All Aboard the Train at Procrastination Station!
Written by Sarah “SG-1” Grant, GGC Copy Writer
Why do today what you can put off until tomorrow?
This is something of a personal mantra for me. I make a list of things I need to get done on a day like today–a day I have off from work–and I immediately start planning how I can get these things done on a different day, rather than the one where I know I have free time. Instead of thinking to myself, “It’s Thursday, my day off! I can:
- clean the kitchen
- do my laundry
- vacuum the apartment
- write something for GeekGirlCon
- write my 500 words of fiction for the day
- fold and put away the clean laundry
- make that doctor appointment I’ve been meaning to make
- go to the gym
- take a nap
- brush the cat.
Out of this list, I will generally do a little kitchen stuff, plan to do laundry another day, write for GeekGirlCon, and take a nap. I spend the rest of all that potentially productive time, watching TV, reading a book (or fanfiction online), sleeping more, or something else just as completely unproductive. I also spend time mentally beating myself up for being so lazy, which just makes me feel great about myself. [sarcasm!]
This post, in fact, is the product of procrastination. I was going to write it yesterday, but it didn’t happen: too many Walking Dead episodes to watch. I did actually clean the kitchen, and I did go to the gym. I count yesterday as pretty productive, list aside.
My question is always the same: how do I stop procrastinating and get something done? Here are my usual answers, which almost always work:
- Set a timer. Whether it’s the downtime I have to watch an episode of Lost Girl, or the amount of time I will take to clean the kitchen. This breaks things up into manageable chunks. An episode of Lost Girl is about 45 minutes of time, including fast forwarding through the commercials; if I spend 20 minutes in the kitchen, I can get a lot done, and still have energy to do the next thing on my list.
- Give myself a reward for finishing a task. My reward for finishing a gym workout is a nice long shower; my reward for writing my 500 fiction words is 30 minutes reading a book. Occasionally I will reward myself for something really awesome with ice cream, but I have found that rewarding myself with food isn’t very good for my health after a while. Just ask my doctor!
- Use a brightly colored pen to check off items on your checklist. Mine is purple, which contrasts nicely with the black ink I always write with. It’s cheerful, it’s not at all alarming, and it’s concrete evidence that another item is complete.
- Don’t let other people’s lists and lives get you down. Just because you don’t clean the whole house, top to bottom, corners and baseboards included, twice a week, doesn’t mean your to do list is any less important. It’s important to you, and that makes it just as valuable as someone else’s list.
- Understand that when someone helpfully tells you, “You just need to do it!”, that it works for them. That doesn’t mean it has to work for you.
The most important thing I’ve learned from working my lists is this: mentally berating myself will not make me get things more things done tomorrow. It will make me feel badly about myself, which will pull me down into laziness and depression faster than anything else I know. It might sound a little cliched, but being kind and forgiving yourself for not getting everything done is one of the best ways to keep an open, positive mind about the rest of your life. Whenever I remember this, everything seems brighter all of a sudden, and it makes handling the rest of my life so much easier.
Do you have a favorite solution for procrastination?