It’s Wednesday night, the night before your deadline, and you’re binge-watching Jane the Virgin on your laptop instead of getting shit done.
Trust me, I’ve been there – and chances are you have too. And, if you’re anything like me, this is a recurring problem.
The Story of a Self-Proclaimed Semi-Professional Procrastinator and Her Well-Meaning Laptop Purchase
I somewhat proudly bear the “procrastinator” name (I mean, it’s part of my Twitter Bio) but at the same time, I’m constantly exhausted by my inability to get things done within a reasonable distance of the deadline. (Rather than, say, submitting an online paper within minutes of a midnight deadline with questionable internet connection.)
I had bought a laptop for purposes purely work related. I researched the best laptop for a writer and gave a lot of my summer’s paycheck to get it. I was going to use it for all things school and work related; writing, reading, more reading, and (of course) more writing. I was so excited to finally be spending money on something that I cared about and was looking forward to using to further my future career.
For something that I bought for specifically productive reasons, I do an awful lot of procrastinating on it too. YouTube. Facebook. Netflix. You name it. And some days I do a lot more procrastinating than I do creating. And it makes me a little sad. But mostly, just plain frustrated.
I get so frustrated, in fact, that I often find myself sitting and wondering why it’s so hard to avoid procrastination, even when I start out at my desk with good intentions. (This, incidentally, is just another form of procrastination. I digress.)
But one day, it hit me.
Why growing up with digital technology terrorizes your productivity.
From the dawn of my time here on planet Earth, I’ve almost constantly been around digital technology. I got to see computers and gaming systems and phones drastically improve as I grew up. I watched my brother’s gaming systems evolve from a Nintendo 64, to a Gamecube, to a Wii. Handhelds got smaller. Desktop monitors got bigger. Computer towers practically vanished. It’s been a terrifying, mystifying, yet amazing way to grow. There’s no experience quite like it in the history of civilization.
In order to get to the root of my problem, I looked back at the technology of my childhood. And it uncovered what I’ve been looking for.
No, it’s not just the fact that digital technologies make it easier to procrastinate. Although, this is a big part of it, it’s definitely not all of it.
I had been conditioned to think of digital technology has a form of entertainment.
All those years I spent growing up with technology, my primary use for them was for pure entertainment value. (In all fairness, using technology for fun activities for children is entirely understandable, considering a child shouldn’t be concerned about their work life so early on. Digital technology makes some things easier and better quality for child development, but it does presents a new set of hindrances. This is to be expected with almost any technological advancement.) At my most impressionable ages, I was using computers for fun and games. Even if I was learning something in the process, all my brain knew was, “Hey, this is really fun!” This, in turn, ingrained in my mind that computers and digital technologies were for just that – fun.
But of course, that’s far from reality.
What you can do about it.
Given the nature of technology, it’s difficult to fend off procrastination. But, from a few years of personal experience and Google searches to fix my problem, I’ve formulated a few tactics that work for me:
- Set aside a space for work, and only work. Determine a ‘work station’ where you’ll be using your computer/technology only for productivity. This will form a kind of trigger for work in your brain. The more you make yourself work when you’re in a certain environment, the easier it will be to avoid distractions in the future.
- Turn off internet connection. This won’t work in every case, of course, but in my own, I’ve found it beneficial to my writing. I’ll pull up a word document, and eliminate internet-related distractions by completely turning off my WiFi. If I need to look something up, I’ll make note of it, and move on. This is especially helpful on those days where I can’t seem to stay away from social media.
- Create an incentive for yourself. Incentives are helpful in modest amounts. Productivity actually increases with semi-frequent breaks. The best way to have effective incentives is to set a benchmark for your work, and incentivize yourself with a few minutes to break yourself from your work, but jump right back in your flow again afterwards.
Don’t let procrastination bog you down. Take leaps toward productivity – and the results will be worth the effort.