I was not always a productive person. In fact, while in uni, I sarcastically referred to myself as the queen of procrastination. Aware that I was living below my potential, I would make endless jokes about this habit and console myself by saying that at least, I did that like a pro! My days would start at mid-morning and before I knew it, it was evening and the day would end! There was barely enough time to get anything done and I was always late – for everything. Naturally, cancellations became a common occurrence.
Things weren’t any different when it came to food. I only ate when I was weak and starving, when my knees buckled under my little weight (remember, I found eating a chore). Too weak to cook, I would end up eating junk. Don’t ask me what I was doing awake late at night, I have no idea. I only recall that I was always swamped with deadlines that had to be met or else ….
Truth be told, as much as I laughed about my hopeless procrastination habit, I hated it. Every second of feeling like a slave to my impulses repulsed me. As my sister-in-law liked to remind me, life was doing me rather than me doing life. Discipline seemed like a punishment at the time.
Still, I dreamed of a life where my affairs would be fully under my control. A life where it didn’t feel like I was always rushing and never keeping up. My relentless companion, guilt, had overstayed her welcome. I could no longer go on living like that. I yearned to make more meaning out of my life and to do that, I had to accept that something was wrong and needed fixing.
If the principle of least effort is anything to go by, then I’m not the only one with this experience. After all, Zipf already proved that humans naturally want the greatest outcome out of the least amount of work. This is a huge hindrance to our productivity. Still, every procrastinator knows too well that dreadful feeling of lagging behind. The disappointment that comes when what needs to be done is left undone or poorly done bites hard.
Being more disciplined and avoiding procrastination made me feel more in control. I began to feel that I wasn’t just reacting, but was enjoying the rewards proactivity had to offer. And so, being the reformed procrastinator that I am, I decided to share my Damascene moment. Like me, you may want to change because, as the Nigerian musician Simi said in her song Selense, “Time na money/ Time na life oh/ Time dey run oh, dey run oh/ Use am well …”
Time allocation for me begins with identifying priorities – what tasks come first and last. This prepares us to handle the things we ought to do while leaving room for what will come next. Instead of wasting time on meaningless activities, the energy we have will be focused and channeled towards things that build towards our bigger pictures, since nothing is as satisfying as the actualization of the objectives we have in mind.
Remember Why You Started
This is at the very core of how anything gets done. There is a reason why something begins but we tend to forget it as we chase the mundane in everyday life. Once the task at hand loses meaning, it becomes difficult to find the energy to see it through. Having your why ahead of you can be a big energy booster. It could jumpstart us when we need it most. Personally, one way I keep my ‘why’ within memory is by having sticky notes placed in places where I can easily notice them. I also set a time in the morning to reflect before I go about my day.
Do What Works
Understanding that life is made up of seasons can help us accept that given the circumstances, the approaches we might have taken when starting a project may not be the most beneficial in the moment. For example, I wanted to read a book a month. The goal was to ensure growth in certain areas of knowledge. However, my reading schedule would change whenever my semester got busy, or when I realized the books we were reading in class served the purpose. In those instances, I opted to read the course books more intensively and even make notes so as to kill two birds with one stone.
This point touches on flexibility, an asset that we must use. When you notice things unfolding differently from what you had hoped for, consider finding different ways to reach your goals. This can be challenging for resilient people who believe in giving things just a little more time. If I had waited for my schedule to free up so that I would continue with the book readings, I never would have gotten around to it. So, loosen up a little, won’t you?
Just Do It!
Nike may have said it first, but I remember a friend saying these words to me one evening when I told her I was waiting for motivation before I adjusted a few things in my life. It was a hard thing to hear and I became defensive, but deep down, I knew that she was right. These words may seem pretty basic but the truth about them remains. Many times, we will have to face the reality that we are slacking and that doing so has consequences. For some, the stamina for work will reduce the more we take time away from what we are supposed to be working on.
Another reason why people don’t just do it is because it is hard to begin. Unless we are happy about the unnecessary pressures of submitting papers ten minutes before the deadline when we had an entire week to work on it, the best approach is to give in to the warning system in us that keeps on stressing that we need to get something done and just get on with it.
PS. An increase in productivity helped me stop reacting to the inevitable happenings of everyday life, and actually strategize better. Nowadays, I’m able to do the things I love, such as writing poetry and music, without the guilt of unfinished, necessary duties stealing all the joy from it. Next time I see my sister-in-law, I will let her know that life is no longer doing me. I am the one doing it 😀.