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Punching Procrastination in the Face

Three weeks of bootcamp have passed, and I have never felt more organized and out of control at the same time.

I’ve completed two projects already, and am working on my third, which is a marks calculator that takes the weight of each project into consideration. While this post is about procrastination, I’m going to put that on hold for a second to give credit to the people I’ve had the honour of spending the last three weeks with. So much has happened in the past three weeks, but I wouldn’t still be here without the people I’ve been lucky enough to meet.

I am so fortunate to have an amazing group of people to call my peers (#cohort25) who have made the experience so far the best it could be. From tea chats to working after school, we’ve all bonded together to form a coding family and I wouldn’t have made it this far without them. Even the name of my third project, Marky-Mark, was thought up by one of my classmates.

The instructors have also been beyond incredible. They’re knowledgeable, helpful, and all have great senses of humour which helps create a warm and welcoming classroom environment. Our class provides them with feedback through weekly forms, and they do their best to modify their practices to meet our needs. Coming from a teaching background, I truly appreciate the work they do and how often they seek out feedback from their students.

These past three weeks have tested my resolve, and challenged my dedication to avoiding procrastination.

I tend to be a chronic procrastinator. In university I left things to the night before, sometimes I ended up writing an essay three hours before it was due. Obviously this wasn’t a good thing to do, but it worked for me, which meant I never had to fix it. As I got closer to graduation, leaving things to the last minute became harder, so I had to get a little better at doing things ahead of time, but there were still many nights that I spent awake until the sun came up.

It didn’t seem to matter how early I started or how I scheduled my time, I just couldn’t stick to the schedule or get my work started. I would get overwhelmed and put whatever it was off (projects, homework, studying, laundry, etc.).

I knew I wouldn’t be able to carry on as I had in university during bootcamp, but saying “just don’t procrastinate” was not going to work. I thought of 3 steps to help me get my work done that I employed during my first week, and have continued to expand upon since then. Hopefully they can be helpful to you as well.

Step One: Know Yourself

The good thing about being a procrastinator for so long is that I know what usually works for me, and what definitely doesn’t. I know that I lose focus super easily if I’m hungry, cold, or exhausted. I also know that if I am working on something and stop for too long it is hard for me to get back into it. Finally, I know that if I start feeling like I’m falling behind in my schedule, even if I’m actually not or if I have tons of time left, my brain gives up and then nothing gets done until the last minute.

Good things to ask yourself include:
-Where do I work best?
-Do I like to be around people or alone?
-Is being at home too distracting?
-What do I find comfortable? (Couches vs chairs)
-How do I work best?
-What is a realistic time frame to work before taking a break? Will taking a break derail me?
-What do I need to complete my work?

My answers look something like this, for example:
-I work best around other people who are working on similar things (positive peer pressure can be helpful!), thus working at home isn’t always the best place for me.

-I work best when I’m well-fed and not overly stressed. I like to wear my onesie so I don’t get too cold, and change my working position every so often (I’ll sit at a desk for a while, and then move to the couch).

-If I’m on a roll, I just need to take breaks to eat/drink. If I’m not, 20-30mins seems to work.

Step Two: Make It Easy

Procrastination and avoidance thrive when one is faced with any barrier, no matter how small. Thus my second step is making working on what I need to as easy as possible. Working off of the reflection you did in step one, look at how you can set yourself up for success ahead of time.

General tips:
-Pack snacks and beverages so that you don’t need to leave your work for too long, unless going to get food or a drink is your break.

-Stay at school (or get to where you can work as soon as you can)
Work in manageable chunks (20mins, 30mins, whatever you can do consistently)

How I make things easier for myself:
-I pack snacks so that I don’t get over-hungry or have to leave my work to go get food.

-I stay at school. It takes me an hour to get home, and by then I’m out of my working rhythm. By staying at school I keep my momentum and surround myself with people who are also working (as a bonus I can ask them for help).

-I tell myself that I need to stay after school for at least half an hour so that I can avoid traffic, and I might as well be doing something useful while I’m waiting. I usually end up staying for at least an hour or two, but by starting with 30mins I avoid feeling overwhelmed and can then work for much longer.

Step Three: Come Back Stronger

Sometimes you won’t be able to concentrate, you’ll forget the simplest things, and your brain will seem to be working against you. These moments can last a few seconds, such as when you make a mistake spelling your name, or much longer, like when you realize the reason your project hasn’t worked for the last hour is because you’re working in the wrong file. Such moments are called “brain farts”.

The good news is brain farts are typically easily recovered from. Recover from a brain fart by admitting you’ve had a brain fart and not being too hard on yourself for it. Everybody farts, everybody brain farts. Depending on how long the brain fart lasted, it might be a good idea to take a quick break, shake it off, and then come back to whatever you were working on.

There are also times where you will just need to put whatever you’re working on away and come back to it after a few hours or until the next day. Once again the key is to try to not be too hard on yourself, and give yourself and your brain the time you need to rest, recover, so you can get back to it.

The entire key to this step and coming back stronger is being nice to yourself and learning how to change adjust your previous steps in order to optimize your concentration techniques. Maybe you find that your regular strategies don’t work if you are overly stressed or are at home. Whenever a strategy works or doesn’t work, take a moment to reflect and ask yourself why. Use that information to improve your strategies and come back stronger.

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