Well, that was an awfully assumptive title, wasn’t it? Before we begin, I should probably let you know that I won’t actually be sharing the secret to ending procrastination once at for all. Additionally, I cannot claim to have beat procrastination myself. What I will be doing is giving you some tips on how to minimize the unnecessary stress that comes from badly handling your schedule. And even “unnecessary” is subjective here. So continue at your own risk.
And before going forward, I would like to say something else—my objective here is not to convince you to quit resting altogether. Quite the opposite—I believe that rest, both during the day and at night, is incredibly valuable, and you should try to fit it into your routine (the latter variety without fail; the former whenever possible). I’ll come back to this shortly. That said, delaying the completion of tasks in favor of uncontrolled breaks—breaks that will cause you more stress than comfort—is harmful.
I am no expert on the human mind, and as such this is not a guide. Instead, this is meant to be a seed list.
Schedule in hour blocks
Let’s get strait to the first point. For a long time, I was a rather passionate opposer of the idea that you should plan every hour of your day. I saw that it was strict, unnecessary, and a bad reflection of “hustle culture.” Then I tried it. And it worked.
It probably won’t work for everyone. Different people’s minds function in different ways; as I’ve said in the past, no advice I give will be universally effective. But the process I’m about to lay out has helped me more than I could have anticipated.
People will tell you to schedule in 20-minute chunks, 45-minute chunks, or the like. I think planning by the hour is fine. An hour is enough time for the entire cycle of work to commence—within it, you can sit down, get into the right headset, concentrate, and finish, all while knowing there’s an end in sight. Trust me, you’ll want to know that there’s an end in sight. Try and limit each major task to one hour. Ideally, your assignments will adapt to fit the time that you allot to them. This will also force you to adapt if you fall behind. You have stuff to do this hour—you don’t have time to put it off because you’re depressed at having been recently slow. (This is a major cause of procrastination, or so I’ve found.)
It’s a tight system. That’s why you’ll want to schedule breaks. You may also want to consider including hours during which you can fall back and finish all the tasks you planned to do but weren’t able to finish. Schedule times for reading (see below) and exercise. Don’t feel guilty for including any of these things, especially not breaks. You can count reading as a type of work, and if you enjoy it, that’s an added benefit. A good way of going about this is by first making a list of everything you want to do, then using said list to fill out your hours. Studies have shown that we’re most focused in the morning, so try and schedule your most intimidating tasks for then. We’re most apt to grow tired around between 2:00 and 4:00 p.m.—try putting your breaks late in the afternoon.
Read, read, read
My second snippet is rather straightforward: I want you to make time to read. A while back I wrote a blog post about the value of reading as a writer. Even if you aren’t a writer, reading is a valuable activity, and almost never a waste of time. There are books concerning nearly every academic subject—but if you can’t find yourself to like reading nonfiction, read stuff that you do enjoy. I have a ton of recommendations on this site, especially concerning the fantasy and science fiction genres. Historical fiction might be to your taste if you’re a fan of the humanities and want to buy your way into fiction. What’s important is that you’re consistently consuming new information, ideally via physical text (though there’s no real evidence against e-books, so feel free to go for those if they’re more convenient). Again, more information on that in my post about the value of reading as a writer. Reading is especially important if what you do on a daily basis doesn’t already require reading. Read, read, read. If you can build reading time into your schedule, great. If not, try and read a little before going to bed and/or right when you wake up. These are the two best times of day for our brains to process information.
The “Do Something” principle
Okay, that was a long paragraph. Let’s try and get through the rest of these quickly, shall we? Tip #3 is more of a practical philosophy, known as the “Do Something” principle. You may have heard of it before. It was originally created by the author and blogger Mark Manson, and was later spread throughout communities all over social media. The basic idea here is that taking action is not just the effect of motivation, but the cause of it. Motivation won’t simply come to you—you need to incite it. The potential for motivation is in your hands, and as such it’s your responsibility. In order to harness it, you must first attempt to do something. Get up and take a walk. Read a book. These small actions will subconsciously inspire you, remind you that you like to do things, inspire you to speak, to take more actions. Sit down and write a few lines. Work out a piece of music you’ve been putting off. Not so bad, is it?
This video explains the concept in more detail. I’d recommend trying this if you haven’t already. Of course, there aren’t any strict guidelines. All you have to do is try. When I say “action,” I’m referring to the smallest of steps. Take risks. Small actions lead to larger actions, which lead to larger actions, and so on.
Choose the hardest options
Tip #4, and the final piece of advice I have to offer, is one that is possibly controversial, and that I’ve really struggled with myself. However, upon attempting it in the past, I have discovered it to be quite rewarding. And that is to choose the most challenging tasks. When you’re faced with a decision, it’s most likely between an easier task and a harder one. The latter is challenging for a reason. Choose it. Be sensible, of course—but more often than not, the most productive or rewarding options loose themselves to us simply because they seem hard. I guarantee you that maintaining a habit of choosing these options will give you better chances in the long run.
This seems hard. Impossible, even. But you need to get out there and break that barrier. Our minds pretty consistently gravitate toward instant gratification, working to keep us from doing what needs to be done until there is absolutely no more time to put it off. Your instincts, then, are bad. Yes, I said it. Don’t follow your instincts. Do the hardest thing first, if you can. That’s just what needs to happen. It’s what you need to do.
That’s all I have for you today. Thanks as always for stopping by—and remember, I believe in you. I won’t ask you to click on any more links, or to follow my blog, or check out my cool anything. I’m simply here to help and to inspire, and frankly, none of that other stuff is really necessary.
Even so, I hope to see you around.