Procrastination can be a real pain in the rear end. It feels good blowing things off because that usually means we got to what we want to do instead of what we have to do, but there are some drawbacks to all that too. Working in a frenzy isn’t good for your stress levels or your blood pressure. Sometimes it does happen so let’s take a look at some productivity hacks to help you get your work done at the last minute.
1. Cut out all distractions
When you’re coming down to the wire the last thing you need is a distraction. Every time you return a text message or stop for a moment to sing a song, that’s time you could have been spending working. Put your cell phone on vibrate, put it where you can’t see it, and focus on your work. If you’re at home studying for a big test, don’t put Netflix on because you’ll probably just end up watching that. If you must have music, try something without words like techno or classical because they can keep you motivated without stopping to make you listen to any lyrics. Distractions cost you time and if there’s one thing procrastinators can’t be wasting when a deadline is looming, it’s time.
2. Make a quick plan to tackle your work
One of the biggest mistakes procrastinators make is to just jump into a pile of work without thinking about it. We recommend that you stop and think about it for a minute. It’s very likely that whatever it is you’re doing can be broken down into smaller tasks that are easier to handle. By breaking down your task into smaller tasks, you give yourself focus and a tried and true way to estimate your progress. Do yourself a favor, take five minutes to sit down and look at everything you have to do, and then tackle them in a manner that makes sense instead of just throwing yourself at your work.
3. Take it easy and start out slow
Doing last minute work is like running a mile. If you start running at a dead sprint, you’re going to wind up running out of steam more quickly. Start with something easy to get your mind and body prepared for the harder parts. You’ll find yourself in the zone eventually and then the harder stuff that takes longer will be something you’re prepared mentally to tackle.
4. Don’t expect any miracles
IF you’re coming down to the wire to get your job done then you’re not going to be producing your best work ever. Especially if it’s a difficult project. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to put out good work but it does mean that you should be prepared to make concessions when something takes too much time. If you’re doing a presentation and you had a really fun animation you wanted to do for a PowerPoint slide, you may need to let that go and focus on getting work done.
5. Consume sustenance
Food and drinks provide us with energy. When you’re meeting a deadline you’re going to need all the energy you can get. When you go to your desk to start working on that deadline project, take something to eat and drink with you. The added energy will help improve your performance and chances of getting a good project done on time.
6. Just get started
Earlier we talked about making a plan and breaking your project into smaller chunks. It doesn’t really matter which chunk you start with first. The important thing is that you get started immediately. We also recommended tackling the easier chunks first which is still a good idea. However, if you find yourself just not getting the ball rolling, we recommend you pick a chunk, sit down, and do it. At the end of the day, the important thing is that you sit down and get into that mindset that you need to do work and if you need to start on a harder chunk to get that accomplished, then do it.
7. Up the ante
One of the reasons we procrastinate is because we simply don’t care about the end result. It could be a presentation at the office or that term paper in that class you never wanted to take anyway. To get around not caring about something, try thinking about it a different way to increase its importance. If you don’t get that term paper done, you’ll have to take the class all over again and do the term paper again anyway. If you don’t knock that sales report out of the ballpark, you may be demoted or fired. If you have to do something, you might as well do it right because it could affect things you have to do in the future. Doing something over again because you didn’t do it the first time is not a pleasant feeling.
8. Identify when you’re just making excuses
This is the gateway to procrastination. You look at something and think of all the ways you can get it done later and not right now. If you can identify those excuses then it makes them harder to ignore. You may not feel well that day or you may want to watch the latest blockbuster in theaters with your friends. It’s something that doesn’t sound like an excuse but it really is. People work when they don’t feel well all the time and blockbuster movies are in theaters for more than one day. Netflix can wait, go get your work done!
9. Don’t think in the abstract
The difference between abstract and concrete is something you ought to know. When you think abstractly, you would say something like “I should write my term paper about the Civil War.” It’s okay to think abstract when you’re first starting out but if you procrastinated then you’re well beyond the starting point. You need to think more concrete. Woody Allen once said that, “80% of success is showing up.” If you don’t show up and put some concrete ideas down on paper (so to speak), then you’re not going to get any work done and you’re going to stress yourself out more.
10. Don’t over-think it
I am personally guilty of this all the time. I will sit and stare at a completed article for 25 minutes just because I’m not sure if it’s how I wanted it to be written. Meanwhile, my next article is 25 minutes closer to deadline. Don’t over-think things. Obviously if you spot a mistake or an error you should fix it but don’t over-analyze every little thing. That takes too long and you’ll begin to doubt yourself. Not everything has to be perfect all the time. In most cases, it just needs to be passable. You don’t graduate college by getting an A, you graduate by passing the classes. Remember that the goalposts aren’t set all that high and while you should try to do your best, you do not have to be flawless every time. Unless you’re a surgeon. Then you should probably aim for perfection every time.
11. Forgive yourself
You may be sitting at your desk beating yourself up for letting this project of yours get this far out of control. Stop. It happens to everyone and you’re wasting valuable time, energy, and focus berating yourself. Everybody screws up. That’s why we have editors. Your job now is not to hate yourself but to fix the problem. So you should acknowledge that you messed up, forgive yourself, and get back to this business of living. You’ll save a lot of time and stress when you focus on the work instead of focusing on how you waited a week to start on the work.
Really the bottom line to procrastination is to not panic. The work is going to get done one way or another and you owe it to yourself to not let things get in the way. The very first item on this list is to avoid all distractions and really the other ten points are just other (more abstract) ways you can get distracted. Bottom line: sit down, get it done. That’s all you really need to do.
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