This article is guest-written by Lillian Peng, Avon High School junior and intern with The Storytelling Strategist for the winter/spring 2022-2023 semester.
As I stare at this blank white sheet, I briefly contemplate shutting the computer and returning to this task another day.
The ambiance is perfectly conducive to a productive work session – the air is a perfect temperature, the room is open with plenty of natural light, the chair is high-backed with ample support yet enough cushion that I can comfortably sit for the next several hours.
There’s no loud pattering of feet against the floor, no flute playing from another room, no parents sticking popping in every ten minutes to remind me of my tasks for the day.
I have absolutely no excuses not to be doing this work, but I feel a little itching in the back of my mind that whispers about what a wonderful weekend everyone else must be having and what I am definitely missing out on.
This is the problem with procrastination.
I am quite familiar with this dilemma.
It has taken me four months to work on this article, ever since I started my internship here at The Storytelling Strategist.
First I had midterms in January… then came Valentine’s Day… the SATs in March… the school musical in April…
Somehow we’re in May and I fear I have little to show for it.
That’s the problem with procrastination: It wiggles its way into your brain and convinces you to push everything off, just a little bit. It can’t possibly hurt. Plus, you’ll bend over backward in order to justify it.
It’s always incredibly annoying when someone else is chronically late, slacks on their area of the project, or straight-up ignores your sixth email in as many days.
- “Hi, we’ve got a meeting on Tuesday, let me know your availability.”
- “Hi, just checking in that we’re still meeting on Tuesday?”
- “Hi, Tuesday has come and gone…”
- “Hi, there are some tasks that I’ve assigned to you, feel free to respond at your convenience.”
- “Hello? Are you there? Have you blocked my email?”
- “I’m hiring a SWAT team to knock down your door if you don’t respond!”
Despite that, why is it so incredibly easy to ignore our own tasks?
Let’s start with what it is that you are currently procrastinating, unable to complete?
Maybe that visit to the doctor? Or that call to an old friend? Starting that hobby you bought all the material for and never attempted?
We have so many unfinished projects and half-baked assignments and missing pieces that it becomes easier to ignore this self-inflicted procrastination pit by procrastinating more.
Now let’s talk about why we procrastinate and how we can stop!
Here are 10 Tips To Stop Procrastination so you can once again be a positively productive person:
Step One: Denial Is A River In Egypt…
…not the state you should be living in. The first step to tackling procrastination is actually admitting you have a problem. By admitting you need change, you’ll be able to start the process to quit procrastination once and for all.
Step Two: Clean! Your! Workspace!
Have you ever been in a messy room and felt your stress levels rise? That’s because there’s actually a correlation between your work environment and your productivity. Clutter will take up the focus in your brain and prevent you from having good ideas or even motivation.
Step Three: Don’t Be Stupid
It’s insane what lengths we’re willing to go to avoid whatever we have to *actually* do, but I’m going to say it right now: Please don’t do something else that you’re going to regret later. Speaking from experience, the amount of times I’ve said I’m going to go to bed after working for a little bit is a trap that no one should ever fall into. But if you do, and then stay up too late, go to bed IMMEDIATELY, instead of something stupid, like rearranging all your furniture or giving yourself an impromptu haircut at two in the morning because you “felt like it”.
I assure you, it will not look good.
Step Four: Psychoanalyze Yourself (Just A Little)
Procrastination tends to stem from another outside issue that needs to be addressed. Are you worried about calling your dentist and scheduling that appointment? Are you ignoring your dreams of starting your own company due to anxiety? Are you refusing to start that project because your perfectionist tendencies won’t allow you to do anything less than 100% and you don’t think you’re up for the task?
Here’s the thing: you can always cancel the appointment later, start your business at another time, or turn in something worth 80%, and it’s going to be okay. But you can’t edit a paper that doesn’t exist. You need to at least create something so you can fix it. Identify what the root of the problem is, and then you can move on.
Step Five: Chill Out
This is the exact opposite of the advice you want to hear after procrastinating – you’re stressed out, you’re uncertain of what you’re supposed to do, you’re on this whole rollercoaster of emotions and you have no idea how to stop it. However, it’s not helpful to become all riled up about something.
Instead, go for a walk. I enjoy meditating. Maybe brew a nice cup of tea. Decompress and you’ll find yourself much more willing to look at things objectively. Remember that one thing will not make or break your entire life.
Step Six: Annihilate Distractions
Procrastination is too easy in the era of digital everything. Research turns into deep rabbit holes of the pits of the internet. A five-minute break turns into two hours on TikTok. Get rid of the things that aren’t helpful for you. Put your phone in another room. Use a computer add-on to block non-essential websites. Make sure that you’re focused, and everything else will fall into line.
Step Seven: Get a To-Do List
Step Eight: Be The Person With the Plan
We can get overwhelmed by the sheer amount of things we have to do every day. It takes energy to make all the little decisions, and it can add up to a terrible thing. So, as much as possible, establish a routine. There’s a terrific concept of “present self” and “future self”, as in, what you’re doing now and what you’ll be doing soon. Present self can organize their future self’s bag for tomorrow so they don’t need to rush in the morning. Every single second counts, especially because you don’t know when procrastination will strike.
Step Nine: Do It For Two Minutes
There’s a line in As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner where a character thinks “I notice how it takes a lazy man, a man that hates moving, to get set on moving once he does get started off, the same as he was set on staying still like it ain’t the moving he hates so much as the starting and the stopping.”
Doing whatever task it is you’re procrastinating for just two minutes gets something done and often gains enough momentum for you to keep going. People often don’t like leaving tasks unfinished. Use this little mind hack to trick yourself into staying on top of things!
Step Ten: Know Thyself
Remember that you’re the only person who’s going to hold yourself accountable (other than your internship supervisor). It’s better to have a short burst of productivity than to drag things out and feel unaccomplished at the end. What helps someone else might not be effective for you whatsoever, so structure your environment, schedule, and breaks around what works best for you.
And for what it’s worth, I believe in you and think you can do it. No – I know you can do it! Because now you’ve got these handy dandy tricks to use whenever you need to.
They even worked for me – my article is done!
(The author of the article, crying over it and keeping a sense of humor about it all!)
Lillian Peng is a junior at Avon High School and the winter/spring 2022-2023 intern at The Storytelling Strategist.