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“Un-procrastination:” The Simple Art of Getting Stuff Done

A simple trick to avoiding death by procrastination

Photo by Icons8 Team on Unsplash

I have a love-hate relationship with procrastination.

As any experienced procrastinator knows, getting work done is tough. It’s excruciatingly difficult to just stop wasting time. I’ll be it, it’s damn pleasurable.

Procrastination comes in all forms.

Besides the crowd favorite staple of Netflix-binging, timeline-scrolling, Reddit rabbit-holes, gaming, or just mindlessly clicking pixels on a screen, procrastination can actually be quite productive.

Procrastination is the art of productively delaying obligations.

You might be the highly disciplined but undisciplined guy that feels the sudden urge to do the laundry or vacuum the house. Or the type of girl that meal preps for the entirety of next week. Or maybe you’re the type that decides to reorganize a bookshelf because why not? I’ve done it. I hope I’m not the crazy one here.

Productive unproductivity. Unproductive productivity. An excuse. Call it what you will, but procrastinators are experts at doing everything by doing nothing at all.

In no way am I promoting procrastination, but I’m just saying, maybe it would be better to do the dishes or run some errands instead of logging onto Facebook.

Now let’s get into how you can get some actual work done. Maybe later? I’m kidding of course.

Set a timer for 20 minutes

[7:50]

During the A Rare Day Women’s Summit in 2019, Jenn Im delivered a speech where she shared her five pillars of success. Under the second pillar, Create Rules & Stick to Them, Jenn mentions that setting a timer for 20 minutes has helped dramatically to prioritize and be efficient with her time.

“And you know? 50% of the time, I get that shit done. 20 minutes is a long time. That’s a TV show, guys. This is a long time and you’ll be so surprised on what you can do in 20 minutes.”

Here’s how it works:

  1. Set a timer for 20 minutes
  2. No matter what, focus on the task at hand
  3. Don’t do anything else, put your phone on mute, just focus on the thing you said you were going to focus on

At this point, you can stop reading and just do those three steps. Live by them, it’s all you really need.

This simple, yet revolutionary productivity tip has helped me more times than I had anticipated. In fact, I started writing this post by setting a 20 minute timer.

20 minutes is a long time

I know what you’re thinking.

“Wait, isn’t this basically the pomodoro technique?”

It is exactly that.

But what hit me so hard was when she sprinkled the fact that 20 minutes is like the length of an average TV show (minus the ads).

In the time it takes you to watch an episode of Friends, Lost, or whatever show you’re into, you could have used to shave off a portion of your workload.

Putting this into perspective, an episode of Friends averages 22–23 minutes long, which is 37.5% of an hour. And given that Season 1 has 24 episodes, it would take you roughly 9 hours to finish.

Or, 24 days, if you procrastinated for 22.5 minutes a day. But let’s be honest, most of us spend way longer than just a third of an hour procrastinating.

Let’s say you procrastinate for an hour each day. Well, in just eight days, you would have effectively procrastinated your time through an entire season of Friends.

Ah yes, what a way to quickly illustrate the fleeting nature of time.

Start the Timer

Okay, so you’ve *finally* got your timer running, now what?

It’s simple.

Just start. Do anything. ANYTHING.

Start by reading over the guidelines for your assignment. Start by formatting your paper exactly how your professor wants it. Start by reading the first page of an assigned reading.

Find the easiest possible thing you can do and do that.

The trick is to ease your way into doing work, and getting into that frame of mind, because once you’re there, it’s extremely easy to lose track of time and those 20 minutes will be gone in a blink.

For me personally I don’t even use an actual timer. I just look at the clock on my laptop, add 20 minutes, and away I go. That way, there’s no jarring beeping alarm to break my focus.

Start the Timer …Again

Once the timer goes off, take a break! (not too long though) Then, reset the timer, and rinse and repeat.

If you’re like me where getting started is the hardest part, feel free to work through the break for however long you need to work for.

The point of starting the timer was to get you into “working mode,” so if you’re the type to get easily distracted, think about whether or not a break would benefit you.

Thinking about my time in relation to the airtime of TV shows has been a game changer for me.

I started thinking about how an entire cast and crew worked their hearts out to make a 20 minute production hit TV episode, and meanwhile we’re out here giddily shopping for a garden sprinkler on Amazon, playing a couple games of CS:GO, and reading relatable self-deprecating stories on Reddit.

I think we all feel guilty about wasting our time when you think about it that way.

Thanks for reading! 🙂

SFU LYFE is a personal and career development platform where professionals share their stories to empower others to live a more purpose-driven life.

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Milton Jang

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