to get started with the tasks I really do not want to do. "It is only 20 minutes" attitude helps me to jump into complicated projects without the fear of commitment to do it all in one sitting.

After all of these tips (except the very last one) your to-do list should look something like this:

- Take out the garbage 10:10 - 10:20

- Clean the kitchen 10:20 - 10: 40

- Read the chapter about Mao 10:40 - 11:00

- Revise Chapters 1-2 for Economics 11:00 - 11:40

- Revise Chapters 3-4 for Economics 11:40 - 12:20

5. Enjoy the fruit of your work.

It is important to have a break once in a while and truly applaud yourself for what you have done. Optimum lenght of the break between tasks is 15-30 minutes as it keeps your focus and your health in tact.

I hope this article helped you to overcome the future or present procrastination so that you could spend more time doing things that you enjoy while still getting the things that need to be done, DONE.

-Picture credit : <>