“Procrastination is opportunity’s assassin.” – Victor Kaim
With this year being the year of “do”, I thought it would be great to discuss the one thing that always stands in the way of getting things done. After the email announcing I was selected as one of the SAYAS bloggers for 2019, my excitement fuelled my creativity and inspiration; so many ideas and thoughts. I even immediately started writing this piece in December even if it was due after the beginning of the year. This was unlike me because I, like many fellow postgraduate students, suffer from the procrastination “bug”, almost like a flu bug. What better way to start the year than discussing the one thing that stands between deadlines and us, throughout our postgraduate careers?
Procrastination, as defined in the dictionary, is: “the action of delaying or postponing something”. However, the reasons (or shall I say excuses?) of why we procrastinate vary among individuals. My favourite so far has to be: “I work best under pressure”. I even go as far as to justify that diamonds are created under pressure and look how beautiful crystals they are. With that said all the work done under pressure should result in something great, right? We all know we just don’t want to do the work until the deadline is 48 hours away, even then I still take my chances. I am a serious victim of my own procrastination tactics; but luckily for me, if I procrastinate enough tasks, I get to a point where I do older tasks to avoid doing the new ones.
On the aftermath of procrastination though, consequences exist, even if deadlines are met eventually. I lost my uncle two years ago, and sometimes I cannot help but feel like if I did not procrastinate so much during my first year of MSc then maybe he would have gotten the chance to see all of my hard work and possibly make it to my graduation. I remember how he would regularly call to check up on me and see how my research was going. He had no idea what it is that I was doing but it is the thought that really counted most of the time.
Being from Limpopo, I decided to take my work home with me hoping I would get something done. The four weeks I spent at home I did no work whatsoever, the family was so excited to have me back home that they kept me busy all the time. A part of me felt refreshed to not be doing any physics so I did not complain much. I decided to come back early this year to get an early head start and catch up with all the work not done in December. Truth be told, I am still trying to get back to the work mode. I keep postponing the day I will sit down and start working again.
I have always wanted to start a “procrastinators anonymous” group but true to its nature, it never materialised. Guess why? It could have been done later. First, it was during the week so we had to wait until Monday to start it properly. When Monday came, it would not work because it was the middle of the month. A new month started and I realised that it would be better to start the group properly at the beginning of the year. Now that we are finally in the New Year, do you want to guess if the group has started?! Well to answer the question, I started this blog mid-December but here I am today, a day before the deadline, finishing it.
Being the research student that I am, I decided I would procrastinate some more and Google tips on how to deal with procrastination, I found a nice blog written by Regan Collins . I personally do not agree with all of them, (I shared my thoughts on each tip below it) but I hope they will help you.
I completely agree with this tip. In order for you to get anything done, you should know what needs to be done. The best way to go about this would be to make a list of everything that needs to be done with the deadline date next to it. Place it somewhere you can see it every day so it can haunt you until you get everything done. Crossing things off a list is the best feeling ever.
Set Simple Achievable Goals
A simple achievable goal is something as small as choosing to wake up every day at 6 am, doing yoga every evening or jogging for the fit and active ones. If you can get the little things done, this is enough motivation to move on to the next task.
Create a Timeline/Schedule & Get Rid of Distractions
The only problem I have with this tip is that when you busy making a timeline, your plan does not include all the distractions who show up out of nowhere and disturb your plans – colleagues, classmates, family, social media, Netflix. I normally get frustrated and just give up on the day completely.
Set a Deadline
Since I work best under pressure, I have found that setting deadlines before the actual deadline helps me get things done quicker. Internal deadlines are not always met, but they can work as cushions to the final ones.
While this is good advice, I use the motto “continue working until you get drained”. I take advantage of every opportunity I get that I find myself working.
Take a Break
Breaks are very important but they can also ruin everything. The ABC of working is: “Apply Butt to Chair”, standing up from your chair to take a break is you breaking that simple rule.
Now, this I completely agree with. The best way to motivate me to work is through a nice bottle of wine. The idea is to drink the wine when I am done with the work but unfortunately, for me, I believe I’m more creative while sipping on a glass of wine. However, I completely agree with the incentives idea. There is no right or wrong incentive – find what makes you happy.
Get the Hard Stuff Done First
I completely disagree with this tip. I feel like if I start with all the easy stuff, I will be motivated to continue working because I have done so much already. I believe that I am more motivated after completing the easy stuff then I can move on.
Tell Someone About Your Goals
This is a great tip as well but I already disappoint myself enough when I do not get things done. I cannot have another person disappointed in me.
Hope the tips above were helpful and will be useful. For 2019, let’s vaccinate against the procrastination “bug”. Let’s use our time wisely and get those proposals submitted before the due date, those progress reports submitted a week early and if you are in the same situation as me, now would be a good time to start writing that thesis. I am always shocked at how much work I can get done when I wake up with the willpower to work.