Recently, I often find myself scrolling mindlessly on my phone, consistently thwarting my plans at productivity. The second half of the term requires an iron-clad focus that I cannot seem to muster up. Procrastination is nothing new to me, but truly effective strategies to combat this beast are few and far between. Over three weeks, I attempted five odd methods to tackle procrastination and documented their effectiveness for you:
1. Induce Alertness at the Subconscious Level
Do you know the feeling of “being in the zone” when completing a task? In psychology, that is called the flow state, and apparently, certain soundwaves can help you get there.
I first came across Binaural Beats while exploring study music on Spotify. Intrigued, I looked it up and was pleasantly surprised to find that there are different brainwave states for different purposes; gamma waves help with concentration and problem solving, while theta waves are said to put you in the sweet spot between awake and asleep. I tried both, so let me give you a run down below.
Gamma Waves: The audio is noticeable but non-invasive. Within minutes, I had settled into a steady rhythm and was working at a relatively quick pace. My typing speed increased, probably due to having a clearer head and the subliminal push to match the frequency of the audio.
I could feel my mind clearing as the ambient noise surrounded my thoughts without invading my focus. It kept me slightly on edge, but not overwhelming to the point of stress. It worked well for tasks that I need a push to complete quickly.
Theta Waves: The first thing I noticed was the low and nearly inaudible hum. It felt like a grounding sensation, and I found my heartbeat slowing to match its frequency. After a few moments, I heard the ringing reverberate through my mind. It cleared my mind of the inclination to be distracted and I entered a flow state for writing. When my sister tried to grab my attention, she had to tap on my shoulder for me to notice. Great! I had successfully entered the focus zone. However, Theta waves are significantly slower than Gamma waves, causing my working speed to slow a little as well. This would be better used for readings or revising from my experience.
Verdict: 8/10 Both were effective overall, so I highly recommend giving it a try.
2. Take a Cold Shower
I have been taking cold showers since I was thirteen, because my parents did not find it meaningful to fix the heater. They were pleased that it saved money. As temperatures around sunny Singapore increased, I grew to enjoy the feeling of cold water on skin. Not only is it refreshing, it also keeps me awake. A cold shower also gives you the opportunity to let your mind wander with shower thoughts, serving very much like a mental break and a figurative physical reset.
(Speaking of shower thoughts, do you realise that there is no present, only past and future? *gasp* Philosophers comment below.)
Verdict: 9/10 The perfect pick-me-up to break the cycle of procrastination and get you back on track.
3. Watch Short Films
I procrastinate because I feel bored. This is unlike being unmotivated. I can write a list of reasons to motivate myself, but it does little to wipe away that mundane feeling. I need excitement to fuel me. That is how I discovered Omeleto; it houses a collection of award-winning short films from around the world, including the Oscars and prestigious film festivals like Sundance and Cannes.
These films are thought-provoking and question life’s deeper meaning. They explore realities that stray from conventional ways of living, which often leads me to think: “What if that was me?”
Although living is more than just clearing our to-do lists every day, I realise that it is also a gift to be able to do so (provided they’re filled with tasks you actually want to do). Short films help to fuel my need for excitement. More importantly, they break my mundane cycles by helping me to see the excitement in being alive.
These are my favourites:
1. A woman attends the funeral of a best friend, who she's only spoken to online https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sEpcbhrqgFM
2. A young couple gets a hotel room for the weekend -- but for very different reasons... https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X9MAf245Yag
3. 2 strangers at a wedding reception make an unexpected connection. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z9ncrJM4gd4
Verdict: 7/10 Effective; less prone to spiralling down Internet blackholes than YouTube.
4. Live-Reality TV
If your taste in shows veer closer to Keeping Up with the Kardashians, may I interest you in a Snapchat map? (Yes, I still use it.) While the Snapchat map is not new, my friends tend to be intrigued by how I use it as my personal reality TV channel.
If you open the map up, you can zoom to any part of the world to find ‘hotspots’ within that area. Hotspots contain public stories submitted by Snapchat users living in that area. Clicking on the hotspot will reveal all the stories that were submitted within 24 hours. Think of it as a television broadcast, except that it is reality, and it shows the lives of people from different parts of the world.
Isn’t that fascinating? This makes me truly see how even though we are all living in 2021, we all lead very different lives due to our geographical place in the world. I also find it exciting to get a sense of how others live their lives (e.g. what they eat for breakfast, what views they see on the road, how their town square looks like).
Verdict: 5/10 Seeing other people partying in spite of COVID-19 may lose your faith in humanity.
5. Learn a TikTok
Yes – I do realise this list appears to have delved more into “Fun Ways to Procrastinate” territory. But stay with me, I promise.
TikTok has trends for users to participate and create content. Dance trends are the popular ones, and they tend to go viral over a matter of days. While I am not a dancer, I enjoy moving to music and made it a fun procrastination activity. While attempting certain dance moves, I would sweat as if I did a workout! Unknowingly, it releases tension from sitting at the desk all day and helps me feel better about continuing the next task later.
If there is one app that helped me get through 2020, it is TikTok. But before you open up the app, I recommend you set a timer to get out of it, lest hours pass without you knowing.
Verdict: 7/10 Very fun, relieves stress. Normal physical workouts are less fun, but there is also less potential to plunge into Tiktok abyss.
Sometimes, procrastination is inevitable because it is a sign that the soul needs to rest. Allow yourself some breathing space – and allow yourself to procrastinate if you need to. The urgency of your work is not as important as your mental health.
How do you tackle bouts of procrastination? Share it with us in the comments.