DEV Community

loading...

How to stop wasting time: Lessons from a master procrastinator

akashshuklacs profile image Akash Shukla ・6 min read

I am a master at the craft of procrastinating. I have bestowed this title onto me having expertly procrastinated my whole life. From living life at the edge of deadlines to skipping huge opportunities altogether.But I have been able to find ways to bypass procrastination that have allowed me to do great in school, college, work.

How you ask? Well, without a dreaded deadline or without reasons with dire consequences, I never thought doing anything was worthwhile, just shackles resulting from living in a society. But whenever it came to things that I loved, for example: starting and running a club in college, reading a ton of history books, being a complete computer nerd and becoming a software engineer all while facing a crippling sense of procrastination and lethargy, I breezed through.

Through all my trial and error, I found a couple of ways that have allowed me to much more productive than I once was. These days, I have started a new habit- writing. And I would like to share some of the ways to be more productive.

This post is meant to be relatable to all those people who procrastinate around life, regretting doing nothing productive while having all the talent and motivation to be a productive member of society. I hope this will be helpful to those who are struggling the most.

1. Lists are your friend

Make a list of things that you need to accomplish. Write down all the habits that you’d like to pick up and the habits you’d like to curb. Seeing what you’ve been putting away for later on paper give you an idea of how huge or how small the task at hand really is.
This is a big one. When you have a list of things that need to be done, you can clearly track and check tasks off of it whenever you have a glimmer of energy to pull it off or whenever a dreaded deadline forces you to do it. Even more motivation comes to you when you see yourself going through the list and see a sense of accomplishment on paper. Pat yourself on your back when you check something off. You deserve it.

How to use lists effectively:

  • Use todo apps like Microsoft To Do or Todoist to keep track of your tasks.
  • Always add tasks that need to be done, even if they are very small. Adding a tick to those tasks definitely boosts your confidence.
  • Set tasks that you need to do regularly on a calendar app like Google or Apple calendar and set reminders. For example, add a task to your calendar that reminds you at 6:00 am everyday to do pushup(more like 10:00 am, who am I kidding).

2. You’re an adult, please clean up your room

A veteran procrastinator does not start a task unless they are riding a wave of accomplishment. Do you relate to not working for ages and then suddenly one day finishing up a pile or work just because you started one and rode the wave? Why not create a wave?
The most satisfactory and motivating thing to do is cleaning up your surrounding. Start with your room, get rid of all the cups and wrappers from under the bed, wash those smelly clothes. Cleaning up seems like a dreadful task in itself but actually it’s not that hard. Start small, put your laundry in the washer, probably change the sheets, take a bath. In an hour or so, your room will stop looking like a dump and you’ll definitely start feeling better.

So basically you do this:

  • Clean up your room
  • Clean up your work area
  • Arrange your shelves, cupboard etc
  • Make your surrounding as aesthetically pleasing as possible
  • Gather up all the tools that you need for your tasks etc
  • This accomplishment is profound to some, more like a reset(the kind all of us wish for every new year). After you have done this, after you have reset, you’ll probably have some motivation to do some more additional tasks from your list.

3. Gamify the process

Who doesn’t love a good old game? And good news, there is a good way to gamifying the productivity journey.
This method requires you to give points to all the tasks in your list.

For example:
Waking up early=20 points
Exercising=30 points
Finishing assignment=40 points
etc.

A serial procrastinator puts off tasks that require effort and are less fun than any mind numbing task they might be doing. For example, Netflix definitely seems much more better than finishing that paper you need to complete although you don’t know what to watch and scroll through everything watching 5 mins of every show there is(relatable much, hmmmmm?).

Why not start with tasks so simple, that it’d be foolish not to do them. Thinking about getting fit but have been putting it off forever, why not just do one push up today. Do something that requires the least bit of your effort today, then slightly do more tomorrow. A month in, you’ll probably end up doing 30 pushups.

Playing games with your life😳:

  • Assign points to tasks on your list
  • Give points to yourself(give partial points if you did things partially)
  • Aim for a daily goal of number of points to be scored
  • Reward yourself with points earned (For example, chocolate for 50 points, new shoes for 2000 points) etc. You deserve it if you see the progress in your daily routine.

4. Start small

Some serial procrastinators have high hopes of doing profound things, but they put it off to a later date. And when they one day try to finally get their life together, to try to do all the things at once. Not to anyone’s surprise, a greatly productive day is followed by weeks or months or non productivity. How does one fix this? By starting small and putting it in habit.

So at this point the whole post must have started sounding a little bit cliche and preachy but let me change that by sharing a personal anecdote.
The lockdown situation in my area wreaked havoc in my daily routine, there was no pivot for me drive my life around, except work. But I could work in the morning or at night. And everything else that was non essential did not have a fixed time. But cooking was one thing that I had to do everyday because I needed to cook for people and my lack of schedule could not harm other people’s eating routine. So even though I hated cooking, I made sure to cook at the same time everyday. In a month it turned into a routine. This allowed me to consciously focus on working on something since cooking had become a sub conscious effort, just like brushing your teeth or drinking water.

Long story short, starting with one single task until it turned into a habit allowed me to pick up other habits. Had I tried to pick up 10 habits at once, I would have definitely dumped all of them on the next day and my friend for whom I cook would have starved.

Tips in bullet points because you probably didn’t bother to read the whole passage:

  • Start with small or small number of tasks
  • Do it at the same time until you form a habit
  • Take up more challenging tasks when the previous task is no longer dreadful

5. Write a letter to yourself

Write a letter to your future self, describing in detail your expectations. Write a letter describing your current state and your hopes for the future. Write some words of encouragement and advice in case your future self is struggling, help yourself in the future.

Now in case you’re wondering that this sounds stupid and makes no sense, go to point number 6.

6. Do it all over again

One day or the other you are going to fall into your habits again, you are going to procrastinate just about everything and then think that if trying everything to be productive failed, there was no fix for it anyway. Fear not. This happens.

Read that letter you wrote for yourself. The feeling is profound. Reading letters from yourself is akin to reading the great literature that touches your heart. Now take that advice seriously. Do whatever you did, all over again; make a list, clean your surrounding, start small.
I hope you have a productive future.

Other cliche advices that kind of work:

*Try using social media less. It takes up a huge chunk of your time. One advice for youtube addicts is that you should close your app when the video is over. Saw something awesome in your recommended list and you’re enticed to continue watching? Add it to watch later. I’m pretty sure you are not going to end up watching most of them anyway.
*Share your progress with others. It makes you happy.
*Tell people that you’re going to start doing something new (accountability surely helps).

Discussion (9)

pic
Editor guide
Collapse
v6 profile image
🦄N B🛡

I have bookmarked this article, so that I can read it later.

Collapse
akashshuklacs profile image
Akash Shukla Author

Thanks, hope this helps.

Collapse
v6 profile image
🦄N B🛡

Yeah, maybe I can get to it tomorrow. Or next week.

Collapse
piotroxp profile image
Collapse
akashshuklacs profile image
Collapse
michaeltharrington profile image
Michael Tharrington (he/him)

Excellent title. This was a great read!

Now, back to all that work I'm putting off. 😅

Collapse
akashshuklacs profile image
Akash Shukla Author

Happy that the article helped. All the best. 😁

Collapse
alicecard2020 profile image
alicecard2020

Thanks for reminding me to write letters to myself. =)

Collapse
akashshuklacs profile image