Scrolling through memes of cats in disguise. Checking if food has magically appeared in your refrigerator every ten minutes. Obsessively arranging books on your shelf by color. Renaming your computer’s folders. In short, we seem to thrive on any irrelevant activity to avoid starting a reading, essay, model, or project. Procrastinate now, work later. Your future self can take care of business, after all.
As we suffer through long and strenuous projects, it is likely that we have all slipped into procrastination in order to avoid our next task. Not only do we avoid confronting work at the office or university studio, but also those personal errands which, if we dedicated ourselves, would enhance our daily lives. Below, based on our own experiences and expert opinion, and in order to avoid a host of other jobs around the ArchDaily office, we present 10 tips for architecture procrastinators, helping you to focus on the site analysis diagrams you should probably be doing right now!
1. Do not expect to be in the mood. Just do it.
How many times have began your ‘to do list’ by looking for the perfect environment to work in? You look for a wide table, a comfortable chair, and soft lighting. Wouldn’t coffee make you work faster? What music will you listen to? After half an hour of crafting the perfect cappuccino and composing the ultimate study playlist, you end up discarding your work plan because you never had the necessary frame of mind to face it.
Timothy Pychyl, a Canadian psychologist and academic at Carleton University (Ottawa), in a World Economic Forum article regarding procrastination, says that we are deceived into believing that our state of mind must fit the activity we are doing. “I must admit that I rarely feel [ready to do my next task], and it does not matter if I do not feel it,” he explains.
Instead of focusing on your emotions, focus on your next task, he advises.
2. Break larger tasks into small pieces.
‘Owning the world’s largest architecture firm’ is an overly simple idea, but in reality, it requires several smaller steps rather than one large leap. Doesn’t it sound ridiculous to plan on owning the world’s firm, without a broken-down vision about how do achieve it? The same principle applies for your workshop assignment – the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.
Procrastination is often associated with bad emotions, studies have suggested. When a task is daunting or overwhelming, it becomes much easier to postpone it with GIFs of your favorite TV series. Pynchyl suggests that a good step is to break your tasks into small steps. Each completed step will make you feel better and increase your self-esteem as you face the next stage.
3. Define deadlines.
After months of working on your thesis, you are within hours of the delivery and you think “if I had more time, I would have done so much of this differently.” Of course, it would be wonderful to have all the time in the world to worry only about this one project. The same goes for all your long-term ideas that you have never materialized … because you always felt as though it can be left for another day! What happened to those swimming lessons? What about traveling the world? Someday you’ll start, but not now, right?
By not defining deadlines, your ideas will always stay in your mind, but may not be enacted. Think about your plans and set a deadline, accomplishing them in stages and small steps. It may not ensure success, but it will provide you with a specific, achievable long-term goal.
4. Plan your calendar.
Want to plan without using apps? It’s time to meet Bullet Journal, a very simple system created by designer Ryder Carroll. You will only need pencil and paper, and unlike other methods where they ask you to adapt to them, Bullet Journal is easy and clear to structure.
Bullet Journal allows you to view the status of your projects in a semester, monthly, weekly and daily, as tasks (.), Notes (-) and events (°). As you complete your daily activities, you delete them. If you do not reach it, you can postpone them (>), and if you delay it a lot, you will probably realize that it is not relevant, or it is necessary to rephrase or divide it into a sequence of more specific activities.
The feeling of progress is always satisfactory, but if you multitask, you may never know that feeling, because there is always something else to do. Bullet Journal makes a difference.
5. Do not connect your WhatsApp account to your computer. Never.
If social networks distract you while you work, adding your WhatsApp account to your computer is not a good idea. When you finally get into the rhythm of working, a badly timed yet hilarious meme from a friend can destroy your momentum.
It is important to separate spaces: it is like sleeping, having lunch and studying in bed. It becomes much more difficult to effectively use a room or an object if you associate it with too many activities.
6. Turn off WiFi on your phone. If it is urgent, they will call you.
You may be nervous about temporarily disowning Whatsapp on your computer, thinking “What if someone needs me?”, The answer is simple: leave your cell phone without the internet and connect only when you give yourself a break. If it is urgent, they will call you. If you really want your work ethic to take off and soar, put your phone in flight mode.
That meme that was sent to you by Whatsapp can wait.
7. Separate the urgent from the important.
Self-described “professional procrastinator” Tim Urban, creator of the blog Wait But Why, suggests that there are different types of procrastinators (some are distracted by watching GIFs and others cleaning their room), but none of them focus on their long-term goals. Too many people prioritize momentary urgency over long-term importance.
Supported by the Eisenhower Matrix, Urban states that we should spend our time on what is really valuable, that is, on “important and urgent” (a set of drawings for tomorrow’s client) and on “important but not urgent” (winning the Pritzker Prize, for example), because that’s where, according to Urban, “people thrive, grow and flourish.”
Unsurprisingly, most procrastinators spend their energies on the “urgent and not important,” apart from when deadlines are looming.
8. Structure your week and your times according to your abilities.
It is unrealistic to ask that we be efficient 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, but we do know that there are times when some work better than others. It may be early mornings through to the afternoon, or early afternoon through to the evenings. It may be earlier in the week when we have more energy, or closer to the weekend when we can see the finishing line. Allocate the most important and urgent tasks for your peak performance hours, leaving more trivial, monotonous tasks for when your mind and body need a chance to cool down.
9. Face the fear of failure
Yes, this title sounds as though it came direct from Master Yoda, but it’s true: procrastination and perfectionism usually walk hand in hand. Productivity consultant Julie Morgenstern explains to The New York Times that waiting until the last minute gives perfectionists the perfect excuse: they did not have enough time. If you do not get to work, you cannot be critiqued on tangible ideas, and thus you postpone the possibility of being wrong. It’s a flawed logic.
In this regard, corporate coach Rory Vaden explains that “the most productive people tend to focus on progress over perfection.” As you we know, in all projects, the first drafts will differ greatly from the final project. The road is long and full of entanglements, mistakes, successes and a lot of perseverance. As Yoda would say, “do or do not, there is no try.”
10. Concentration comes while you work.
In the book Daily Rituals, author Mason Currey explores the routines of the great minds of our society. Whether prioritizing long walks to concentrate like Tchaikovsky or Beethoven; Organizing strenuous working days like Frank Lloyd Wright, or painting naked like Le Corbusier, they all built their schedules in order to do the best work possible, for the passion that finally pushes them to work.
When you work, concentration will inevitably come at some point. That is the best advice.