Beat Procrastination and Mondays

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Sometimes it can hard to get started on a project.  Unfortunately, most projects have deadlines and need to be completed whether or not they pique our interests.  Don’t let procrastination get the better of you.  Here are the steps I use to overcome difficult or boring tasks.

Refuse all Distractions

Turn on ‘do-not-disturb’ or even turn your phone off.  Close that Facebook tab.  Turn off the television.  It’s important to think a couple steps ahead and make sure that everything that could distract you in the future is removed.  Go ahead and use the restroom while you’re at it, just to be safe.

Play some classical music

If you’re doing physical labor or working out, jamming out to some high-octane music can be very beneficial.  However, if there’s thinking involved, classical music can’t be beat.  Whether I’m writing code or a blog article, there’s nothing like some “Symphony No. 7 in A Major” or “Piano Sonata No 16 in B Flat Major” to get the brain juices flowing.   The Daily Mail has written about this effect here.

Your mileage may vary, but please check it out.  I’ve tried listening to Rap, Metal, Hip Hop, and House music while working and nothing compares to classical music.  There’s something about hearing a piano or some woodwind instruments that really inspires me.

Jot down subtasks you need to do

It’s easy to procrastinate when you see the task at hand as a huge, unconquerable monolithic beast.  Breaking the larger task into smaller sub-tasks allows you to plan your course of attack.  It also lets you track your progress and enjoy small wins along the way.

Just start doing stuff

All the planning in the world can’t beat even a little action.  After you’ve established those sub-tasks, pick one and start working on it.  Even if that means rewriting the name of the sub-tasks on its own sheet of paper and starting a numbered list underneath it.

I’ve written about my writing process here.   One thing I like to do is to jot out the headings to give me a framework for the article.  I do the same thing if I’m writing code.  I’ll often break the task down into various stages, and store those stages as comments such as: “// pull list of objects having user_id X from the database” or “// store the entered information in the database”.  Once I have a series of these comments, I can come back through and write the code that does what those tasks are about.

The key is to get momentum.  After you’ve started taking action, it’s amazing how the brain can enter a state of flow and productivity seems to course through your veins.

Resist the urge break your concentration

If you find yourself making lots of progress, don’t ruin it by breaking that momentum until you’ve accomplished your goal.  If you start wondering what’s in your Facebook feed or whether or not you’ve watered the plants today, that could be an indicator that you need to go back to the list of subtasks and choose another one to get back into the groove.  Whatever you do, don’t take a break unless you absolutely have to.