I've struggled with procrastination since high school, where I often found myself rushing to finish homework assignments minutes before walking into class. During college, I saw my grades at the end of freshman year and knew something needed to change, so I started trying to remove distractions, but no matter what, nothing seemed to work — until I figured out these two main culprits to my procrastination.
Quiet Doesn't Mean More Focussed
I had often said "I'll leave the TV on for background noise," and let hours slip by before realising I've read the same paragraph 12 times, so I switched my study spot from my bedroom to the library, thinking a quieter area would help me get work done. That turned out to be the exact opposite of what I needed.
I now know that I'm less distracted and more productive in environments with a little hustle and bustle, like coffee shops, and that music boosts my energy particularly if what I'm listening to matches the beat of the activity. I know alternative pushes me creatively, while country music helps me type faster, and that when I edit a story, I do need complete silence. It's about listening to yourself and not just following advice blindly.
My Phone Needs to Go
While figuring out silence wasn't always the key for me helped me tremendously to avoid procrastination, I noticed there was still a huge factor in the way of my productivity: my phone.
I started by weaning off slowly, only allowing myself to check my phone every 30 minutes or taking a 10-minute phone break every hour, but that wasn't doing the trick. I needed to go cold turkey and remove my phone from any work that demanded my full attention so I've gotten creative with how I make sure that happens.
- I put my phone in another room. If I'm working from home and downstairs at the kitchen table, my phone is upstairs in the bathroom. If I'll be home the next morning, I don't even charge my phone overnight. Instead, I leave it charging in another room where I won't be tempted to go on it.
- I leave my phone home. It was easier to do this in college when I was studying with friends. I knew if there was an emergency on campus, they were the ones I'd be contacting and if I needed to reach home I could use their phones. It was difficult, but while my friends where sending pictures to each other from across the table, I was getting my work done.
- I have a friend hold on to my phone. Sometimes the temptation is too much and even though my phone is in the other room, I get up and check it. If I'm working on a tight deadline and can't afford any mess-ups, I'll ask a friend or family member to hold onto my phone. I can always count on my support system to hold me accountable.
It took some time but I'm finally at a place where I know what triggers my procrastination and how a couple of simple hacks can keep me productive. And on that note, now that I finished writing this, I'm going to go check my phone — be right back!