Stop procrastinating and focus!

How was your week, my dears? Mine has been crazy busy. Two classes to teach, a chapter deadline for my PhD thesis is drawing uncomfortably near, my car needed a little fix, I’m practising for a dance competition, and of course, there’s the blog!

Here are 4 strategies and a cute free printable to help you stop procrastinating and get your tasks done as needed.

I’m sure you know what I’m talking about – some days or weeks are just stuffed to the brim with all the things. It can be lots of activities you like and even feel passionate about, but sometimes, they just add up unfavourably; throw in some lunches with friends and a few attempts to not entirely neglect your family, and it all becomes a bit too much.

Perversely, these are the times when I procrastinate the most, because being conscious of all these things that need to be done and the creeping dread of whether I can even manage all that before awful consequences ensue just makes me want to sit on the sofa, drink cocoa and watch 6-hour-long Jane Austen film adaptions (I’m looking at you, Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth). Or surf pinterest all day and wonder which room I want to redecorate the most, and what it would look like, and where I would buy one of these gorgeous striped rugs I keep seeing.

Of course, nothing good ever comes of leaving necessary tasks until the last minute. So I really need a reminder, now and then, that what I really want to do is not sit on the couch and watch Pride&Prejudice with a horribly bad conscience and growing feeling of unease. What I really want is to finish my tasks, then sit on the couch and enjoy that wonderful masterpiece the way it deserves to be enjoyed: with a cup of tea and all of my attention riveted to the screen to take in the wonderful dialogue, beautiful costumes and amazing acting. Because, honestly? Jennifer Ehle can communicate her contempt of Wickham with the tiniest twitch of her lips and an innocent smile. Blink and you’ll miss it.


But, speaking of missing, there are deadlines none of us should miss, and certainly not because of something as silly as procrastination. So here are some solid strategies for dealing with your inner lazy bastard (or Schweinehund, as we say in German – and no, we don’t know what a pig-dog is, either).

  • Sam from Smart Twenties has a really neat trick for procrastinating less. All you need is two post-its on which you write down all the stuff that pops into your head as you work, but that would require you to stop working. Write all these things down either on the post-it marked “need to do later” or the one that says “yay” (or something similar which means “This isn’t really necessary, but I’d really like to do that”). It works really well for me, so maybe give it a try!
  • Or use the pomodoro technique. Just set yourself a timer and work on the task you need to get done for 25 minutes. No distractions. No quick glances at your email inbox. No getting up for snacks. Just work for 25 minutes. Once they’re up, take a five-minute break, then start again. This technique is good for getting started and into your flow, and outmanoeuvring that horrid feeling of being overwhelmed. Maybe you cannot build Rome in a day – but you can put bricks together for 25 minutes.
  • Bribe yourself. Promise you’ll do something nice and rewarding after you finish your task like a good tasker. See the list of incentives below for some suggestions.
  • Blackmail yourself. Now, I’m not really into this one because I do well with positive, rather than negative reinforcement, but I hear some people actualy swear by this method. It goes like this: Give an embarassing picture or pice of information to someone you’re close to and absolutely trust, and tell them to check up on your progress. If you don’t get your stuff done by a certain deadline, your trusted friend-slash-blackmailer will post that embarassing thing all over their various social media.

Just do it.

Ooooh look! No. FOCUS. Here are four strategies and a printable to help you.You know, every time I do make a deadline, it feels pretty good. A real accomplishment. But first, I have to take the hardest step of all, which is to stop procrastinating and get started.

Sound familiar? Here’s that reminder to get shit done now. Getting started is the hardest part, but really, can’t you even be bothered to start? You can. Just do it. You know it’s usually not half as awful as you anticipate. And once you’re done, you can pat yourself on the back and take some quality time to watch your favourite film, or take a bath, or lie in the sun for a bit. Just remember to use sun screen!

Download this free printable. Trim it, stick it into a nice frame (that you spent no more than five minutes selecting!), put it on your desk and focus. Because you deserve to feel good about all the things you got done.


Need an incentive?

Here are some cool things to bribe yourself into being productive now, so you can check out these goodies later with a clear conscience. After you’ve sat down on your cute little butt, focussed, and got things done like the boss you are…

  • Watch this beautiful fan-made trailer for the aforementioned film adaption of Pride&Prejudice. The adaption is from 1995, and although it has aged well, the original trailers now seem woefully inadequate. This fan project gives the film a beautiful, contemporary trailer that really makes all its good qualities shine.
  • Turn up your speakers or put on your headphones and sing along to Britain’s ESC song from 2015. The German commenter called it “a soulless, unimaginative swing copy” and it did horrible in the competition, but I like it all the same. It’s really catchy, the video is delightfully weird, and it’s a good tune for dancing through your home and feeling like doing ordinary chores is suddenly 300% more fun.
  • Need more cuteness in your life? Here’s 7 minutes of bunnies so sweet they can replace my afternoon chocolate bar. (Just kidding, Sari needs her chocolate. But, you know, in theory…)
  • Want to do something more useful with your time, now that you’ve gotten used to it? Read or watch these 10 tips for learning a foreign language.
  • Or watch this amazing, insightful TED-talk on why you shouldn’t let fear of failure overwhelm you: failure is one of the most important keys to success.

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