On Moving, Shaking + Getting Things Done: A Guide in Anti-Procrastination

April 03, 2010

I am a terrible procrastinator. It’s unbelievable! I have an uncanny ability to move at sloth-like pace and lay about drinking coffee luxuriously and reading blog posts and idly stalking people on facebook/twitter/google/you-name-it. I was like this all throughout school too, and then in my literal HOUR of need, I would pull myself together, slug a redbull, and write a thirty page paper. Now, this is not necessarily to be recommended, as it earned me a lovely case of carpal tunnel at the ripe old age of nineteen, but it has been an effective method of operating.

This year when I went to Vieques, Puerto Rico, I PROMISED myself (and you) that I wouldn’t fall off the face of the earth lounging in domestic bliss like I did last year.  I promised that this blog would be updated, because – they say, and it’s true – a blog can only gain momentum when it is updated regularly. I have yet to truly define for myself what I believe to be “regularly”, but lets say that means updating between 2-4 times a week.  I like to update frequently, but have also found that my writing gets a little thin when I attempt to do so. Thus, I try to choose quality over quantity.

Now, this went alright for me. I was able to post from my phone (TEDIOUS, but possible) which was a total lifesaver and kept me from dropping off completely, but now that I’m back I feel as though there are five trillion things that I want to do at once that I’ve been cooking on and saving up since I left the states. Remember how I can’t sleep when I’m anxious/productive/thinking? I haven’t slept in three days. I wake up, roll over, write a list, and close my eyes before repeating that cycle.

And so I find myself in the awkward position of attempting to teach myself how to repattern my work process, so that I methodically accomplish several tasks everyday and do not wait for the redbull-necessary hour of need.

Tips for being productive in a way that won’t make you suffer a heart attack:

  1. Keep a notebook handy. Or phone with a notebook application (silly kids these days). Or a napkin. Really all you need to keep handy is a pen – tuck it in your hair or pocket, and write on your body if need be when an idea or inspiration strikes.
  2. Transfer ideas to a safe place once you decide that they are actually worth pursuing and not an insane middle of the night obsession with organizing your refrigerator by color. Keep a notebook for all said ideas. I love moleskines and use them for absolutely everything. I think it’s important to believe that your ideas deserve a fancy $16 dollar notebook. They are important!
  3. Make lists that have categories. Group items however your brain works best. C’s sister writes her grocery list by aisle so that, with two children, she doesn’t have to go back across the store to get something that she forgot. This is genius. I make lists by categorizing the type of work it is: ie. errands, blog related, body/health related, absolutely necessary so that I can get ahead and be recognized as a genius – you know, those types of things. It depends of course of the types of tasks that need accomplishing.
  4.  Set aside a block of time in which to accomplish tasks. I work best when I don’t try to disperse my work throughout the course of the day. Lately this means that I have to run around and socialize with our hosts all day, and then once everyone goes to bed I stay up feverishly working. I advise against this, because it doesn’t make me feel particularly awesome. I prefer to set that block aside for the morning or mid afternoon, so that my work “block” isn’t so close to my sleep “block” – makes for bad sleeping. And of course, sleeping is crucial when you are in a period of such fantastic creativity.
  5. It does not have to be perfect. When you have a million ideas going on in your head, and are excited about the work that you are doing, try try try not to obsess over it. Put it down, take a break, work on something else and pick it back up tomorrow. Do not let your passion/excitement warp into stress and anxiety. Feeling so invested in your work it exciting! Likely, what you are up to is fantastic, so don’t bring yourself down by placing unrealistic expectations or letting your stress get the better of you.

What’s your best working style?