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Tips From a Reformed Procrastinator

By Chris Hart, Graduate Assistant for Daniels Career Services

Experts predict it costs the United States trillions of dollars a year. The American Psychological Association estimates that 20% of men and women have it. Yes ladies and gentlemen, I am talking about procrastination.

Procrastination is real. It is endemic. Still not convinced? The Economist recently pulled together some alarming data on what humanity could have achieved if it weren’t busy watching the music video for “Gangnam Style” on YouTube. Newsflash: as of June 2014, humanity has devoted an estimated 16,000 years to watching a South Korean rapper gyrate in front of a Lamborghini.

To be clear, I’m not judging. You see, like you, I was once a procrastinator. I was the worst of the worst, going so far as to convince myself that my procrastination was actually an asset. As Bill Gates once said, he will always “hire a lazy person to do a difficult job because a lazy person will always find an easy way to do it.” Nine times out of ten I would tell you to go with whatever Bill says. In this case, I would suggest you try breaking your bad habit.

In an effort to help liberate you from your vice, we’ve pulled together seven useful tips on time management and productivity. If you can start by mastering just one of these tips, you’ll have more free time before you know it.

7 Tips for Time Management and Productivity:

  1. Triage your tasks: take a few minutes to rank your tasks in order of their urgency and importance. Next, schedule the time when you will take care of these tasks. Hint: schedule more time than you think you will need…you’re a procrastinator, remember?
  1. When we are tired, we are inclined to focus on low value (less important) tasks. Try to start your day with your most important work.
  1. Where you do your work matters. Figure out what lighting, environment, etc. works best for you. It can be useful to change up your location, but try to avoid working in bed (experts say this confuses your body).
  1. If possible, avoid scheduling your time through an entire day. You need breaks from work to maintain your morale, otherwise you are likely to revert back to your unproductive tendencies.
  1. If you get in the zone, roll with it and maintain your momentum. Alternately, if you get stuck doing something for more than 20 minutes, it’s probably a sign you aren’t mentally in the right place to be doing that task. Switch things up and come back to that task later.
  1. Easy on the multitasking. Not only is multitasking of questionable value, but you probably aren’t as good at multitasking as you think you are. Ironically, Stanford researchers recently determined some of the worst multitaskers were also the same people who thought they were great multitaskers.
  1. Once you find a routine that works for you, stick with it.