Anti-procrastination wallpaper and some musings

Published • 26 Feb 2011

I procrastinate. Just about everyone does. I do it chiefly when my tasks seems too hard or I can’t seem to summon the motivation to do it, and I just “quickly” dash off to check this (email), or that (my news reader), or the other (a video of an explosive ordnance disposal marine dancing). To keep me in line (and because I was getting bored of my recent wallpapers) I quickly did up a motivational wallpaper.

The wallpaper

Anti-procrastination wallpaper with motivational text on a grey background.

German: Zaudern ist eine Verschwendung von deinem Potenzial; zurück an die Arbeit. (‘Procrastination is a waste of your potential; get back to work.’). Feel free to grab a full-sized version for yourself.

Two realisations on procrastination

After musing over why I procrastinate (somewhat ironically I may have been procrastinating at the time) I came to two small epiphanies.

Dealing with hard tasks

The first concerned to-dos that seem too hard or complicated; I feel like I don’t know where to begin? Classic examples for me have been writing an essay, writing an article for this website, or getting that design job started. My solution has been fairly simple: explore and break down the task. A task called “Write major essay on Foucault’s theories on power and power relations” is an abstract and unappealing to-do. This should become a project ideally, under which other tasks are organised, including for example: “research topic”, “brainstorm topic”, “construct core argument or thesis”, “write an outline”, “write first draft”, “send draft to friends for review”, “final polishing”, and “hand in essay”.

So if you come across a to-do that seems abstract try to break it down. A good sign that hints to an overly abstract and problematic task is a one whose estimated completion time I can’t estimate with certainty. Solution: take that say three-hour or four-hour task into smaller, digestible and easier tasks.

Tasks you just don’t want to do

The second was over those things that sit in my to-do list but I don’t particularly want to do. It might seem boring, annoying, tiresome, arduous (see above) or whatever else. The bottom line is they need to be processed (that’s why it’s in your to-do list, right?). Besides the obvious — define what the problem is (e.g. is it too abstract?) — realise that the item is in your to-do list for generally one of two reasons:

  1. You actually want to get it done. If this it case then just get it done and think of the grander scheme of things (the satisfaction of getting it done and getting to the next phase in the project). If possible break down the task into smaller tasks.
  2. It’s something you accepted (for any number of reasons) that you now, in retrospect regret taking up. At this point you have a fork: get it done and learn from the experience to avoid taking on a task like it again, or if it actually needs reconsideration revisit the item (and possibly project); you could delegate it, consult the friend or client or whoever is involved. Importantly: learn from the experience and try to avoid it occurring again.

Why do you procrastinate? How do you avoid it?

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