“I work better under pressure.” That was the go-to excuse I’d use to mask my procrastination habit.
As an English graduate, my Uni days were filled with a whole lot of essay writing. Sometimes two a week. And with lecturers like mine, that meant every word and every sentence would be scrutinised tenfold.
It made sense to devise a sensible schedule and commit daily to a few hundred words, building a draft I could then spend some time editing and perfecting.
Ha! Oh how I envied others who worked that way.
The truth is I’d developed a talent for procrastination. And while I never intended to do it, it was between the hours of 10pm- 1am before deadline day that my productivity seemed to peak.
I'd become a woman possessed. Typing away incessantly, building sentences that I didn’t even think about, using vocabulary I didn’t know I had. "Wow, I’m quite good at this." My confidence, creativity and productivity all surged. I purged all of my learnings into a word document and somehow formed a coherent piece of writing.
The next morning, after a few hours sleep, I’d make time for a proofread and head down to campus to hand in my printed copy, before the deadline of noon. (This would usually happen somewhere between 11.30am and 11.55am).
Perhaps it was the panic, perhaps the Redbull - something seemed to work. I always got the grades I was hoping for.
Of course now, in the real world, this technique just doesn’t wash. In the workplace, others depend on us; clients, managers, team members. We are required to work in an orderly fashion, reliably, and use our working hours as efficiently as possible.
This article by Trello assesses both the benefits and the negative effects of procrastination. Because while it can be used to harness the creativity brought on by an imminent deadline, it does cause unnecessary stress, anxiety and mistakes!
Here are some hacks I've found help fend off that inner student:
The Pomodoro technique
The Pomodoro technique advocates working for a set of 25 minutes, with a timer, then taking a five-minute break and repeating as desired. This way, you focus on the task in hand for the allotted amount of time in order to get the most effective work done.
Having a Trello board gives you a satisfying feeling of moving your ‘card’ to the ‘done’ list, each time a task is completed. So by procrastinating, you’re not only delaying the task, but also the feeling of satisfaction that comes with completing it.
Set your own deadlines
Sometimes, having too much time between you and the deadline means too much time for overthinking, over-perfecting, tweaking and amending.
Making yourself accountable by either promising your manager or a client you will have something done within a reasonable deadline is a sure fire way to amplify your motivation. Often, it’s the lack of an imminent deadline that results in procrastination, so create your own.
Eat the frog
Do the task you are dreading the most first thing in the morning (the frog). That way, everything else will seem a breeze in comparison and you’ll be left with a feeling of accomplishment that will power you through the rest of your day.
The two-minute rule
If it takes two minutes, just do it. In doing so, the psychological satisfaction that comes with completing the task is said to spur you on to continue working for even longer than those two minutes. And if not, you've still ticked something off your to-do list.
Procrastinators, Rejoice! How Waiting Until The Last Minute Can Help Us In 1970, a magazine hired a young journalist to cover the Kentucky Derby. The journalist attended the race and took notes, but when it came to actually writing the piece, he was seriously delayed. When the deadline came, in lieu of a completed article, he hastily ripped out pages from his notebook and sent them off to the press. While that severe procrastination and haphazard work could easily have been the end of his career, the resulting article, “The Kentucky Derby Is Decadent and Depraved,” went on to become one of Hunter S. Thompson’s most famous pieces, launching an entire genre known as gonzo journalism.