Updated: May 4

Outer Banks or Algebra?

Working out or Having Snacks?

Reading or Sleeping?

I think we have clear winners here. No matter how determined or serious we are if given a free choice to pick one between Netflix and Studying, chances are slim to none that you will choose to study, all other factors considered.

But have you ever tried taking out the time and effort to analyze WHY do we choose what we choose? Why do we pick leisure over productivity even when we have an exam coming up literally next month?

I know why. Because I spent months trying to get to the bottom of this ridiculously problematic issue researching, watching youtube videos, and scanning websites.

So let's get right into the why, how, and what do we do about it:

Our first instinct, when given open options, is to pick the easiest one present (easiest being subjective to each individual). Watching Netflix is easier than solving 10 questions of algebra. And, rewatching a tv series/ movie is even easier than spending time surfing and finding a good show, right?

So basically, we procrastinate procrastinating too.

Okay, we analyzed the problem, now what do we do about it?

I'd say, throw away your phone, switch off your notifications, get up early in the morning, but if you're nearly like me, you've already tried that.

Make productive tasks easier to finish. What I essentially mean by that is to break up, for example, one English assignment into as many small chunks as possible, probably each that can be completed in a period of 15 minutes.

How does that help? Every time we strike off things from our to-do list, we get some kind of satisfaction, don't we? That is because chucking things off your list releases a special chemical called dopamine that is addictive.

So, for example:

  1. Researching (30 minutes)

  2. Picking out points (10 minutes)

  3. Writing Introduction (15 minutes)

  4. Writing body (20 minutes)

  5. Writing conclusion (10 minutes)

  6. Proofreading and editing (15 minutes)

will make you want to do your tasks so much more enthusiastically than:

  1. Finish English assignment (1.5 hours)

It also provides you a sense of direction on how precisely to go about doing what you have to get done and helps eliminate distractions as task periods are short and interesting, making the activity more productive and attractive!

An app that I use is ToDoist to organize my daily tasks.

Quick Review: Although you need to spend some time getting used to the interface, it is a greatly detailed app, perfect for organizing and planning each and every sub detail of your day.

Reward yourself considerably! I cannot emphasize HOW IMPORTANT this point is.

We usually don't have anything exciting to look forward to for completing our tasks so we choose to avoid them for as long as possible.

But, if you schedule activities that you like to do, right after things YOU HAVE TO GET DONE, you will have the right motivation to complete your work.

For example, after I finish completing 3 chapters of physics, I can watch an extra episode of a tv show.

Don't forget to add punishments too, and if I procrastinate the work for 3 hours, no Netflix for 2 days straight. Sounds only reasonable, right?

Hold yourself accountable to someone. Really it could be anybody- your parents, a teacher, a tutor, a friend (preferably a sincere one :p) or your siblings, as long as they care about you and wish well for you. Talk to them about your plan, report to them consistently, and track your progress.

I started doing this with a close friend, we check up on each other every day to track how much each one of us has worked out and trust me, this really works!

I would have suggested- journals, and diaries but very frankly, I believe sooner or later you would cheat them because nobody's watching you. They're good for keeping a list of things that need to be done, but that's it.

Look at the bigger picture. Often we do not want to get work done because there are no instant results that pay off the efforts we invest. In such times, it is useful to remind yourself what all of this is ultimately going to help you achieve. Maybe working out for 3 days will not bring any change. But if you continue doing it consistently, it will definitely help you get fitter, healthier and solve a lot of your internal issues.

Stick up notes of your long-term goals near your study table or in your room, to constantly have a reminder that all of this that you're doing- is not for nothing.

While studying is most definitely the purpose of this post, remember that it is not the only productive thing to do. Reading, Writing, Working out, Reducing screen time, spending time reflecting, journaling, etc. are all activities that make your day worthwhile.

In case you skimmed, here's a summary of everything stated above:

  1. Make productive tasks easier to finish by dividing them into as small chunks as possible.

  2. Reward yourself

  3. Be accountable to somebody

  4. Remind yourself to look at the bigger picture.

Except these, I have a few short tips, some common, some not, but overall, genuinely effective to help you grow your productivity rate:

  • Declutter/Organise all materials before starting your specific activity

  • Keeping away from Social media will automatically free up more time to do more productive things. One app I use to control my screen time is Forest.

  • Let go of the fear of perfectionism to overcome procrastination.

  • Take breaks, don't cram; but make sure to not disrupt your small productive periods at any cost.

  • Use the 25:5, 60:10, 120:30 ratios to see what works best for you.

  • Keep a plain sheet of paper to dump all distracting thoughts that come to you, to look back and reflect and get them out of the way for the moment.

I hope this provided you a tad bit of motivation at the least, to pull up your socks and realize it's still not that late. Delete the "I will begin tomorrow" attitude and begin now...or tomorrow (if it's a Sunday today, XD).

Subscribe to my mailing list for regular updates, and yes- I am going to try and be more consistent now!

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