How to be more productive: Tips from a seasoned procrastinator
06 Nov 2019
I had a problem. My entire school career from primary all the way to my first year of university saw me cruise through 90% of it, only to crash and burn horrifically at deadlines because I hadn’t prepared well enough. Why? Because I spent all that time worrying about the exam or the project hand-in or the coursework — or procrastinating about it — rather than actually putting my head down and actually doing the damn job. And thus, not only did I constantly put myself in a state of guilt, I was always disappointed: I never felt I’d tried my best nor reached my fullest potential.
However, come-second year, I knew things had to change. I do animation, a famously rewarding, yet very intensive course. I already had to work hard just to get everything done. But we spend a lot to study at university so passing was not enough for me, I wanted to actually do well. I had to step it up, procrastination no longer had any place in my life.
So I turned things around. I don’t find myself procrastinating anymore, rather these days I have an insatiable itch to get things done. But how does someone as hopeless at time management and as awful at self-discipline as me manage to get her work life together?
Waking Up Early
Naturally, I am a night owl. The thought of getting up before 11am was nightmarish to me, and at my worst, I would regularly go to bed at 5AM and wake up at 3PM. Clearly this was not ideal, as although I’d work into my late evenings, the work I did end up doing was often subpar with errors everywhere. To make it worse, even though I’d often sleep for 10 hours or longer, I would still be tired the next morning (afternoon), as if my body had jet-lag, and I’d be in no position to work so I’d just spend the day procrastinating until I felt ashamed enough to start working again.
As a result, I started waking up at 6:30AM and sleeping at 10:30PM, and the effects I tell you were almost magical. Some say ‘showing up is half the battle’, but Jocko Willink, a retired Navy seal who wrote ‘Disciple Equals Freedom: Field Manual’, reckons this can be applied to sleep as well. It’s super tempting to sleep in but an early rise is a big victory that will end up having a positive effect on all other parts of your day: you already triumphed through the greatest victory of waking up, and now you are motivated to win all the other battles of your day too, including your homework. Jocko wakes up at 4AM — insanely early for most people — nevertheless getting up one or two hours before the time you usually set your alarm to will benefit your work day in a similar way. Just make sure you sleep earlier too so you don’t end up exhausted!
Putting Your Phone Away
Speaking of sleep, phones invade your rest and they invade your time. Distractions in general should be put far away during work sessions, and for most of us our main distractions are our phones. Personally, I use apps to block everything on my phone for a set amount of time, but I’ve also found success putting my phone in another room, or letting someone else keep my phone for a while. Obviously, if you recognise the other procrastination triggers in your life, like your sketchbook or your Nintendo Switch — put those away too!