Why do we put things off until the last minute? We push things away, postpone it and tell ourselves we will do it later. Then the day before it’s due or on the day off we rush to meet the deadline anxiously and hating ourselves just a little for putting it off. It’s a vicious cycle that keeps going and going and going.
The rush can be addicting. That last minute rush to get things done. We breeze through our house, or our office like a tornado grabbing, pulling, writing, emailing, till the final click its done and everything has been turned in. We feel overjoyed then, to have beaten the rush and the time crunch. We promise ourselves that next time it will be different. Then, next time comes, and we do it again.
When we don’t beat time, and we don’t crush our task fast enough, the low of having failed can be devastating. It’s almost as if someone poured a bucket of cold water over our heads and we come to the chilling realization that putting it off was not such a good idea. Then we have to face the consequences of turning in late work.
Procrastination is like playing Russian roulette some days you win some days you loose. When you lose, you lose big.
The clamor of technology makes it very easy for us to find things ‘to do’ and take the focus away from the things we must complete. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest are just a few of the social hooks that trap us into a time warp. We lose the sense of time and tend to become engaged in light entertainment.
Pinterest has become so addicting to me that I get lost in the art of looking at a pin and reading the articles linked to that pin. I can spend hours liking, pinning, and creating boards on my Pinterest page.
But, what about the paper that is due in a week? That can wait till tomorrow. Tomorrow comes, and we say the same thing.
I did this several times. I use to tell myself that it could wait, all the way until the day before it was due. By that time, I knew for sure I needed to turn in the paper because I did not want to have points deducted for lateness. So I would work a whole day on one paper, instead of allocating time throughout my week to work and finish it.
There was also that time, where I chose to go out knowing that I had a lot of homework to do. I lied to myself; I figured I could treat myself first and finish five days worth of homework in two. After all, it can’t be all work and no play, right? I chose to have my reward first without earning it. That week, I took the late points deduction.
To change the act of pushing things off, I tried making a to-do list. That didn’t help. I knew very well what I needed to do; I just chose not to do it at that moment.
The only time that lists help me is when I am buying groceries. Without a list, I tend to purchase everything I don’t need and forget what I need.
I tried using a timer. I would dedicate 45 minutes of work and 15 minutes of fun. This method should have made me productive since it fed my social media craving, and devoted a consecutive 45 minutes of working. But, 45 minutes was way too long, and I tended to extend the 15 minutes. The timer method did not work for too long.
Then, I started a meditation app that made me recall the last time I procrastinated and how I felt. Recalling those feelings made me feel shitty about putting things off for a later day. It seemed like the crappier I felt about it, the less I wanted to procrastinate, so I started to listen to it even more.
The meditation became the catalyst that I needed to curve my tendency to push things off for later. I knew that I hated the feelings of anxiousness, anger and guilt. I also knew that I was not putting out my best effort when I was rushing through tasks and homework.
I had the reminder of all these feelings every time I listened to the meditation. After meditating, I would tell myself that I didn’t want to feel that way again.
Every time the thought entered my head of pushing something off, I immediately recalled the feelings of anxiousness, anger and guilt, and it forced me to start working on that task right then and there.
When I didn’t feel like working on a project, I would bargain with myself and tell myself that I will work on it for ten minutes. Once I was in for ten minutes, I tended to stay on the task longer, but I just pushed for ten consecutive minutes of working. No pressure.
Also, during my semesters of school, I created a schedule and did homework at the same time in the same place in my house every day. I would leave my books there and bring my laptop there. I did this to make homework a routine, and a ritual much like exercising is to me.
As we all know when something is a routine we come to expect that and when we don’t get it, it can make us a bit grouchy, like eating. Our bodies remind us every day when we need to have our next meal and when we don’t get it, watch out!
What truly helped me curve my procrastinating tendencies was remembering how crappy I felt when I procrastinated, pushing myself to do at least 10 minutes of work and making a routine out of the process.
I made homework become a ritual like breakfast, lunch and dinner to stop feeling so shitty about procrastinating.